A mentor for any child can be the difference between a successful life and a life of pain.
Big Brothers Big Sisters sent their national CEO Bruce MacDonald to Prince George to ask the local public to be such a mentor, and the request was personally endorsed by province's Minister of Justice Shirley Bond and Premier Christy Clark.
Bond spoke of her own main mentor in life, the late Lance Morgan, as someone who "changed my life" simply by "loving me and accepting me just the way I was," even before she was in the political spotlight. His leadership of love inspired her and motivated her to help others in civil service. Now she is the one in charge of meting out justice in British Columbia.
Clark agreed that mentorship moments can have profound effects in a chain-like fashion. She recalled meeting a woman who grew up in a toxic family environment, which fostered mean feelings that one day culminated as an adult in terrorizing a random five-year-old by pretending to abduct the child and telling the kid she would never see her parents again, then setting her free to live forever with the terror of the "joke."
"That woman grew up with no one there for her, and what if there is no one there for that five-year-old? What will happen as a result?," Clark wondered, and pointed to Big Brothers Big Sisters as the source of those mentors for thousands of children across Canada.
According to MacDonald, a recent Canadian survey revealed that 87 per cent of Canadians feel that bullies would benefit from having a supportive volunteer mentor. In other words, the individual big brothers and big sisters of Canada, and those who act like them, are not only comforting the kids who suffer at the hands of bullies, they also prevent bullying from ever happening by being a behaviour model and a gift to those who might feel angry or disenfranchised - those who might lash out at other kids.
"As an unpaid mentor, the very first message that child gets from you, when you volunteer to meet them and be their friend, is 'I must be important'," MacDonald explained.
Longtime "big" Andy Beesley - now one of the City of Prince George's senior managers and well known for music, theatre and sports participation in the area - told the Friday audience that "this is not charity work. We like these kids. We just get to be ourselves and spend time with young people we really like."
He then pointed out that the effects of bullying are commonplace in our society: parents yelling at minor sports officials, internet bloggers writing cruel comments about public figures, and fans over-celebrating when kids score goals against other kids. The antidote to this darkness in the community is building up the self-esteem of our children and showing them sincere personal value - being their friend.
Big Brothers Big Sisters turns 100 years old in 2013. They are accepting adult applicants in Prince George, and they have a number of fundraising opportunities to support their activities.
"There aren't many organizations or companies that make it to 100 years old," said MacDonald. "There are fewer still that don't limp into their second century, but steam into their next 100 years. We are surging ahead like never before."