Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada is considering re-establishing its child mentoring program to the West Kootenay.
The 100-year-old non-profit hasn’t offered programs here since the 60s. But the board of directors of East Kootenay Branch based in Cranbrook is in the early stages of a feasibility study to see if it would make sense to expand as a Kootenay-wide branch, bringing Nelson, Castlegar and Trail into its service area.
Dana Osiowy, executive director of the East Kootenay branch, was in the area last month meeting with existing youth service providers in hopes of finding partners in the community that would help administer the local programs.
“We run our programs with no government support, so we also need to determine if there’s the fundraising capacity that’s needed for us to support all our own programs,” Osiowy said.
Her visit was the first of half a dozen trips she plans to make to the area. On future visits she’ll be interested in meeting with the school district, as well as families that would be interested in the program.
“We know there’s a lot of interest for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, particularly in Nelson, because of the number of requests for our services that are received by our national head quarters,” Osiowy said.
The Big Brothers and Big Sisters program partners young people with absentee parents with a mentor. Usually children come from single-parent families, but they might also have a parent away for long periods for work, such as when a parent works in the oil patch or an immigrant family where one parent is still abroad.
The young person, or Little, is paired with a volunteer mentor of the same gender who commits to spending an hour per week with them.
“We have a few different programming models, including an in-school program where big brothers or sisters go into the school one day a week to meet with their Little and do fun non-academic things,” Osiowy explained.
Part of the feasibility study will include determining what program model is most appropriate for each community.
A decision as to whether the program will expand into the West Kootenay will likely be made at the end of this year.
Osiowy is still booking appointments with stakeholders interested in discussing the program with her. She can be reached at 250-489-3111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.