Owen Dziedziura has been on the waitlist for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Calgary and Area for almost three years, often asking his mom when it’ll be his turn for a “Big Brother.”
Unfortunately, he’s not alone on that list. The program, known to form lifelong bonds that can help shape the futures of youth in need, has almost 300 kids waiting to be matched with mentors.
“It makes me feel anxious that I won’t get one,” Owen said.
Owen’s extended family mostly lives in Ontario and his dad is overseas. Other than his mom, Rebekah Dziedziura, he doesn’t have a lot of outside support that he can depend on.
“I think just having another positive adult role model in Owen’s life would be very helpful,” Rebekah said.
The 10-year-old is hoping for a mentor that’s “funny, nice and kind” but most importantly, consistent and stable.
“I just think it’s important to have someone you can trust,” Owen said.
Jennifer Booth with Big Brothers Big Sisters Calgary and Area said the program is selective when matching a mentor and youth. They want to make sure the pair live close by, their personalities work well together and that the proper support can be offered.
“It’s a real intentional match — so that’s unfortunately why we see longer waitlists… because (sometimes) there just isn’t that perfect fit,” Booth explained.
All types of volunteers are needed, but Booth says the biggest gap is their need for Big Brothers. Nearly 70 per cent of their waitlist consists of boys with only a third of the applicants being male-identifying.
“The biggest thing that we hear is people don’t think they have time, but really a lot of things that you do on a weekly basis — if you’re going out to the park, dog walk, going out for coffee — you can do all that with a ‘Little,’” Booth said.
Booth added that the program only asks mentors to volunteer an hour or two every week to spend with their “Little” and hope for a year-long commitment.
“We ask for a year because we really see some of the social and emotional competencies change,” Booth explained. “The needle really moves after year with huge impacts and huge results.”
If you’re interested in signing up to be a mentor, visit the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Calgary and Area website for information on how to apply.