Big Brothers Big Sisters launches virtual program to recruit more Edmonton volunteers

An Edmonton organization dedicated to providing mentorship to youth will now offer many of its programs online.

Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area (BGCBigs) has various virtual volunteer opportunities to help meet the needs of kids in the community.

According to BGCBigs’ Jenna Brewer, more than 800 kids are currently on the waitlist to get matched with a mentor.

Brewer said the virtual program will provide an easier opportunity for mentorship during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as help keep current mentors and youth connected.

“Anything from our enrolment process, interviews and training, it’s all available online.

“We launched virtual programs so that you can still connect with you ‘little’ virtually and keep that physical distance in play.”

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Read more: Coronavirus: Community partnership aims to help youth cope with social isolation during pandemic

David Ulliac and Jarod Spry have grown as close as brothers over the past four years.

“[David] is somebody a little bit older to talk to and to give me guidance through life. He’s always going to be there for me,” Spry said.

When the pandemic first began, the organization surveyed its families to find out how best to utilize resources.

Read more: Hundreds of children waiting for a big brother or sister in Toronto

“We stopped in-person matches, but we gave them tools to meet at home through texting, playing video games,” Brewer said. “Then, in the summer, we also re-opened our clubs.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ulliac and Spry went five months without seeing each other in person.

“It all happened out of nowhere. It was a bit of a shock and a surprise,” Ulliac said.

“But we never felt disconnected because we were meeting online. Frankly, it’s been a lot of fun to meet up with someone every few weeks and tell them how I’m doing.”

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The virtual option was prompted by the pandemic, but the organization had been looking into the tech before.

“People have always asked us: ‘Do you have something virtual? Something I can do at home?’” Brewer said. “It’s something we have always wanted to do and COVID-19 just made us look at it further.”

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The organization has already seen an influx of new volunteers, which Brewer attributed to the convenience of a digital option.

“It’s an all-day, everyday job trying to get the word out that we still need volunteers.”

You can sign up to volunteer here.

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