Gurtej started volunteering as a mentor with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver (BBGV) four years ago when Andrew, his mentee, was seven. Gurtej understands the importance of having a positive male role model at a young age, especially when raised in a single-parent household.
“There’s obviously statistics around how you’re supposed to end up,” said Gurtej. “And if you don’t end up that way, I almost view it as a duty to show other kids that they don’t have to either.”
Andrew is also growing up in a home without a dad, so Gurtej has become a safe connection for his mentee to ask questions. They meet on a weekly basis and do a wide variety of activities together.
Due to the lack of volunteers, the charity has had to stop accepting Surrey children into the program.
Thirty Surrey kids are waiting to be matched up with a mentor. In Surrey, it can take up to two years to be matched with a mentor once approved for the program. This is almost double the amount of time in neighbouring cities. To keep up with the demands, they need at least 30 male-identifying volunteers for their community programs and 38 adults in total.
Mandy Wong, manager of development and marketing at BBGV said in a press release on Monday (Jan. 17) this is the most urgent need she’s seen in the five years she’s been with the organization.
“It’s unfortunate. We’ve had to stop accepting new families who’d like to be paired with a Big Brother in Surrey because of the lack of volunteers applying,” she said.
The organization runs mentorship-based programs throughout the Lower Mainland. The program pairs volunteer with kids and youths aged seven to 17 years old. Volunteers spend about an hour each week with their mentees doing fun activities.
Volunteers must be 18 or older and make a one-year commitment to meet with their mentee once a week for two to four hours.
To learn more about volunteering with BGGV, visit their website www.bigbrothersvancouver.com or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editors note: We have left Gurtej’s last name and the mentees’ name out for privacy.