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Big Brothers Big Sisters Month in Nanaimo celebrates mentorship

Adult volunteers become role models to children
Payton Berrigan, a volunteer with Big Brother Big Sisters Central Vancouver Island, says she joined to get involved in the community. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

It’s Big Brothers Big Sisters Month and Payton Berrigan is preaching the virtues of “sisterhood.”

Berrigan has volunteered with the Central Vancouver Island branch of the agency since her second year at Vancouver Island University in 2018. She was at an expo and was looking for a way to get involved in the community.

“I’ve always loved working with kids,” she said. “I grew up doing summer camps and youth programs and a bunch of things like that, and I definitely was missing that part of connection when I came on here, because all of the relationships that I had developed with families, through different youth programs, were back in the Okanagan … it seemed like a cool opportunity.”

Cher Vaughn, the non-profit’s program manager, says a number of programs are offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters, including the community program Berrigan is involved in.

“This is where we match the big with little, mentor with a mentee, an adult volunteer in our community with a child,” said Vaughn. “They spend two to four hours a week for the duration of a minimum of a year. So this is where they’re able to go out into the community.”

Berrigan has known her mentee since the child was in kindergarten and is happy with how the relationship has flourished.

“There are definitely some really cool opportunities that Big Brothers Big Sisters puts forward for us to try a bunch of different activities that I never would have done … it’s just getting to know her and watching her grow and become a person,” said Berrigan.

Jennifer Kemp, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Vancouver Island executive director, says the local chapter is 50 years old and the national organization 110 years old. It all began in the U.S. in the early 20th century.

“The Big Brothers organization started grassroots,” she said. “Basically, somebody in the court systems in America … seeing boys coming through the court system, seeing young offenders continually, repeatedly coming through, seeing literally that most of those young offenders didn’t have male role models in their life, and they started volunteering to help these kids out.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters Day is on Monday, Sept. 18, with an open house at the organization’s 2030 Northfield Rd. location from 12-5 p.m. The city will light up the Bastion in teal, a colour that represents Big Brothers Big Sisters.

A beer and burger fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 23, at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 256 at 1630 East Wellington Rd. from 6-9 p.m. Tickets are $30.

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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