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New showcase helps kids find Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

With a growing number of youth waiting to be matched with a mentor, staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sarnia-Lambton knew they had to get creative.

“Since COVID, our referrals for support have grown substantially. Families are struggling financially and emotionally, and this is having a direct impact on our youth,” said staff member Kaylen Burgess, noting the lack of routine and consistency — which kids tend to thrive on — is concerning.

“Parents are seeing the negative effects the pandemic is having on their kids and they are asking for help.”

With a waitlist of more than 60 children — some who’ve been waiting upwards of five years — the agency’s county caseworker Sarah McSwain came up with the idea to showcase two youth each week.

“Numbers and stats are easy to ignore but when you see just a little bit of information about a local 10-year-old in need, it makes you stop and think,” said Burgess, who helped launch ‘Waitlist Wednesday’ last month.

The weekly social media campaign features one boy and one girl, their ages, interests, and how long they’ve been waiting for a match.

The response was overwhelming.

“Within 24 hours we had more than 20 volunteer inquiries,” said Burgess. “The power of social media at times is incredible.”

“Our goal is to bring awareness to the community, especially our smaller surrounding communities,” she said, stressing a significant need for matches for boys as young as five. “There are kids waiting in Corunna, Sombra, Port Lambton, Brigden and Forest.”

Burgess said more work is ongoing at the agency to address the long wait times for matches.

“Over the last month, our casework team has streamlined our waiting list and reconfigured the way we match our youth,” she said. “As we dove into the list we asked ourselves why we have kids waiting for five plus years? What are we doing wrong? What needs to change in order to provide services to these youth?

“We will be taking a closer look at all referrals coming in, and if we do not feel we can provide them service in a realistic time frame, we’ll work with the family to look at other options for support within the community.”

The agency’s casework team continues to virtually process and screen new volunteers, and complete matches. Right now, 10 Little Brothers and Little Sisters are waiting to meet their new matches as soon as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“We continue to follow all recommendations given by Lambton Public Health to ensure the safety of both our volunteers and our families,” she said. “As we try to find some positive out of this past year, we are more grateful than ever for our volunteers and the support our community has shown us.”



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