Keep Looking Where the Light Pours In
For 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada has been making a positive difference in the lives of children and youth through mentoring programs. Since 1970, OCYI partner, Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa (BBBSO), has been focused on creating meaningful one-on-one mentoring relationships designed to expand on a child or youth’s network of social support, foster self-esteem, growth and personal pride, all while having fun.
Transcribed onto a small square of art, by Morgan Harper Nichols, the quote, “Keep Looking Where the Light Pours In” sits front and centre in the office of Brianna Dusome, Director, Programs and Community Services, of Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa. To Brianna, these words speak to what a mentor is. “They foster that sense of hope.”
Knowing that formal mentoring programs can be a protective tool for risk factors, BBBSO strives to match kids and youth, ages 6-24, with mentors who are invested in committing to a long-term relationship. The MPower program, for ages 15-24, provides older youth with more autonomy in their mentor/mentee relationship, and bolsters stability as they transition to adulthood.
Brianna explains that BBBSO’s partnership with OCYI, is a natural fit. “Community partnerships are a huge component of what we do and how we show up for our community. OCYI and BBBSO also share the commonality of working to support children and youth. Building connected partnerships helps our respective organizations to see the gaps and better support each other.”
Asked what it is that she loves about working at BBBSO, Brianna has a long list, “BBBSO has a great team with a shared a passion for what we do. As a person with different experiences and intersections, I know the importance of matching the right people and prioritizing equity in the work being done. Our team also seeks to improve and grow the services BBBSO provides through the voices of those directly impacted by our programs.”
Excited about many things to come this fall, BBBSO staff look forward to seeing the PRISM program, recently launched at Capital Pride, in full flight.
PRISM, an established BBBS of Canada program, designed specifically for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, matches children and youth who self-identify as 2SLGBTQ+ with a mentor who also identifies as 2SLGBTQ+ for a one-on-one mentoring relationship.
The goal of PRISM is to provide kids and youth, who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, with a supportive friendship that fosters self-esteem, empowerment, belonging and pride in who they are. According to Brianna, matching lived experience is a really important factor in connecting youth with adult mentors. “Someone who is further along in their journey can explain how they got there and provide some helpful suggestions and tools while having fun. The PRISM program is also a way of creating a safer and more connected 2SLGBTQ+ community in Ottawa.
BBBSO is very appreciative to every donor and funder, including neighbourhood lemonade stand vendors, established funding partners and even BBBSO staff. For those looking for ways get involved, Brianna suggests spreading the word about BBBSO, helping with recruitment, and becoming a mentor. “We want to reduce our waitlists, expand and further diversify our programs.”
Seeing kids and youth as wonderful and essential Canadian resources, Brianna says that adults can learn as much from them as they from us. To her, “Helping Ottawa’s kids and youth to grow up great means wanting them to have less to heal from in the future.”
Please visit the BBBSO website at www.bbbso.ca for more information about becoming a mentor or mentee, the PRISM program, or other ways of getting involved.
Facebook: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa
This story is part of the September 2022 Ovation. This story is also available in French.