Kincardine in desperate need of Big Brother volunteers

Some children have been waiting years to be matched with a mentor
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By Barb McKay

 

When Nick Buchok decided to become a Big Brother he was looking for a way to immerse himself in the community and do something positive. He had no idea how much he would get out of the experience.

 

Buchok’s success story as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Kincardine and District is not unusual, yet the organization is struggling to find male volunteers to match with boys who are enrolled in the mentoring program. Currently, Kincardine’s BBBS has a wait list of 22 ‘Littles’ who are waiting to be matched with an adult mentor – a ‘Big’ – and 15 of those are boys. Some have been waiting as long as five years.

 

“That is where we have a bit of a crisis,” said Gillian Andrews, executive director and mentoring co-ordinator of BBBS Kincardine and District. “We haven’t had a Big Brother apply in more than a year.”

 

Andrews said the children in the mentoring program are often in need of one-on-one time with an adult, sometimes simply to have someone to talk to. She said becoming a ‘Big’ does not require a significant time commitment. BBBS asks that mentors spend a minimum of an hour or two twice each month with the child they have been matched with.

 

“We find as time goes on the Littles and Bigs get closer,” Andrews said. “They spend more time together because they enjoy each other’s company.”

 

That is certainly true for Buchok. He decided to look into the BBBS mentoring program in July 2016, shortly after moving to Kincardine. Growing up as one of the eldest of six children and with his experience as a swimming instructor, a volunteer activity that involved working with children seemed like a good fit. He attended a local BBBS group mentoring event, held two Mondays each month, to see what it was all about.

 

“Seeing the benefits to the kids of interaction with adults that aren’t their parents or teachers enlightened me,” Buchok said.

 

Initially, BBBS had a match in mind for Buchok but while attending a group mentoring event in Kincardine (another volunteer opportunity) a little boy – seven at the time – seemed to bond with him. Since being formally matched, the two get together at least twice each month.

 

“It’s a lot of fun,” Buchok said. “We’ve gone to the driving range a few times after his mom got him a set of golf clubs. We’ve gone swimming at the beach. We play video games and watch movies. Sometimes we have snacks and just chill.”

 

Last week, Buchok and his Little attended an Owen Sound Attack with tickets donated to BBBS and had a great time.

 

“The important thing for me is the mentoring aspect,” he said. “I’m hanging out with a kids who doesn’t have the worst family life, but it’s not the best and this is a distraction for him. I don’t have too many other responsibilities so I can be there in a supportive role for him – someone to talk to and laugh with.”

 

Spending time with his young friend gives Buchok a break from his day-to-day life, as well.

 

“My job isn’t the most glamorous and spending time with him cheers me up…From an adult standpoint, it takes your mind off of whatever is going on with someone who is not judgemental and is funny and fun to be around. Everybody needs that.”

 

Occasionally, the Bigs and Littles get together for group events. During the summer the Kincardine Yacht Club hosted a sailing day and barbeque.

 

“You get to meet lots of people and that’s been great for me,” Buchok said.

 

With a growing list of children looking for mentors, Buchok hopes more people, men in particular, will get involved.

 

“It’s not scary,” he said. “The match program with one Little is not a big commitment and it’s not hard. It’s a ton of fun, and who doesn’t have two hours a month? You can do as much or as little as you want and what the kids get out of it is huge. I have gotten so much out of it.”

 

To apply to be a Big Brother or Big Sister, or to find out more about the program, visit www.kincardine.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/volunteer or call 519-396-3565.