The Big G Program: Emotional rewards of a multi-generational relationship
For those of you who were lucky enough to have known your grandparents, and to have had a relationship with them, you’d most likely describe that relationship as one that was supportive and caring, with a hint of spoiling. Many grandparents would agree with this, and say that it’s their role to love and spoil unconditionally, and then send them home at the end of the day.
The Big G Program
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto recognizes that the intergenerational relationship is a special one, and provides untold benefits for both young and old. When faced with a lack of positive adult role models for their in-school mentoring program, Leanne Nicolle, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto had an idea to reach out to retired individuals in the community and engage them in the program. The in-school mentoring program matches a young person with a mentor for one hour each week, in a school setting, to help facilitate a meaningful and connected relationship. The program is called Big G (for grandparent).
Time has value
So much about the recruitment strategy made sense. There were individuals who had time available during the day, and they were looking for new ways to become engaged in their community. For many, when you have a career you tend to have a sense of purpose. When you retire, your whole routine changes. You’re no longer getting up every day to go to work, and it often leaves a void in one’s life.
Sheila is a Big G ambassador, and has been matched with her ‘Little’ for close to two years. When she first met Leala*, Sheila remembers the other kids giving her questioning looks about how she looked too old to be a Big Sister. It was a small hurdle, and Sheila continued to come back every week to meet with Leala*. And, with each new encounter, their relationship began to grow.
Leala* loved to try out new looks when using makeup, and each week she would express her creativity and experiment on Sheila. It wasn’t long before Sheila started packing wipes to take with her, to avoid receiving strange looks on her way home. They now have a very solid relationship, and Leala* knows that she can talk openly with Sheila. They also like to work on fashion-related sticker books, play games and do a variety of crafts. Anything unicorn related is a hit with Leala*. Sheila says that she loves the variety of the activities, and that the program keeps her feeling young.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto is currently looking for people to become Big G’s. If you are interested in connecting with a young person in your community, call or visit their website for more information.
416.925.8981 | toronto.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/volunteer
*For anonymity purposes, Leala’s name has been changed.