Sheach, Executive Director, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Fraser
Valley was at the Chilliwack City Hall afternoon session to update
council and give overview of their programs.
What Sheach lacked in visuals on the overhead he made up for it in his
eloquent delivery. It was a treat to listen to Sheach deliver his
narrative and the Mayor let him go over the usual 10 minutes allotted
for council presentations.
The copy below is what he told council:
The outcome of having someone come and visit you is immeasurable. It
changes who you are and when a person chooses to be my friend, I'm
always shocked. I always wonder what is that about? Why would you do
that. But it makes me feel like a whole new human being when somebody
says; 'You are worth my time. It changes my sense of my future. It
changes my sense my past and it changes my sense of today and that's the
kind of thing that happens and the work that we do with families and
Big Brothers and Big Sisters is entering it's 101st year of service to
Canadian families. It was founded in Toronto in 1913 by a man who worked
in the justice system and looked across his desk and saw a boy who was
in trouble and thought to himself; 'I could do something about that.'
He reached out his hand, introduced himself, and said; 'If we were to be
friends, our lives would be changed.'
And that has happened time and time and time again when adults and youth
make the choice to volunteer in their communities and to be a mentor to
So we are 45-years-old in Chilliwack. Big brothers and Big Sisters was
founded in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge all in about 1969 when
they were incorporated and received the charter from Big Sisters Big
Brothers of Canada.
Our organization is now known as Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fraser
Valley, Big Brothers Abbotsoford-Mission-Ridge Meadows serving
Abbotsford Mission and Pitt Meadows amalgamated with Big Brothers Big
Sisters Upper Fraser Valley serving Chilliwack, Agassiz, Harrison, Hope
and points in between, and we now serve that full area.
We have 10 staff, an annual budget of around $700,000 and last year, we
served 456 children in one of the three programs that we do.
We do have three programs; the original, the classic Big Brothers Big
Sisters program where a man or a woman is screened as a mentor, as a
volunteer, is matched with a girl or boy and they are tasked with
spending 2-4 hours per week with each other, doing things of mutual
interest. It's never about spending money and exposing them to things
that they can't afford. it's exposing them to the reality of a friend.
So if you do things like go to a hockey game or go to Starbucks and go
for a walk in the park. Those are all just tactics and tools to create
that friendship and to create some experiences together.
The in-school mentoring program was established in the mid-90s, as an
opportunity for a volunteer to spend an hour a week with a child in
school, on-site, during school hours, during the school year and not
outside of that.
In both cases, the student thinks a mutual interest; reading a story,
talking about what's going on in their lives.
Two of my favourite stories with respect to that are (he gave examples).
About five years ago we also started some group programming, so Game on
and Go Girls which we've done in Chilliwack quite a lot, those are both
gender-specific after-school programs with a healthy eating, active
living, a positive self image purpose behind them.
Last year, I said we served 456 children, 117 of those were in the
Chilliwack area and about half of those are in the school program and
the other half are in the community mentoring program.
So we've had two pieces of research that have been published in the last
two years that I think are really, really worth telling about and worth
The first one was in 2012 published by the Centre for Mental Health and
Addiction and it told us five things; that kids that have a mentor are
two-times more likely to feel attached in their school; two-times to be
more successful academically, two-and-a-half-times more likely to
participate in extra-curricular activity. It also told us that boys that
have a mentor are two-times less likely to bully, fight, lie and steal.
Girls, that have a mentor are four-times less likely to bully, fight,
lie and steal.
Those numbers, all of them, strike me as enormously significant in the
conversation that we're having across our province and across the
country about kids health and about survival.
I think if we have an opportunity to double the person's chances of
success, that's an exceptional way to change life and it also strikes me
that if I have experience with success and with belonging, with trying
new things as a young person, then I am liable to desire to find that
again and have some confidence in myself knowing that I had some
experience with that once, but I can find it again and I think that's
what leads people to get involved in as adults with Rotary Clubs,
Kiwanis Clubs and Chamber's of Commerce in a leadership role, so I think
that's what makes people good managers, good husbands, good employees
and contributing citizens and to that point, we had research published
last year, by the Boston Consulting Group which is based in Toronto, and
they interviewed 500 men and women that had a Big Brother Big Sister
when they were a child, with a control group of 1000 that did not and
they found an 18-to-1 return on investment.
18-to-1 comes from on one hand 80-90 per cent reporting that they were
happier, that they made good life choices, that they were financially
literate, that they were more likely to volunteer that when they did
volunteer, they were going to volunteer for more time and that they were
going to donate $81/yr more than average to charity.
It also told us that people that had a mentor are more likely to have a
post secondary education, are more likely to be in a leadership position
in their company and are going to earn 13 per cent, or, $13,315 more in
I was shocked when I read that. I know that what we do is good, and I
know that there's lots of stories, anecdotal stories, or opportunities
to observe men and women, men and boys, or women and girls spending time
together and you can see that there's a connection. But honestly, to
think that there's an 18-to-1 return on investment.
I love going and talking to banks, I've gotta say, because I can give
you a better return than you can give me in terms of the investment. I
think it's also important to note, in my mind, I've had some people say
to me, 'Well, you know that's like savings in the future and people
don't have the money now and sometimes we talk about how; a dollar spent
today saves seven later, and I don't think it's like that in this
situation. I think its like buying out General Motors. We said then as
citizens or as a country, that we need to invest in that now so that we
can get a pay off in it later, and I think that's what we're able to do
here and in all of the ways that we get support though volunteer hours,
through contributions from corporations, from citizens, from governments
and all of the ways that we earn our revenue, we're able to invest that
in the life of a child, in the time spent by a volunteer and there's a
payoff in the future, in terms of better performance at school, better
academics, more participation and that proceeds into adulthood with
respect to career choices, to contributions, to social and mental and
I'm really proud of what we do here. I'm really proud of my staff in
Chilliwack. I guess I should tell you that of the ten staff that we
have, two of those are based here in Chilliwack. We rent an office there
on Vedder Road from Community Services.
Big Brothers Big Sisters was nominated for an Acceptance Award a couple
of weeks ago and I think it's entirely to do with those two staff, they
are exceptional people, they've done fabulous work, they've worked
really hard at getting connected to the community through the Child &
Youth Committee, through their roles that they take and volunteering and
their ability to be out in the community, so I'm very very pleased with
them. They also have programming in Agassiz-Harrison and we continue to
work at building the program and finding a foothold in Hope.
So we do have active matches in every major town that we serve and we
continue to grow in terms of the numbers of kids that we're able to and
our ability to continue to expand and provide a service to families in
Mayor Sharon Gaetz
I think all of us have been around for a long time now and have been
able to watch Big Brothers Big Sisters grow in our community and when
you grow and the influence of Big Brothers Big Sisters grow as well.
I'm extremely grateful for the work that you do. I know that for a a lot
of kids in the community, this is the only chance to have a mentor and
have people that would give up their time so freely and their commitment
to having their kids have that security and have that kind of leadership
is truly remarkable and I do want to say thank you to Ms Berlin too,
because I've been able to meet with Ms Berlin on other occasions and
know that you've chosen very well and adding her to your staff. In
honesty, she's just adding so much to your organization as she has with
so many others. So thank you very much for that.
I'm really thankful, 117 kids in our community that have this
opportunity that would not have had that opportunity without your
organization. I want to really thank you on behalf of the citizens of
Chilliwack for that.
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