At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Big Data


Two bags of carrots. That’s what I have in my crisper right now, and now need to figure out what to do with them. It’s not because I have a love of carrot cake. Nor is it related to a craving or even an effort to curb critically low beta-carotene levels. Nope, none of the above. This one is unequivocally a shopping blunder. The result of a poorly planned grocery list and, more importantly, an assumption on the part of our family’s head grocery scout (ahem, me). A preventable error had I simply taken time to check if we had any - to check the “data”, so to speak.

What relevance does the contents of my refrigerator have on…well, anything that concerns you? Believe it or not, it’s representative of my topic today: “Big Data”. The term refers to the notion that we are surrounded by vast amounts of data that can be translated into actionable information.

Big data is all about understanding the plethora of information around us to inform our decisions. For profit companies do it regularly – a great example is an e-reader account I have. I recently had a look through some various e-book options that I thought might be a good read but I couldn’t decide and had to run. Several days later I received an email… “Have another look at ___” it suggested. Furthermore it listed a few other books I might be interested in based on my recent purchases/reviews. And you know what? I bought one of them, right then, on the spot. Remarkable. “This company knows me” I thought. They understand what I like and make it readily available. This knowledge translated into a great read for me, and profit for them. Win-win.

I see the term several times a week in my LinkedIn feed, and even belong to a few groups that are specifically focused on the topic. But despite all this chatter I’ve noticed an interesting gap – it seems, in my experience to date, that the not-for-profit sector has data blinders on. During a speaking engagement earlier this year I asked the audience of around 60 not-for-profit employees if they’d heard the term. The response? Not. One. Hand. I was dumbfounded, and it took my session for an unexpected, albeit extremely interesting, conversation.

Interestingly enough I don’t think this is a case of organizations not knowing how they could benefit, rather I suspect the issue is they don’t have the time. While that may be true, one could easily argue that they must find the time. What could we learn about our program participants, supporters, donors, surrounding agencies, etc. if we took time to really look at the information we have about them? I’ve often heard conversations about how we “think” the participants need this or that, and then develop programs around that perceived need. Sometimes it works great - there are many skilled people who are trained to identify such service gaps and address them, and they do an incredible job doing so. But in this day and age, with information at every turn and tools to at our fingers tips to truly dissect it, there is no reason to ‘guess’. If taking time to understand the information means better serving the participants, raising more money, or building better partnerships, then don’t we owe it to everyone around us to do just that? I know time the most precious (and rarest!) element in the not-for-profit world, but just like spending money on a valuable product, spending time to understand can be well worth the investment.

I didn’t, and ended up with a LOT of carrots – all because I didn’t check the data. By the way, do you know any good carrot cake recipes?

Malcolm McAuley
Manager, Dynamics System
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

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Monday, December 2, 2013

A Day to Give Back

Most people know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, well here’s a new day in the Holiday Season – a day to give back! On December 3rd, 2013 Big Brothers Big Sisters is taking part in Giving Tuesday Canada, and here’s why you should too-

Watch the Giving Tuesday video to find out! -



We encourage you to please get involved by giving back to your community. Click here if you support mentoring....

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's okay to say no


With over 85,000 registered charities in the country each of us as Canadians are bound to be approached for donations multiple times throughout the year. Most of us have come to accept this fact, yet for many of us the idea of being asked for money is unpleasant to say the least. It can carry feelings of guilt and pressure to “do the right thing”. Having been in the business of fundraising for over 10 years I can tell you that this is not how effective fundraising is done and you should not be made to feel this way.

I can also tell you that it is okay to say no. While guilt may work temporarily, it is not a sustainable or long-term fundraising technique. It does not build relationships, and it does not inspire people. Giving is your choice, and above all else, it should make you feel good.

For some of us, it is hard to say no. We are asked around every corner. We are asked by those closest to us, we are asked where we shop, where we eat, and in our homes. I suppose many of us could probably afford to give a few cents or even a nickel to every charity in the country, but would this really be an effective way of making a meaningful contribution to society?

And don’t forget that every donation carries with it a cost of administration. Like any other business, charities need to effectively manage their money, manage their staff, market their brand, and of course bring valuable service to the community, all under the intense scrutiny of both the government and the general public.

I am not suggesting that you stop donating. Most of the 85,000 charities across the country not only deserve your support, but depend on it to exist and to continue to strive to enrich the lives of Canadians. Big Brothers Big Sisters is no exception. With less than 20% of our funding across the country coming from various governments, we will always depend on financial contributions from individuals simply to exist.

I am suggesting that you be thoughtful about your donations for the year. Be strategic and research your options. Look for impact in the community and for real results. And yes, push yourself to give more. It will feel good. You are making an investment in the community, in the life of a child, in the well-being and the future prosperity of the planet. I really believe there is no investment more important.

Garner Beckett
Director of Development
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Life is too short for hatred.


As a young woman and making the first steps into the world of adulthood, I often look back at a simpler time. I look back at the events that have paved every milestone brick into the long branching road that we call life, and as I do, I recall that to be where I am today, I have been through the most unpleasant part of growing up. This portion is commonly referred to as bullying. In retrospect, my childhood was riddled with many harsh words and cynicisms. I am truly thankful that I had my loving family supported me thick and thin. Sadly, not all people have this benefit. I have watched many friends of mine go in so many directions – and not all of them were savory. Acne isn’t the only blemish in a young person’s life. Bullying is truly a problem we need to address as a people. Why must people be heckled for being gay, for their colour of skin, for their size and weight, for their religion or even their personality?!?!?

It’s almost been a year since my summit with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, and at this summit, we were given a challenge. We must be the change we wish to see in the world. So many like-minded people in a single setting, so many different people, yet, the people I met had made me feel so welcome. This strange experience of feeling like the sister of over one hundred people got me thinking: What If I can show the same amount of love to other people? I had been in an Anti-bullying group for about a year to that point, and had decided to aim my attention at the problem of bullying. I received a budget of 100 dollars and with this money, I am spreading awareness by giving incentive to one lucky grade 12 student. One who shows the same amount of compassion I felt and gave in my high school life. This person has to be a guiding light - a warm blanket to put it in metaphor.

I aim to become a Big Sister once again, and to pass the torch on to our youth, because if no one does, we will be stuck in a limbo of civil war. We are the same species, yet we treat each other in such a disgraceful way.

Life is too short for hatred.
~Willa Julius

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

YOUth in Action

On November 5th Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) and Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC) partnered to host the first annual YOUth in Office: JOB SHADOWING DAY ON PARLIAMENT HILL.

Young people aged 15 to 25 had a chance to learn about career opportunities from MPs and Hill staffers. There were 60 youth and 40 Members of Parliament (MPs) who spent the workday together as part of a joint initiative to inspire young people about the working world and some of the job options associated with politics and government in Canada.

We had all party leaders involved in the Job Shadowing Day event, some pictures are attached. My personal favourite, we had youth matched with the Prime Ministerand they met at 24 Sussex Drive (Prime Minister's home) to accompany him to work. The Prime Minister also marked the event honoring the 100th anniversary of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

We also had Minister Candice Bergen kick off the breakfast with opening remarks with 120 individuals attending breakfast.

The day was truly inspirational, watching the youth moving around Parliament Hill, gaining access to closed committee meetings on Aboriginal Affairs, meeting a Minister from Honduras and discussing youth engagement, seeing a coke machine from 1958 still being stocked with pop in the sub-basement at Parliament Hill and writing speeches for MP’s and having lunch with Ministers in the Parliamentary restaurant.

The MP’s and staffers were hugging the youth as they dropped them off, indicating it was so refreshing to spend time with these youth and would do it again and telling the youth to stay connected. They had indicated that they could not believe how much that they themselves got out of the experience.

The youth from Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) and Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC)were our best ambassadors!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Remembrance Day Salute

It is not often that the very act of standing in a particular place can give one the sense of unease, peace and pride all at the same time.

This summer, I had the good fortune to be able to journey to France with my wife and three daughters. With the girls in or approaching university, we were thinking this could be our last ‘family vacation’ for a long time.

It was during this vacation that we visited the beaches of Normandy – Dieppe, the site of the ill-fated 1942 raid that was spearheaded by Canadians and the D-Day beaches of Juno, Gold and Omaha. It was remarkable to be driving along the coast with the English Channel on one side and quaint villages on the other and see Canadian flags proudly flying. It was only then that we realized we were in Dieppe the day before the 71st Anniversary of the attack and, even now, the contributions of Canada are honoured and remembered.

There are so many thoughts and observations from those few days:

  • Seeing the Dieppe cemetery, small and away from town yet immaculate. The headstones were full of names of young men who were only 18. We talked about how, instead of going to school, the young men of that time went off to war.
  • Visiting the Juno Beach Centre. It is only in recent years that a group of veterans spearheaded the construction of a permanent reminder of the second-bloodiest beach of the D-Day landings. Canadians fought their way off the beaches and eventually into Holland and Belgium. Seeing the fortifications that awaited them, I cannot imagine having summoned the courage to jump off a landing craft that day.
  • The scale and magnitude of war. From seeing the remnants of the floating harbour constructed by the Allies to the sheer size of the US Memorial Cemetary at Omaha, I shuddered at the complexity, cost of human life and enormity of the task of landing that June 6th.

Today, only historical remnants remain of those battles. Those two days, visiting those sites afforded my family the opportunity to connect with our pride in Canada, instill a sense of gratitude in another generation and give pause for thought to the horrors of war.

My father-in-law fought in Korea. Each year, we attend the Remembrance Day services and give thanks to the courage and dedication of the men and women who have contributed to our freedom. This year, having visited some of the places where Canadians distinguished themselves, I will be especially thankful.

Bruce MacDonald
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Value of an Extra Hour

When life gets extremely busy we often find ourselves saying “What I would give for an extra hour today” and with the clocks about to fall back, Canadians will have just that, the luxury of an extra hour.

As we sit back and look at our everyday life we can sometimes forget how quickly 24 hours can pass. When we factor in work, sleep, preparing meals, homework and recreational activities, we really don’t have much time to spare. According to the Standard Life Value of an Hour Survey conducted for Big Brothers Big Sisters, 62% of Canadians are so time-crunched that they think life is simply passing them by.

When we factor in all of life’s needs and then include some time for our wants such as exercise, volunteering, or spending additional time with family and friends, it’s enough to add additional stress to any already stretched out schedule. Interestingly enough, The Standard Life survey also found that 66% of Canadians would most likely volunteer if their personal schedule was less hectic, 33% would strengthen personal relationships by spending time with family and friends, and 17% would focus on their health by exercising.

After reading some of these survey findings how do you compare? Imagine how different the world we live in would be if everyone could free up even a little time each week to help others. Communities and individuals could be transformed for the better.

On November 3rd, 2013 you’ll be given an extra hour, what do you plan to do with it?

Read more of the key findings from The Standard Life Value of an Hour Survey...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

We Thank You


As families sat down for turkey over the weekend, many probably reflected upon the things they are grateful for - good health, friends and family, happiness and success.

It’s unusual for an organization to do the same – however as we wrap up celebrating 100 years of providing mentoring in Canada we couldn’t help ourselves because we have a lot to be thankful for.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada has amazing partners – many of which have been supporting the movement for over a decade. There are too many past and present to name but you can view a current list of partners on our website. Without their support, we would not be able to provide mentoring for over 40,000 children and youths across Canada.

In addition to partners, mentoring could not happen without the hundreds of thousands of volunteer mentors, past and present, who have given the most precious resource they have – time - to empower children and youth to reach their full potential.

The mentoring relationships are generated and fostered by hundreds of dedicated staff – who work long hours and many times go above and beyond to try to reach out to serve more kids in their communities.

In addition to our volunteer mentors, we have numerous other volunteers who are deeply invested in the cause and also give of their time in the hopes of creating healthy communities.

We would also like to thank the thousands of donors and event participants – who have taken up the cause and invested in our nation’s youth.

And of course we cannot forget the families and the children and youths themselves – many of them keep in touch with us and are forever part of our extended family.

Thanksgiving also happens to coincide with the launch of the Canadian Tenors new song ‘I Thank You” written by Kenny Munshaw and Marc Jordan and featuring Laura Kaeppeler. The song was written for Big Brothers Big Sisters to honour mentoring.

Have a look at their video and if you are grateful for someone who made a difference in your life – honor them by downloading the song on iTunes- $0.50 of every download will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hold the Sugar Please


Every day we hear about new ‘research’ that has been conducted on which foods are good for us and which ones are not. It can be information overload for most of us.

The foods we consume are filled with pesticides, preservatives and additives and labels can be misleading, so it is a challenge to know what’s ‘real’ and what’s not.

A simple change such as substituting refined sugar to natural sugar can have a big impact on our health. We’re so accustomed to reaching for sugar as we pour our cup of coffee or tea in the morning, or paying for a bottle of soda which contains close to our daily allowance of sugar - that we forget the impact it’s could be having on our current and future health.

Sugar itself has been linked to numerous health problems ranging from obesity, tooth decay and hyperactivity. On average, in 2004, Canadians consumed 110.0 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 26 teaspoons which is 21.4% of their total daily calorie intake. Sounds like a lot? Well, that’s because it is.

Take a look at these inexpensive natural sugar substitutes-

Stevia

A herb native to South American, It’s been used as a sweetener for centuries in South America and in Japan. It’s so widespread that before Coca Cola decided to ‘standardize’ the recipe, stevia was used in Japanese Diet Coke.

Stevia has no calories, no carbohydrates, and a zero glycemic index which makes it a great natural alternative to sugar and chemical sweeteners. Stevia can be used as a sweetener in beverages in cooking and in baking.

Honey

Sweeter than white sugar, look for honey that’s been locally produced to reap the full benefits. Packed with vitamins, honey has been shown to lower the impacts of heart disease, reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders, regulate blood sugars and heal wounds and burns.

Honey may have more calories than normal sugar but because it’s sweeter you use less of it.
You can add it to sweeten beverages and also for baking. The wide range of honeys at our disposal also gives you many options for varying the flavor in cooking.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar, derived from the flowers of the coconut tree, is an organic, sustainable natural sweetener that has shown great results for people who suffer from chronic illnesses or conditions such as diabetes, gallstones, cancer, heart disease and obesity. This sugar has a low glycemic index and is also a nutrient powerhouse, filled with lots of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Coconut sugar is minimally processed, unbleached and contains no preservatives

It can be used in baking, cooking and in sweetening hot beverages.

Stevia, honey and coconut sugar are all low in glycemic index, have no negative side effects and are all natural replacements to lower our daily intake of sugar.

Jamie Oliver once said – “We need to make sure that all kids are given the opportunity to learn about food and good eating while they’re still young so that they are sorted for life”.
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Through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada’s diverse mentoring programs, we educate young girls and boys across Canada about the importance of healthy and balanced eating.

Find out about our mentoring programs >

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Big Brother Experience


I became a Big Brother eight years ago, not by design but by circumstance. My interest in mentoring a younger person developed as my own children became more independent and the nest began to empty. My plan was to be a Big Brother once my life slowed down, which likely would be at retirement. My life has not slowed down as of yet, but I have a Little Brother and wouldn’t have it any other way.

My Little Brother is no longer little. He is now twenty-one years old and over six foot four. We remain close friends and visit regularly. It is wonderful to observe how positively his life is unfolding as a young man.

When I met him, he was just entering his teens. This is a critical time in any child’s development. If you are willing to provide a little of your free time, a positive influence, and a caring, listening ear, you can greatly assist in a young person’s successful entry into adulthood. It is sad that there is a small chance of a Little over the age of twelve being paired up with a Big. If only everyone knew the joys of befriending a young adult. There aren’t many experiences in life where you receive more than you put in. Spending time with someone who is eager to learn from you, and who enjoys and values your company, provides such an experience.

To be an effective Big Brother, you do not need to fill your time together with exciting activities. But you must be reliable and be prepared to share the wisdom you have gained through life experience. The other key requirement is to listen without being judgmental and give advice in a manner that does not intimidate but provides an alternative approach.
Whether you decide a younger or older Little is best for you, I am sure you will not regret it. Spending time with young people helps to keep you young and current in your thinking.

If you have been considering becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister but are waiting for the right time, contact Big Brothers Big Sisters and see how you can make a difference. Please don’t think about it too long; there’s a long list of eager young people waiting for someone like you to enter their lives.

Ron Takacs
Big Brother


If you could (or do) mentor a child in one of our mentoring programs which one would it be:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It’s All in a Quote...


Recently, I had the opportunity to hear a compelling speaker at a Big Brothers Big Sisters event in the United States. While this individual was not a member of the Big Brother Big Sister organization, his words and story were incredibly compelling. His life growing up in foster care, with the odds stacked squarely against him, demonstrated the plight of far too many children and young people. It was both moving and inspirational. In particular, he had a knack for finding phrases that motivated additional thought and reflection.

“A Collision of Labels”
I was struck how labels turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy and yet, seemed somewhat necessary. When presented with situations ‘the system’ attempted to describe, clarify and give shape to the type of supports that were required for this individual. What resulted was a stifling of potential.

At every turn, the labels preceding this young man shaped the course of how he was received, perceived and treated. His life experience was already challenging enough without the additional weight of pre-conceived ideas about who he was and what he could become.

In our new Strategic Planning Framework, we are discussing how we find the right program for the right young person. I hope we are cognizant of the balance between needing to describe for information purposes and yet not ‘label’ in a way that mutes the potential of every child.

“The Narrative of Our Nation is All Wrong”

Okay, I realize he was not referring to Canada, but it got me thinking. In a recent blog I talked about my fears that the ‘cost of administration’ question was becoming the sole determinant of the value of a charity.

On a related note, Imagine Canada is working on a ‘narrative for the voluntary sector’. This effort will provide a way for Canadians to better understand the impact of the collective non-profit sector, the mechanisms in place for accountability and transparency, the vast reach the sector has and how it transforms our country. In short, Imagine Canada (with active support from groups like ours) is hoping to write a new narrative – one that honours and values the work of the sector.

“A Chance in the World”
The individual to which I am referring is Steve Pemberton, Chief Diversity Officer and Divisional Vice-President for Walgreens, Child Advocate, Motivational Speaker & Author. His story is the opposite of the old expression ‘not a chance in the world’. In fact, he is now helping those that came from similar circumstances with this social action initiative – helping young people who are aging out of the foster care system.

It is heartwarming to know that this young man shook off every label to become a university graduate, successful Vice President of a major pharmaceutical company and proud father and husband. Along the way he became a wonderful wordsmith…passing along the thoughts of his life journey for others to contemplate.

Bruce MacDonald
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada


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Monday, September 16, 2013

And here we are...celebrating our 100th year.


“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.” – Jim Fiebig

So much has happened in 100 years. The world is almost unrecognizable from the one that existed in 1913 and gave rise to Big Brothers Big Sisters in Canada. It is more connected. It moves faster. The needs of children seem to be so much more complex.

And here we are, celebrating our 100th year.

How do we be both old and young at the same time? Few organizations have the reputation and respect that comes with 100 years of stellar service to children and families. In hundreds of Canadian communities, staff and volunteers have been changing the trajectories of young lives. Certainly the relevancy of the mentoring programs that are offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters is not in question. It is, however, more challenging for established institutions to make ongoing and significant change to stay in step with the times.

Perhaps the essence of mentoring doesn’t need to change all that much. As Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberte said “We didn't reinvent the circus. We repackaged it in a much more modern way.”

While being a centenarian in ‘cause’, Big Brothers Big Sisters is a young person’s movement. Across all community based programs, the average age for volunteers at the time of inquiry is 26.1 and 75.5% of all volunteers in the movement are under the age of 30. When factoring in teen mentors in school based programs, site based average age is 21.5.

The process of repackaging…developing, new meaningful programs while retaining the essence of quality mentoring… is well underway. Big Brothers Big Sisters will continue to balance the wonderful advantages of age – experience, wisdom, knowledge – with the benefits of youth – energy, vitality, enthusiasm – to create a vibrant organization that enters its second century of service with a double scoop cone.

Bruce MacDonald
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Blessing Bags"

In April 2013, I was lucky enough to be one of the 100 youths selected from across Canada to attend Big Brothers Big Sisters Social Innovators Youth Summit 2013. Upon arriving in Ottawa, I spent the week bonding with the 99 other astonishing youths, learning about their passions and the issues that were important to them. I was also able to take advantage of the many guest speakers and workshops that we attended, strengthening my leadership skills and working on my very own action plan. It was incredible to be immersed in this type of atmosphere and to hear others speak about their journeys and the plans that they had for not only their future, but for the future of others around them, were beyond inspiring. Being at the 2013 Youth Summit left me feeling extremely blessed because I now know that my generation is going to be the one that will change the world for the better.

As mentioned previously, while at the Youth Summit, we spent a large amount of our time working on our action plans, which were social innovation projects that were to be carried out back in our communities when we returned home. For me, I decided to work on a project called “Blessing Bags.” Growing up in Toronto, homelessness is really a large issue, but it is also an issue that is quite often swept under the rug. We pass people shivering in the cold almost on a daily basis, yet act as if no one stands there. So often we hear those around us say “never hand out money, you have no idea where it’ll be spent.” So instead, the idea of Blessing Bags were created. I had seen this project advertised on the internet before, on various blogging platforms, and I thought that it would be the perfect way to put to use the generous $100 grant given to me by MasterCard Canada.

Blessing bags are essentially large Ziploc bags that have been filled with items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, crackers, soap, Band-Aids, and notes of encouragements; small items that are meant to help someone get through a tough moment and remind someone who’s in need that someone else cares. This summer I spent my time collecting a variety of these items and assembling as many Blessing Bags as I could, with the help of my family and friends. In total I was able to create about 50 of these bags and my hope is that, when I return to Toronto from university during my winter break, to hand them out around the downtown core to those in need. Even though it’s been difficult to find the help I need in order to distribute all these bags during the holiday season, I’m hopeful that when I’m away in university I can find more people who are willing to lend a hand. One thing I definitely learned when I was at the Youth Summit is that, as long as you’re willing to reach out and ask for help, there will always be someone out there who will be ready to lend that helping hand. I’m excited to come back to Toronto in the winter and finish off my action plan. I really hope that by doing this one small act of kindness I can make a difference in the life of someone who really just needs to be reassured that someone out there cares, even if it’s in a small way.

Aliya
Social Innovators Youth Summit 2013 Attendee


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What is the most important thing your mentor did for you?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Return on Investment of a University Education… Is That the Only Value of a Degree?


It’s a no brainer right? You graduate from high school and you aspire to reach post-secondary education in order to get a better job that will result in higher lifetime earnings over the course of your career.

That’s the path we were told we had to take and if you followed that path you were likely to attain a certain amount of success.

The proportion of adults in Canada with a post-secondary education is the highest among all OECD countries, so it would seem that Canadians have heeded the advice.
But a recent report suggests that a university degree – or more specifically ANY university degree is not enough anymore.

CIBC World Markets issued results from a report on Monday that demonstrates that the return on post-secondary education is dropping because too few students are graduating from programs that are in high demand.

The message is not to abandon the degree but to seek out a degree in the most sought after fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) if you are seeking a better return on your investment in terms of dollars earned in the job market after graduation.
But is that the only way to evaluate a university degree. Isn’t university a time to explore – open your horizons and seek out new experiences?

It’s back to school time and although many high school students are looking forward to seeing their friends again; many students are very stressed out - according to a recent survey conducted by Ipsos Reid for Big Brothers Big Sisters and CIBC.

The survey identified three major sources of stress: finding a job in their chosen field (68 per cent), not having good enough marks to go to their post-secondary program of choice (58 per cent), and not having the money for college or university (51 per cent).

I often wish I could go back and tell my 20 year-old self to relax and enjoy the experience because although it is important to focus on the end goal – it is equally as important to live the experience. You are only 20 and in university once and if I were mentoring my young self I would tell myself to take some risks because who knows where they might lead. ..

How do you give back?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Beyond the Classroom


“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”- Winston Churchill

It’s a proven fact that mentoring helps kids stay in school, avoid risky behavior such as bullying, and that they grow up having more respect for family, peers and their community.

While children spend countless hours learning in the classroom, it’s important to recognize that having a role model and a friend, beyond the classroom, that they can talk to and share their experiences of growing up with, all within school grounds, can be a positive and life changing experience.

All over the country, for one hour a week during the school year, mentors from the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ In-School Mentoring Program, meet with their mentee and engage in activities such as board games, crafts or simply just hang out in the playground.

Being an In-School Mentor is about giving an hour of your time, once a week, to a child who is need of a little guidance and someone they can talk to about what’s going on in their day to day life. It’s about making that child feel special and that they truly matter while making a difference and most importantly -while having fun!

We know that In-School Mentoring makes a BIG difference because-

• 90% of mentors saw a positive change in the child they were mentoring
• 88% of students showed improved literacy skills
• 64% had developed higher levels of self-esteem

The proof is in the pudding! Check out our In- School Mentoring Program video to see how one simple hour can make a BIG change in a child’s life-


Looking to become an In-School Mentor or want more information on the program?
Get started here...

Monday, August 12, 2013

(Re)Connections stories…Why do we instantly feel so moved by them?


A lot has been written about social media and why today’s generation feels the need to document every moment of their life or every thought they have through the social media channel of their choice. As a result, we’ve decided that we are not going to add our thoughts or comments to this topic.

Instead, we would like to share this touching story from our Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in Newfoundland, which recently discovered the power of reconnecting with someone you may have lost touch with. We dare you not to feel moved or touched by this story.

“While the local radio station was doing a live interview with Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO and President, Bruce Macdonald, a former little brother heard the interview and instantly sent an email to the station. The station read his story on air with Bruce and the next day the Little Brother (Walter Harding) called the local agency. He wanted to tell them who he was, the impact his Big Brother mentor had on his life and that he was now going to be interviewed that evening on the same radio station! In addition to that, Walter, who had lost touch with his Big Brother, found him and talked to him for over an hour! He was so excited that he’s emailed the agency several times and decided to sign up as a Big Brother himself.”

Did you reach for the Kleenex? It’s okay we won’t tell. Maybe this generation isn’t so different after all.

So who have you lost touch with?  Who would you like to reconnect with or just thank for the impact they had on your life.

Let us know or better yet leave a Shout Out at http://thebigshoutout.ca/

Who knows where it may lead.

And if you do reconnect, please share your story with us.



Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Little Sister, My Friend


I first met my Little Sister, Lindsay, in 2002, when she was twelve years old. I was a single, thirty-one-year-old woman living in my condo in Mississauga, Ontario. I wanted something special in my life, the chance to “give back” and make a difference. I reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mississauga after seeing an advertisement by the side of the road. That decision changed my life.

At the time that I met Lindsay, she was very shy and introverted. For the first six to eight months, she barely spoke. When I asked her questions, her responses were brief, and she rarely voiced her opinion. Over time, though, and with the support of her mother and Big Brothers Big Sisters, we bonded and created a solid friendship of mutual trust and acceptance. We spent every weekend together baking treats, eating fresh popcorn at the movies, window shopping at the mall, playing games at my kitchen table, rollerblading along the Mississauga lakeshore, sharing meals, and generally having fun. We were extremely thankful for the tickets generously provided by Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Toronto Raptors and Bon Jovi.

I proudly watched Lindsay grow and bloom into a wise, independent, and beautiful young woman who was social, vocal, and made her own decisions. With the encouragement of her mother, Lindsay became a cheerleader in high school and continued to expand her social circle and experience. Even after graduating, she returned to coach some of her younger peers.

Even though our time at Big Brothers Big Sisters ended when she was eighteen, our friendship did not. In 2008, aside from my matron of honour, Lindsay was the only bridesmaid in my wedding. I was extremely honoured to have her by my side that day. After all, she had been a tremendous presence in my life. In the years since then, we’ve continued to text each other and hang out when our busy lives allow it. I still fondly remember the day she held my newborn son in her arms for the first time. This past summer, Lindsay, her boyfriend and her mother attended almost all of my son’s soccer games. My three-year-old son smiles happily on the days Lindsay stops by for a visit or to babysit.

Lindsay was my Little Sister for five years, but she’s truly a remarkable young woman, friend, and part of my family. I’m so glad I made the decision to call Big Brothers Big Sisters. Thank you!

Tracey

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What is the most important thing your mentor did for you?


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chocolate Milk The Superdrink!


By Fitness&Health Enthusiast . Speaker . Idea Catalyst, Tania Archer 

After an intense workout your body is in need of fluids, carbohydrates and proteins to REHYDRATE the body, to REPLACE nutrients, to fuel your next workout and to RECHARGE & REPAIR your muscles. Forget that sweet sports drink that's lacking in restorative qualities and reach for a supercharged glass of cool chocolate milk.

REHYDRATE ...

The fluids you lose during a workout need to be replaced in order for your body to keep performing. Studies have shown one that CHOCOLATE MILK is one of the best rehydration beverages as it is 87% water and contains 16 essential nutrients including carbohydrates, portions, vitamins A and D, calcium, potassium and many more. We lose quite a bit of electrolytes (sodium, chloride) and potassium when we sweat and through high intensity workouts lasting 45 minutes or more. Chocolate Milk naturally contains sodium and potassium.

REPLACE…

Replacing stored energy called glycogen (carbohydrates), which is burned as body fuel during a workout, is key to improving your endurance capacity and your boosting energy. Chocolate Milk is rich in "good carbs" the body needs to recover post workout but complete glycogen levels will help you perform better during your next workout. Ideally replace lost carbohydrates within 15 to 30 minutes of a your workout.

RECHARGE & REPAIR…

Protein is an essential nutrient in building and maintaining natural muscle mass. Chocolate Milk gives you the complete nutrition your body needs to bounce back from an intense workout. The natural protein found within a glass of milk stimulates muscle growth and repair. A single glass of chocolate milk has as much protein as a large egg.

Helpful Hints ... To make the most of all the nutrients power packed in to your next glass of CHOCOLATE MILK, drink 1 to 2 glasses of this refreshing beverage 15 to 30 minutes after working out in order to rehydrate, replace and recharge-repair your body.

Tania Archer
@taniaarcher #90DayCrossFitChallenge

Through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada’s diverse mentoring programs, we educate young girls and boys across Canada about the importance of healthy and balanced eating.

For a list of our mentoring programs- http://www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/en/home/mentoringprograms/default.aspx

What’s your favorite go-to snack after a workout?


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ever wonder if your charitable donations actually generate a financial return to society?


I’d like to tell you a story about a little boy named Jamie who at 8 years old lost his father to heart disease and whose world was turned upside down. He and his two brothers felt abandoned, scared and a bit lost and didn’t think that they had anyone to talk to.

Their lives could have taken any number of roads, but their mother had the courage to realize that while she would give her children anything she couldn’t give them everything, so she reached out for help - and Big Brothers Big Sisters answered. Big Brothers stepped into each of her young boys’ lives and selflessly did their best to fill the holes, help mend hearts and ensure the roads the boys walked down, were good ones.

Now Jamie grew up to be James and a Partner and Managing Director the at Boston Consulting Group and when Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada asked us to assess the impact of their programs I knew from my own experience that there was real value created.

The key was to turn “knowing” into proof and to undertake a statistically significant, quantitatively rigorous study so that we could convince people without that experience, of the value of its programs.

With a representative sample of former Littles compared to a control group, that’s exactly what we did. We studied differential life outcomes and the portion attributable to Big Brothers Big Sisters and what we found was tremendous.

For every dollar spent on a Big Brothers Big Sisters program, 18 dollars in societal value is created and the harder the circumstances the better the program works, with a 23:1 SROI in the most economically disadvantaged groups that Big Brothers Big Sisters serves.

Click here for Key Findings from the Social Return on Investment Study.

The study clearly shows that vast numbers of former Littles see the relationship with their Big as a transformational moment in their lives that led to enhanced life outcomes, an ability to make better decisions, increased confidence and a general sense of well being and happiness.

I'd like to leave you with one final thought – you don’t donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters, you make an investment, an investment in a little boy’s or little girl’s future, and that investment will have a fantastic payoff – in hard dollars and better lives lived.

James

James Tucker O.M.C., ICD.D, MBA, BA, is a Partner and Managing Director with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) based in Toronto, Canada. His professional practice is focused on helping clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage and realize the full potential value of their operations and assets.

On July 16, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is unveiling the findings of a ground breaking new study that audits the financial return in economic value from Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring. The findings of this rigorous audit provide a thought provoking analysis of the hard economic benefits that result from investing in the future of little boys and girls.




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If you could invest in Canada's future and get an excellent return on your investment, which would you choose to support?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

And here we are, turning 100.


“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”
Jim Fiebig

So much has happened in 100 years. The world is almost unrecognizable from the one that existed in 1913 and gave rise to Big Brothers Big Sisters in Canada. It is more connected. It moves faster. The needs of children seem to be so much more complex.

And here we are, turning 100.

How do we be both old and young at the same time? Few organizations have the reputation and respect that comes with 100 years of stellar service to children and families. In hundreds of Canadian communities, staff and volunteers have been changing the trajectories of young lives. Certainly the relevancy of the mentoring programs that are offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters is not in question. It is, however, more challenging for established institutions to make ongoing and significant change to stay in step with the times.

Perhaps the essence of mentoring doesn’t need to change all that much. As Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberte said “We didn't reinvent the circus. We repackaged it in a much more modern way.”

While being a centenarian in ‘cause’, Big Brothers Big Sisters is a young person’s movement. Across all community based programs, the average age for volunteers at the time of inquiry is 26.1 and 75.5% of all volunteers in the movement are under the age of 30. When factoring in teen mentors in school based programs, site based average age is 21.5.

The process of repackaging..developing, new meaningful programs while retaining the essence of quality mentoring.. is well underway. Big Brothers Big Sisters will continue to balance the wonderful advantages of age – experience, wisdom, knowledge – with the benefits of youth – energy, vitality, enthusiasm – to create a vibrant organization that enters its second century of service with a double scoop cone.

Bruce

Bruce MacDonald
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada


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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Quality Time

Time...

We all value it, seek more of it, and how we prefer to spend our ‘quality time’ is different for each of us. For some it’s dinner with friends, a workout at the gym and for others it is curling up on the sofa with a great book.

For me, quality time is spending time with family. In particular, spending time with my nephews who hold a special place in my heart.

The time spent with children reminds us how to put our worries and cares aside and focus on the now. Through their eyes we see the wonder in day to day things which we often take for granted – the excitement of seeing a rabbit hop by, the taste of ice cream on a hot summer’s day, the sound that carries when a plane passes overhead, the feel of grass on our feet. We are young again. We are present.

What does quality time mean to a child? Any time we spend with them, sharing a laugh, talking, listening and being present and attentive means so much to them. It’s so simple, and takes so little to make them happy and to remind them that they are special. Just a little bit of our time, and we all get so much in return. Yet, in today’s busy world filled with constant tasks, errands, phone calls, emails, tweets, etc. it seems we never have enough time to make room for the important things, the quality time with our loved ones.

When we make time for a child, the benefits on both sides are immeasurable. Actually, they are priceless.

Often spending time with our loved ones is the last thing on our long to do list and before we know it, time has zipped by and we can’t turn it back. We end up wondering where the time went, and how they’ve grow up so fast, wishing we could have enjoyed more precious time with them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not waiting for another weekend, another holiday, and I’m not saying ‘maybe some other time’, or ‘I’m too busy today, maybe tomorrow’. I’m going to take time in the present and enjoy the now with them. I’m going to giggle over nothing, share a cookie, dance in the kitchen, build a tower from Lego, and I’m going to love every minute of it!

Here’s hoping you get to enjoy your quality time as much as I do.

Rosemary Velcich
Manager of Development Programs



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Friday, June 28, 2013

Topical youth issues addressed at inaugural CIBC Youthvision 15th Anniversary Digital Youth Forum


On June 20th, 2013, CIBC hosted its inaugural CIBC Digital Youth Forum on Academic Success celebrating the 15th anniversary of the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program.

Moderated by MTV Host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani the forum connected over 450 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship recipients, families and mentors from the past 15 years as they listened to a panel of experts and discussed solutions to challenges many kids face while achieving academic success.

More than 50 past and present CIBC Youthvision Scholarship recipients took part in the Forum, either from CIBC’s head office or online from across the country and as far away as New Zealand. They were joined by dozens of friends, family and program partners.

The forum addressed a wide range of youth issues that prevent youth from achieving academic success such as maintaining self-esteem and motivation while facing issues like bullying and the pressure to succeed in school, striking a balance between competing life priorities, transitioning from student to the workplace and finding employment and learning to budget in ‘real life’.

The Youthvision orientation also included speed mentoring with CIBC GenNext employees, a visit to the CN Tower and a series of seminars and workshops.

Participant feedback -

"These conversations are critical. Mentorship - ongoing, and via forums like this - is life changing!"

"Believe it or not, we all share the same challenges. Most of us in the room have the same questions, and the experts and resources posted today help me know that I am not alone."

Watch the archived forum-


Link- https://webcasts.welcome2theshow.com/cibc2013scholar

Password: CIBC

For 15 years, the CIBC Youthvision scholarship program has supported academic achievement for youth who may not have the financial means or support system to easily pursue a post-secondary education.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

I learned far more from them than they learned from me...

A reflection of our work in the Flying Dust community

by Karen Shaver
V.P., Agency Services
When I sit quietly, I can hear the drums measuring the heartbeat of the dancers whirling around the flagpole, evoking the movements of hunters and animals. With my eyes closed, I can see the feathers and intricate beadwork, painstakingly sewn onto the deerskin by mothers, aunties and grannies. I can just imagine, centuries ago, how challenging it would have been to craft the regalia, how mesmerizing the singing and dancing would have been to young children crowded around the fire.

I have been fortunate, in my role with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, to be able to work with Flying Dust First Nation to expand our mentoring programs to their community. Flying Dust – Kopahawakenum in the Cree language - is a small community located in Saskatchewan with a population of about 500 members, on reserve. Although I was excited by the opportunity to work with the community to figure out how Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs could be delivered in Flying Dust, I was also quite uncertain. In a community where everyone knows everyone, where, in fact, many people are related in one way or another, how do you ensure confidentiality? In a community where volunteers are already taxed, how will they find time to volunteer with yet another initiative? How could I even talk, without feeling foolish, about the concept of structured mentoring in a community where knowledge and history are traditionally passed down through informal mentoring?

After many visits to meet with the community, to participate in a Harvest Celebration, and dance in a Pow Wow, the program was launched as Nistesak ekwa Nimisak. Nine Cree and Métis high school students mentored nine children at the Kopahawakenum elementary school over the course of a school year. The evaluation of the initiative showed some positive progress for both the children and the youth, especially in terms of community connection, civic engagement and attitude towards school.

Bruce MacDonald (left), president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canadaand Flying Dust First Nation Chief Jim Norman signed the agreement in 2011 to work together.
Working in partnership with members of the Flying Dust community has taught me much: if a healthy partnership with First Nations is predicated on relationships, then it’s important to share enough of yourself to build a real relationship; confidentiality isn’t important in this First Nations community (if you don’t know someone needs help, how can you help them??); and, in hindsight, not surprisingly, the Indian Act is one of the biggest barriers to success for First Nations communities and any efforts that can be taken to rectify the injustices codified in that Act should be taken.

On some level, I expected to be able to bring the resources of a national charity to bear to assist a First Nations community requesting assistance. What I found was a resilient and strong community doing all they can to provide guidance and leadership to the children and youth living there. Their culture is strong and vibrant. Their leadership is visionary. Their youth have hope for the future. They needed my support only a little.

And just like our Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentors say about their mentees, I learned far more from them than they learned from me.



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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Meet the 2013 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Recipients!


We are proud to announce the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program ‘Class of 2013’– 33 young Canadians from across the country who will join the ranks of over 450 program participants and alumni from the past 15 years.

Daniel Scheffer, Victoria BC
Aziza Abdul Qader, Vancouver BC
Anna Maria Baeva, Vancouver BC
Theresa, Vancouver BC
Angela Winsu, Vancouver BC
Leo Ou Liu, Burnaby BC
Bhanu (Priya) Sharma, Burnaby BC
Sara Lavoie, Churchbridge SK
Chantelle Chernick, Winnipeg MB
Cassandra Sanderson, Winnipeg MB
Rayna Critchley, Lanark ON
Caitlyn Lyver, Bowmanville ON
Braydon Middaugh, Sault Ste Marie ON
Melan Mustafa, London ON
Austin Pay, Orangeville ON
Shania Reed, Orillia ON
Brandon Winnicki, Welland ON
Logan Winterhelt, Toronto ON
Kevin, Hamilton ON
Denzel Innis, Hamilton ON
Darlene Lyon, Hamilton ON
Dawape Isekeije, St. Catherines ON
Sidra Khan, Bramton ON
Samantha Hartmann, Toronto ON
Anannya Sahadev, Toronto ON
Aliza Siebenaller, Toronto ON
Taufiq Stanley Toronto, ON
Logan Winterhelt, Toronto ON
Banujan Thambithurai, Scarborough ON
Emily Lillies, Côte Saint-Luc QC
Jermaine Andrade, Fredericton NB
Sharee Burry, St. John’s NL

What the 2013 recipients are saying about CIBC Youthvision:

This scholarship will motivate me to continue doing my best at whatever it may be, whether it's school, work, or just in my everyday life. This scholarship is just a reminder of the potential that I do have to be the best I can be, and I will use it to reach that potential.
Savannah Menton, Toronto, ON

I feel so overwhelmed and a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and my family. I feel so honored and blessed. The fact that people you don’t even know are willing to help you achieve your dreams is incredible. This is one of the best things that has ever happened to me and I will cherish it forever. CIBC has given me the chance to follow what I believe in and to never give up.
Sharee Burry, St. John’s, NL

As part of the 15th anniversary celebrations all 2013 recipients will be visiting their local CIBC branches to open up a CIBC bank account and then travelling to Toronto on June 20th to:

• Learn how to manage their finances and plan a strong financial future through a Money Smarts for Students Seminar
• Gain valuable career advice through speed mentoring with CIBC GenNext
• Participate in CIBC’s first-ever digital Youth Forum connecting over 450 CIBC Youthvision recipients, families and mentors from the past 15 years. Moderated by MTV Host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, the forum will feature an expert panel discussing issues young people face while achieving academic success.

Follow this event on Twitter #cibcyouth

Learn more: www.cibc.com/youthvision


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Monday, June 17, 2013

Financial Literacy with Jamie Golombek from CIBC!

We welcome Jamie Golombek as a guest blogger from CIBC. Jamie is a panellist at the upcoming CIBC Digital Youth Forum celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program. If you would like to hear more money management advice from Jamie, please tune-in to the Forum, next Thursday, June 20th, 2013 at 5 pm EST.

How to Tune-In- http://www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/en/home/newsevents/cibcyouthvision15years.aspx

About Jamie: As Managing Director of Tax and Estate planning, Jamie works with colleagues across CIBC to support high net worth clients and deliver integrated financial planning and strong advisory solutions. He joined CIBC in 2008 after 12 years with Invesco Trimark and previous to that was with Deloitte & Touche. He is often quoted as an expert on taxation, writes a weekly column called “Tax Expert” in the National Post and is a regular personal finance guest on The Marilyn Denis Show. In his spare time, Jamie teaches an MBA course in Personal Finance at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Financial Literacy with Jamie Golombek from CIBC
June 17, 2013


Whether you’re a child who has just received his first allowance, a teen with a part-time job while in high school or a graduate student who is beginning her career, getting used to setting – and sticking to – a budget is probably the most important piece of financial advice you will ever receive.

But before even trying to set a budget, you should set a few goals for yourself. For a goal to be meaningful, it must have both a specific, measurable outcome and a timeframe for achieving that outcome.

For example, let’s say your goal is to get an iPad. While that goal itself may be exciting, it’s far too vague to be achievable as it’s not specific enough and no timeframe for achieving it has been established. To make the goal real, you do some research and determine that the model you want will cost $550, including all taxes. You would like to have the iPad to enjoy during winter break, say, by late December.

Now, we have a concrete, objective and measurable goal: To buy an iPad, that costs $550, by December 25th.

Now comes the harder step - how are we going to achieve that goal? That’s where budgeting fits in.

A budget can help you save for that iPad by forcing you to set aside funds on a regular basis so that your goal can be realized in time. Part of a budget involves looking at how much money is coming in and comparing that to your expenses. The excess – if any! – is what’s available to set aside to fund that goal.

Let’s say you do some babysitting each week and earn about $50 weekly. Most weeks you end up spending this money on a movie, snacks, or a trip or two (or three!) to McDonald’s. But what if you were to only spend $30 per week on your current expenses and were disciplined enough to set aside $20 from now until December to be able to buy that iPad.

By doing so, in just over six months’ time, you will have accumulated the $550 needed to buy your iPad. Yes – it involved sacrificing your current lifestyle in return for the reward of achieving your goal by the end of the year, but it was worth it!

If you can master the ability to set goals and stick to a budget when you’re young, it will serve you well throughout your life as you apply these very same principles to help you achieve larger financial goals, like buying your first car or even one day, a home.

www.jamiegolombek.com
@JamieGolombek


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Monday, June 10, 2013

CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program celebrates 15 years of changing lives through access to education!

This spring, CIBC Youthvision is celebrating its 15th anniversary – a one-of-a-kind scholarship program that has changed the lives of hundreds of young Canadians since 1999.

CIBC Youthvision is a scholarship program unlike any other. The important difference is the program’s early intervention at the critical time in grade 10, which research shows not only relieves financial stress, but also builds confidence and self-esteem. It also encourages independence, enables students to do more in-depth life and educational planning, and ultimately, motivates them to do better.

The Program invests annually in 30 high-potential young people involved in a mentorship program with Big Brothers Big Sisters or the YMCA, who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue a university or college education. The $38,000, six-year program supports them with mentoring, summer internships and tuition contributions as they complete high school and their post secondary education. The 2013 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship winners will be announce June 20. Stay tuned!

You’re Invited!


To celebrate the 15th anniversary, CIBC is holding its first-ever Digital Youth Forum connecting over 450 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship recipients, families and mentors from the past 15 years. Moderated by MTV Host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, the forum will feature an expert panel discussing solutions to challenges youth face while achieving academic success.

Topic- Boost: maintaining self-esteem and motivation while facing issues like bullying and the pressure to succeed.
Panelist - Dr. Joanne Cummings, Knowledge Mobilization, PREVNet

Topic- Balance: striking a balance between competing priorities at school, with friends, and at home.
Panelists - Adam Van Koeverden, Olympic Champion and Pan-Am Athlete in Kayaking, Eugenia Canas, Community Engagement, MindYourMind

Topic- Breadwinning and Budgets: transitioning from students to the workplace, finding employment and learning to budget in real life.
Panelists - Jamie Golombek, Tax and Estate Planning, CIBC, Megan Thomas, Employment and Community Services, YMCA,Pattie Lovett-Reid, Chief Financial Commentator, CTV NEWS

Date: June 20, 2013 from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm EST

Participate Online:
1. Like www.facebook.com/cibc
2. Click on the Youthvision Tab
3. Click on the Webcast Button
4. Enter password CIBC
5. Post comments and questions online via the social stream.

If you do not have a Facebook account, email youthvision@cibc.com to receive a special link to the Webcast.

Or, join us in person:

CIBC Head Office, 199 Bay Street, 56th floor, Toronto

Please RSVP to youthvision@cibc.com letting us know whether you will be tuning in online or attending in-person by June 17, 2013. In-person guests please arrive by 4:30 EST.

Learn more about the panelists and meet some fellow Youthvision recipients.

Visit www.facebook.com/cibc and click the Youthvision Tab. #cibcyouth

For more information on the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program- http://www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/en/home/corporatesponsorships/chairscircle/CIBC.aspx

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I’m Overhead….and Proud of it!


‘70% of Americans believe that charities waste money, according to an NYU survey. Our goal is singular: within ten years, to have 70% of Americans believe the opposite.’ -Charity Defense Council

Perhaps one of the most frustrating questions posted to the leaders of charitable organizations is the dreaded ‘what is your cost of administration?’ For at least a decade it seems that a series of factors have been leading Canadians to a place where the percentage of funds spent on infrastructure is the sole determinant of the value of a charitable organization.

From exposes on copycat charities to instances of obscenely high costs of fundraising to a genuine desire to delineate between the 80,000 charitable organizations in Canada, people have been trying to create a common measure for comparison. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the pendulum has swung too far.

‘Cost of administration’ simply cannot be the only criteria used to assess the value of a charity.

Should charities have measures in place to show transparency and accountability as stewards of contributed funds? Absolutely. Audits from credible firms, checks and balances relating to internal processes, high functioning Finance and Audit Committees etc. all form part of a system that demonstrates professional management and provides reassurance to donors and sponsors.

But what if it takes more than 15% to provide a quality service that is making a difference and fulfilling the mission? Should not the need, quality and outcomes warrant a deeper conversation about whether a charity is responsibly delivering on its mission? Organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters are counting on it.

The emerging belief, that spending more than 15% on administration, is one of the most dangerous, long term trends to have emerged in decades. It undermines the ability of organizations to have the necessary resources to deliver quality programs. It creates a climate where charities accept ‘bad deals’ for funding simply because it is the only deal available. In the long run, it will negatively affect the capacity of organizations to attract and retain talent, ensure that corners are not cut in program delivery and ultimately achieve the high quality outcomes that society has come to expect.

The time has come for the sector, collectively, to speak out and attempt to stem this ongoing conditioning. Overhead, administration, capacity. These words need to join the lexicon of words seen as positive, not negative for they help ensure quality and accountability. I, for one, am overhead and proud of it.

What do you think? Are you proud to be overhead? How do you choose the charities you support? Do you think my observations are off base? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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Bruce

Bruce MacDonald
President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada


*During their recent AGM, Imagine Canada welcomed several new board members including our very own President and CEO Bruce MacDonald. Bruce states that he "...hopes to connect with the broader trends facing the voluntary sector and hopefully make a contribution to charities and non-profits in a wider context."

Bruce was elected alongside illustrious individuals such as: Darlene Jamieson (Merrick Jamieson Sterns Washington & Mahody Barristers); Derek Gent (Vancity Community Foundation); and Mike Pedersen (TD Bank) and joins existing members such as Stéphane Vaillancourt (Les YMCAs du Québec) and Owen Charters (MS Society of Canada).


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beyond the Classroom


“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”- Winston Churchill

It’s a proven fact that mentoring helps kids stay in school, avoid risky behavior such as bullying, and that they grow up having more respect for family, peers and their community.

While children spend countless hours learning in the classroom, it’s important to recognize that having a role model and a friend, beyond the classroom, that they can talk to and share their experiences of growing up with, all within school grounds, can be a positive and life changing experience.

All over the country, for one hour a week during the school year, mentors from the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ In-School Mentoring Program, meet with their mentee and engage in activities such as board games, crafts or simply just hang out in the playground.

Being an In-School Mentor is about giving an hour of your time, once a week, to a child who is need of a little guidance and someone they can talk to about what’s going on in their day to day life. It’s about making that child feel special and that they truly matter while making a difference and most importantly -while having fun!

We know that In-School Mentoring makes a BIG difference because-

• 90% of mentors saw a positive change in the child they were mentoring
• 88% of students showed improved literacy skills
• 64% had developed higher levels of self-esteem

The proof is in the pudding! Check out our In- School Mentoring Program video to see how one simple hour can make a BIG change in a child’s life:


Looking to become an In-School Mentor or want more information on the program?
Visit our website page...

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Tribute to Canadian Moms


“You are not perfect, but you are perfect for me!”

These are words of wisdom from my 8 year-old son that inspire me whenever self-doubt sets in – which I hate to admit happens more often than not.

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we are fortunate to meet and work with thousands of beautiful, courageous and incredible women across the country, also known as moms. These women want the best for their children. They worry and they fight to provide their children with as many skills and opportunities as possible to encourage them to reach their full potential.


It’s no wonder that they worry.

According to the Save the Children 2012 State of the World’s Mothers Annual Index, that helps document conditions for mothers and children in 165 countries and shows where mothers fare best and where they face the greatest hardships, Canada ranks 19th, behind countries like Estonia, Slovenia and Portugal.

The most recent data from Statistics Canada’s Women in Canada report states that working mothers still earn 25% less, on average, and still do approximately double on average, of the child and household related chores than dads. The same report also demonstrates that women account for more college and university graduates than men.

Why should we be concerned about the condition for mothers?

Providing mothers with access to education, economic opportunities and maternal and child health care, gives them and their children the best chance to survive, thrive and reach their full potential. By supporting mothers and improving their conditions, we can improve the lives and well-being of our children and, in turn, our communities.

Despite the worry and self-doubt, brave moms across the country reach out for support and with the help of over 27,000 volunteer mentors, they are providing new opportunities for their children. We, at Big Brothers Big Sisters are honored to know and work with these moms each and every day.

To all the Moms – we hope you put aside the self-doubt and worry this Mother’s Day. To everyone else, please take a moment to recognize and encourage all the mothers you know that work so hard.

If your mom was your mentor, please let her know! Visit the www.theBigShoutOut.ca where you can leave a message to her.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bullies Called Him Pork Chop. He Took That Pain With Him And Cooked It Into This...

Shane Koyczan’s story is making world news and with over 8 million views on YouTube, his video which tells his story, is helping spread the word on bullying. Shane states that he was bullied a lot when he was a kid so he took that pain and made this remarkable video with the help of some remarkably talented people.

Please take a minute and view this powerful video, you will not be disappointed. (Don’t worry, it has a happy ending.)


(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltun92DfnPY)

• At 1:20, he reminds us all what we heard growing up.
• At 2:07, we meet another girl who was bruised by words.
• At 2:57, we learn why she's awesome.
• At 4:28, we learn how many kids have to deal with this every day.
• At 5:23, if you've been bullied, you need to hear these words.
• At 6:00, listen to these beautiful words.
• And at 6:49, gets to the point that everyone should take to heart.

Share with us how you’ve overcome or are overcoming bullying.

*On February 5th, 2013 a new national survey commissioned by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) and Invesco Canada LTD revealed that a strong majority of Canadians (78 per cent) believe that not enough is being done to stop bullying in their communities.

To read more on this survey please follow this link...


Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Toboggan Ride to Leadership Development


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada welcomes guest blogger Jim Cargrae!

About Jim Carfrae

I have been privileged to be a big brother for six years, lead a three year corporate sponsorship with big brothers big sisters (BBBS) and be on the BBBS alumni committee. I am also a co-founder and animateur of the Leading Better roundtable series, and have worked at a number of successful companies, currently Santa Maria Foods, a fast-growing deli company.

For many years I have been an active mentor, mentee, leader, follower and observer. I am lucky to have a curious nature that leads me to a wide variety of circumstances and experiences. I wish I could have shared a coffee with Richard Feynman.

How being a Mentor helped me

One amazing and unforgettable day my little brother Adam accidently went tobogganing down the ravine at Bronte Park, without a toboggan, amazingly through the trees and luckily without incident – one time! A conundrum, `mom` would not be happy to hear the story, and yet the thrill could not be stifled, and a request for silence would pretty much guarantee it being told with the lead-in, ``Jim said not to tell …``. Life is filled with accidents, I think I am a bit more understanding with my kids because of the day at the park.

In many ways the greatest benefit of being mentored is the comfort of knowing someone is looking out for you, believes in you and wants to support you. I believe this is massively empowering and provides the courage to experiment, practice and live fully.

When I started as a big brother I worked hard to plan our outings. One day I didn’t plan anything, we just hung out, played some Lego, some space invaders. On the way home he asked “can we do that again?” At first I didn’t understand. So much of life is over-planned; Adam taught me the joy of just enjoying someone’s company, and his was wonderful.

Leading might be defined as creating a vision strong enough for action by others. And leadership could then be the conversations and agreements that led to that action; and the space set up for those interactions to happen in a safe and fruitful way.
As I recollect there are over 30 million cartons of Royale facial tissue sold in Canada every year. For three years the bottom of every Royale carton told the simple message of BBBS:

• Over 18,000 children are mentored, (at the time); and there continues to be a need for `bigs`
• Kids who are mentored are more likely to finish high school and less likely to do drugs

I still remember suggesting this idea to our owner, wondering if it might be asking too much. He was immediately supportive, and now I am never shy to ask, people are welcome to say “no”.

I believe there is great overlap in mentoring and leading, and that great personal leadership development can realized by the practice one gets in being a mentor. It really is hard to imagine that a person who was once a big brother or big sister would not record that experience on their resume or Linked In profile for their entire life. It is equally hard to imagine that a potential hirer would not see that as relevant experience, even if 20 years ago.

It is my belief that the best leaders of tomorrow are already developing and practicing today, many as mentors. On top of the wonderful personal interaction as a big sister or brother, the benefit to the little sister or brother and their community; the many mentor programs offered provide an easy and enjoyable way for personal development.

I invite you to check it out, information is at www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca. There are also many alumni who are happy to share their personal experience, almost certainly someone you know, if you ask around.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Award Winning Speech by Little Sister Savannah


Is it Tuesday already? I love Tuesdays. After homework club, I race home and get ready. I stand by the door and just wait for her car to pull in..........I wonder what we will be doing tonight?

Honourable Judges, parents and fellow competitors, I want to talk to you about one of the most precious gifts I have ever received -One that has changed my life, tremendously. That gift is my big sister, Shelby and the organization responsible for connecting the two of us.

Shelby isn’t my big sister by blood but instead she was matched with me through an organization called Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Georgian Triangle. She is VERY special. You see, Shelby chose to commit 2-4 hours of her time, weekly. She went through a screening process to make sure she was a safe adult with positive things to share. And after an interview she was ready for her little sister. Me!

Sometimes when we get together we talk about some of the tough things associated with being a kid..... like school, siblings or bullies..... and other times we are carefree, we goof around and giggle.

Shelby and I love to watch movies together, play games, do crafts, hike, skate, and even bake.

Once we tried baking Pumpkin peanut butter brownies but we substituted many of the ingredients, TRYING to make it healthier. Well.....have you ever heard that expression “it’s the journey, not the destination”? I finally get what that means. We had so much fun mixing everything together but when I bit into those brownies. Ick!!! I did try to pretend they were okay but I was eager to suggest that I should bring them home to share with my family instead. I could tell that my family thought the same thing, they were gagging at every bite. It was like revenge of the little sister and it made the experience that much sweeter.

Maybe you are wondering how someone becomes a little brother or sister. Well, some kids have tougher family situations and need someone positive in their lives and others come from busy families with only one parent......That’s my life in a nutshell. I have a great mom who is very busy trying to take care of everything for everyone. I also have a brother and two sisters and we always have something on the go. It’s really hard to steal some time alone with my mom. Having Shelby in my life gives me the extra 1 on 1 attention I need.

So what does the big brother or sister get out of the relationship? Well, they get a chance to act like a kid, all over again and they also get the satisfaction of making a real difference for a child and maybe even changing the direction of their life.
Studies show that mentoring helps kids stay in school, avoid risky behavior and grow up displaying respect for all. Helping kids reach their full potential can lead to positive community outcomes too, like lower poverty and unemployment rates. It can also lead to safer schools and communities.

Unbelievable, all of those positive changes simply from an adult choosing to be a friend for a kid who needs them! I bet most of the kids in the program don’t even realize how fast their lives are being transformed, because they are too busy.....just being kids and having fun.

Yep, for me, being part of Big Brothers Big Sisters has been one of the most powerful experiences. Only a few years ago I suffered with a condition that made it impossible for me to talk. It wasn’t until I was matched through the program that I came out of that shell and gained some confidence. And here I am today standing before you with LOTS to say. My marks are good, I was chosen as a star camper at camp last summer for being courteous and caring and I was even chosen to be the junior ambassador for our local fair this year. I’m feeling pretty great about the direction my life is taking. But none of these accomplishments would have been as reachable without the kind of support I have received.

Shelby has shown me the importance of volunteering and I have already decided to do my part. I am currently one of the main fund-raisers for Big Brothers Big Sisters, but what I can’t wait for....is my turn to be the Big Sister and teach a little girl all of the special things Shelby has taught me.

Thank you to everyone at the organization, from the Board members to the Staff members and of course, all of the volunteers. And a very special thank you to Shelby for all of the time you give to me – I will always cherish it and make you proud.

Thank you,

Savannah
Little Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Georgian Triangle


Friday, April 19, 2013

Inspiration

Inspiration. It is the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions. We all need some at some point or another.

Ours came from an unexpected source this week. Big Brothers Big Sisters hosted 100 youth in Ottawa for the Social Innovators Youth Summit 2013. The goal of the summit was to offer practical tools and skills to inspire and empower these youth to go back to their communities and lead positive social change.


As we followed their activities through Twitter, Facebook and this blog – we, in turn, were inspired.
The enthusiasm and energy with which they devoured every opportunity was motivating. The thoughtfulness of their responses to the presentations they participated in was compelling. The gratitude they showed for the opportunities presented during the event and the role models/mentors that have made a difference in their lives was refreshing.

A recent UNICEF report card on children’s well-being ranked Canada 17th out of 29 wealthy nations. Basically, as a nation, we are failing our youth in areas such as mental health, education and physical well-being.

Last week, Big Brothers Big Sisters released results from a recent survey that revealed that Canada’s teenagers are very optimistic about their future and an overwhelming number of them, 8 in ten say they are committed to giving back to the community and 91 per cent of those surveyed believe young people have much to offer to influence positive change.

However, though they feel they have a lot of positive contributions to make to their communities, many teens felt their ideas go unheard. Nearly half of teenagers (44 per cent) believe they are prevented from making a difference - simply because no one listens to them.

OK, I know what you are thinking – all teenagers think that adults don’t listen!

But maybe they’ve got a point. When you listen to the voices of the youth that participated in the Social innovators Youth Summit (You can view some of their thoughts through our You Tube channel), you can’t help but feel inspired to start something.

You don’t have to start something BIG. You can start by truly listening.

We’d like to give a BIG shout out – to all the former and current Littles who participated in the Social Innovators Youth Summit 2013.

Thanks for the inspiration!