Mentors For Us All

by Josh Kerr | Sep 15, 2021

WEF grant helps Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg address growing demand for 2SLGBTQIA* mentors

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg (BBBS) has provided one-to-one relationship mentoring between a caring adult and a young person in need for over 50 years. A few years ago, however, they identified a growing demand for the 2SLGBTQIA* community to have a more stylized program for the needs of that community. 

The PRISM program came to life with the help of a grant from the Women's Endowment Fund and provides youth with a one-to-one mentor from their same community. The program has grown and is once again expanding with the help of WEF.

What was once the only program of its kind has grown to exist through the Big Brothers Big Sisters network across Canada.

"As the program has become more recognized in the community, it has grown year over year," says Evan Maydaniuk, Director of Development & Marketing at BBBS. "There's more demand for it but a shortage of volunteers, so we have a lot of kids who need support and have to wait for it."

The new expansion, consisting of two pillars, begins with a group mentoring program that will help alleviate much of the time youth have to spend on the waitlist for a mentor.

A few times each month, the youth can participate in a group discussion and sharing circle with members of their community. 

The second pillar involves a series of workshops, including one for parents to help coach them to be an ally, listener, and support system for their child. Workshops teaching mentors to act as role models for youth outside their community and workshops teaching youth about supporting themselves and how to feel safe are also in the works.  

"The point of the program is really for the youth to feel safe," says Maydaniuk. "For them to have someone they can look up and relate to, without having to explain themselves."

There are currently about 75 people enrolled in the program, including those waitlisted for a mentor, making up 10% of all youth involved with BBBS. Through the upcoming workshops and expansions, the hope is that the waitlist becomes a thing of the past, and children can always have a mentor from their community when they need one.