September is Big Brothers Big Sisters Month in B.C., but its Metro Vancouver regional branch is in need of more big brothers and big sisters.
The COVID-19 pandemic limited the number of in-person programs offered by the non-profit, leading to some volunteers choosing to leave to pursue other endeavours.
In a statement, Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver (BBGV) said it's expecting an increase in regional families kids between seven and 17 years old looking for mentorship and after-school programs with thousands of students returning to class on Tuesday (Sept. 6).
However, executive director Valerie Lambert said the organization is struggling to find enough volunteers to meet the demand.
Lambert added it is making a public plea in hopes more people can step in.
"As we emerge out of the pandemic and return to in-person programming, the increase in families needing our services is outpacing our pool of volunteers," she explained, noting anyone can get involved as mentors are matched with a youth that shares a common interest.
"Young people are waiting to be matched, and without volunteers, the wait is even longer."
BBGV serves more than 1,000 youth through its free programs in the Tri-Cities, Burnaby, New Westminster, the North Shore, Richmond, Delta, White Rock, Surrey and Vancouver.
Mentors typically spend an hour or two each week with them and do an activity together, like sports, arts, music or simply having a conversation.
Sometimes, the BBGV explained, it could take up to three years for a child to be paired with a mentor.
The non-profit claims, as a result of the formed friendships, children enrolled in its mentorship programs "are more likely to be happier, healthier and more confident compared to their peers," and are "more likely" to graduate high school and university.
"Our volunteers have the power to make impactful change," BBGV spokesperson Mandy Wong added in the same statement.
"Being a mentor brings so much value to the children and youth in our programs – and to our volunteers. I always hear the same message from our volunteers: 'my mentee impacted me just as much, if not more.'"
To reach out to potential volunteers, BBGV explained its expanding its outreach efforts, including social media campaigns, with an ultimate goal of matching someone with every child and youth in its program.
As well, several landmarks across the region are set to be lit up teal on Sept. 18 to mark Big Brothers Big Sisters Day, including Canada place, the Telus Garden and Vancouver City Hall.
"We want to get ahead of the curve and make sure every child has a mentor," said Lambert.
"So, we are calling on current, former and new volunteers to help us by volunteering or spreading the word."
For more information, or if interested in becoming a BBGV volunteer, you're encouraged to visit the organization's website.