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Community Builders: Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Big Impact

By Hayley Robateau on July 10, 2018

Hayley Robateau is one of Apt613’s correspondents at United Way Ottawa. With its Community Builder Awards program, United Way honours Ottawa’s outstanding volunteers: the organizations, partnerships, agencies, neighbourhood groups and individuals who work tirelessly to make our city a better place for everyone.

After fleeing violence in his native Congo, Samba and his family came to Ottawa in search of a better life. He worked to integrate himself into his new community, but his limited understanding of English made it difficult to build strong connections with others.

Samba joined Conversation Club, a program at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa (BBBSO) designed to help newcomer youth work on their English, build connections, and find a sense of belonging in Ottawa.

“When I first got here, I wasn’t speaking English really well. I was incapable of standing in front of people and saying whatever I’m saying right now.” – Samba

Every Wednesday for the past three years, Brian and Emmett have been hanging out, playing sports, attending community events, and (“only sometimes,” says Emmett) doing homework. Spending time with Brian gives Emmett a chance to connect with an older male role model who shares the same interests as him.

The pair were connected through BBBSO’s Big Brothers mentoring program, which matches young men and boys with a caring adult who teaches them the importance of education, healthy relationships, self-confidence, volunteerism, leadership and independent thinking.

“I really liked that Big Brothers was some work that I could get involved with kind of at the grassroots level, and be involved with kids in the community firsthand.” – Brian, Big Brother

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa facilitates life-changing relationships that inspire and empower children and youth to reach their full potential. Emmett and Samba are only two of the over 1000 youth in Ottawa and Renfrew County that BBBSO serves on an annual basis. In addition to the Big Brother and Big Sister mentoring programs and the Conversation Club, BBBSO also has programs that teach youth about healthy lifestyles and self-esteem, connect youth involved in child intervention services with supportive adult mentors, help kids adjust to school life and more.

We know that when kids don’t have access to after school recreational and social programs, their chances of getting involved with the wrong crowd increases. BBBSO is doing important work by ensuring young people across Ottawa have a supportive place to go outside of school hours and a mentor to keep them on the right path as they grow up.

On May 31st, United Way Ottawa honoured Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa with the All That Kids Can Be award at their annual Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala to celebrate BBBSO’s continuous work in improving kids’ lives in Ottawa.

The All That Kids Can Be award recognizes a person or organization that is working to improve conditions for children and youth so they can succeed in our community. United Way applauds the work being done in our city to ensure more kids enter school ready to learn, and that vulnerable children and youth have healthy, safe opportunities to learn and grow outside of school hours.
BBBSO is a Community Builder because of their longstanding commitment to kids and their adaptability in how they approach their work. They have readjusted to focus on the needs of a growing newcomer population, increased mental health supports for youth, and developed more training opportunities for mentors as the demand continues to grow.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa knows that by changing the course of young lives, they can change the course of a community’s future.

Through research, evaluation and partnerships with community experts, United Way Ottawa identifies the root causes of the biggest social challenges facing our community, and helps find solutions that change tens of thousands of lives for the better. One hundred percent of donations stay in Ottawa to help those most in need.