Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto
Our Impact Why We Exist
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto's mission is to commit to improving the lives of Toronto’s young people by delivering the highest quality volunteer-based mentoring programs.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto’s carefully screened and trained volunteer mentors are matched with children and youth aged 6-18 who have been identified as needing positive influence and support in their lives. A Big Brother or Big Sister is a role model to a child or youth who teaches by example the importance of giving and giving back, of staying in school, and having respect for families, peers and the community. Above all, a Big Brother or Big Sister is somebody who will listen to them, be a friend and share their time and hearts.
Our vision is to ensure that every child who needs a mentor, has a mentor.
Our Story What We Do
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto (BBBST) was established in 1913, shortly after the Toronto Juvenile Court was created. The development of this court provided the initial framework in which the Big Brother movement began. The first General Secretary was Eleanor Hunter, who matched 250 boys with a mentor in the first year. She had heard of the positive results associated with the Big Brother program, which had been launched a few years earlier in New York City. The Big Brother program was implemented here in Toronto in the hope it would help the city’s children and youth achieve the same results. The objective then, as it is now, was to ensure every child who needs a mentor, has a mentor. One hundred years later, BBBST has served approximately 60,000 boys and girls, all of whom have benefited from the support of a trained adult volunteer mentor.
Accolades and Accomplishments
Over the past century, our mentoring programs have evolved to address the changing needs of children and youth who are experiencing social, developmental and/or academic challenges. Our programs consist of traditional one-to-one mentoring support, as well as a number of community and school-based programs, with a growing emphasis on leadership and skills-based development for youth. In 2013 alone, BBBST served 1,855 children and youth across seven mentoring programs.
Thanks to a series of nationwide impact studies of the long term value of mentoring, we have the facts to validate the power that formalized mentoring has in improving a young person’s confidence and self-esteem - as well as its ability to lead to positive community outcomes like a reduction in poverty and unemployment, improved health, and a new generation of civic-minded adults.
In 2013, The Boston Consulting Group embarked on a Social Return on Investment Study that was spearheaded by BBBST with the goal of quantifying the tangible benefits of formalized mentoring to society. The study revealed that mentoring positively changes the trajectory of a young person's life, with successes largely characterized by increased lifetime earnings and greater propensity to give back to their communities. Moreover, former Littles attribute much of their life success to having a mentor in terms of education, employment, general happiness and well-being.
A subsequent five-year study conducted in partnership with Centre for Addiction and Mental Health measured the emotional and social well-being of Little Brothers and Little Sisters in our programs. Preliminary results revealed that:
- Boys with a Big Brother are three times less likely than boys without a mentor to suffer peer pressure related anxiety.
- Mentored boys are two times more likely to believe that school is fun and that doing well academically is important.
- Mentored boys are also two times less likely to develop negative conducts, such as bullying, fighting, lying, cheating, or expressing anger.
- Girls with a Big Sister are two and a half times more likely to be confident in their ability to be successful at school.
Our Programs How We Do It
Our Programs: How we do it
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto carefully matches at-risk children and youth with caring, adult role models. Research proves that children enrolled in our programs are more likely to improve in school and in their relationships with family and friends, as well as pursue healthy, safe lifestyles and develop more confidence.
Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program: This program provides a young person aged 6-18 with a role model and a friend to talk to and share their experiences of growing up with. The bond established through a non-judgmental, caring friendship, empowers and strengthens the Little and helps them manage risks they may face during periods of vulnerability.
In-School Mentoring: This program is a one-to-one mentoring initiative that matches an elementary school child with a trained adult mentor who supports and provides positive reinforcement within the school setting throughout the school year.
Go Girls! Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds & Game On! Eat Smart, Play Smart, Live Smart: These group-based mentoring programs, facilitated in schools and community centres, encourage the healthy development of young people ages 10-14 through a curriculum that focuses on physical activity, balanced eating and self-esteem.
Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program
The Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program matches a screened and trained adult volunteer mentor one-on-one with a young person aged 6-18 in need of support and guidance. With regular outings, a relationship is developed between the Big and the Little based on trust and common interests, and is supported by our experienced case workers. Through long-term mentoring, the Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program places a child in a position of strength, builds their resilience and, in many cases, alleviates family pressure in cases where family support and resources are scarce.
At BBBST we believe that youth are the agents of their own change. The Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program is preventative; by building on a child’s strengths and assets, mentoring empowers a young person, and facilitates their ability to succeed and thrive in life – an ability which we believe is inherent in every child.
Little Sister Danique, who has been matched with her Big for over 9 years, is just one example of how mentoring has the power to transform many aspects of a child’s life, “Karen has been there for me all the times that I've needed her and she has become someone I can always go to for honest and great advice. I know that I can trust her with anything. My relationship with Karen has helped me grow into the outgoing young lady that I am today and for that I truly cherish our bond.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto allows many young girls the opportunity to form a bond with someone that can help them through what seems like the toughest and most complicated years of their lives. I'm heading off to University in a few months and I can confidently say that my Big Sister Karen took great part in making that possible through a lot of help and support.”
In 2013, BBBST matched 519 children and youth with a Big Brother or Big Sister in this program.
Toronto's Vital Signs Report
"More than 1 million Torontonians live in low-income neighbourhoods and the polarization of wealth and poverty is deepening: low and very low-income neighbourhoods have grown from 2% in 1970 to 83.1% of all Scarborough neighbourhoods." - Toronto Vital Signs, 2013
BBBST has noticed a spike in the level of poverty experienced by families enrolled in our program. At the time of writing, 74% of enrolled children and youth are living at or below the poverty lines. Research has proven that children and youth living in circumstances of socio-economic disadvantage are at a disproportionally higher risk of involvement in anti-social behaviours, their opportunities are limited and negative peer influence takes place. Through long-term, formalized mentoring, the Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program mitigates these trends by empowering young people to reach their full potential and, in many cases, help them break their own cycle of poverty.
In partnership with the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board, the goal of the In-School Mentoring (ISM) program is to provide additional support and positive reinforcement to at-risk children and youth within the school setting. ISM matches adult volunteers with elementary school children who could benefit from one-to-one support for one hour a week on school property between September and June. Activities are chosen to facilitate interaction and communication between the matches, and to foster skill development and confidence in the child; drawing upon various school resources, such as the library, computer lab, gyms, arts and crafts area. The ISM program provides young people in schools with friendly, non-judgmental support that helps to increase academic performance, relationships with peers and encourages them to stay in school and do well.
Throughout the years, In-School Mentoring has proven that providing a volunteer mentor to a child in need makes an enormous difference in our young people's self-esteem, social skills, personal drive and academic performance.
Big Sister Sarah has been matched for over two years in the In-School Mentoring program, and over that time Sarah has seen her Little make huge leaps both personally and academically. “Recently a teacher came and told me how well my Little has been doing. In fact, she was doing so well that her school decided to move her out of a remedial class and put her back into her grade six classroom. My Little was so proud that day. It meant a lot to have played a part in her huge accomplishment."
In 2013, 212 children and youth received the support of a mentor in their schools.
Toronto Vital Signs Report
"Toronto students who are still being “streamed” into applied courses are less likely to graduate from high school; there is a link between the school’s socio-economic profile and the percentage of students taking applied courses."– Toronto Vital Signs, 2013
By working with the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board and with community centres to target children and youth from underserved neighbourhoods, BBBST brings an additional resource to the everyday school setting. ISM is preventative and strengths-based; developed to address the needs of children who are experiencing social, developmental and academic challenges. As such, providing a mentor to a child within the school setting can help to improve attitudes towards school and academic performance and increase a young person’s confidence, all of which inspires a young person to break down the barriers they face and reach their potential.
Go Girls! Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds & Game On! Eat Smart, Play Smart, Live Smart
Go Girls! and Game On! are curriculum-based programs designed to address the physical activity, balanced eating, and self-image needs of youth ages 10-14 in a group mentoring format. The overarching principle is to promote healthy, active and safe living as a preventative, empowering way of improving a young person’s life. Sessions are facilitated by two adult mentors, who have been recruited, screened and trained by BBBST staff coordinators. Each weekly session lasts 90-120 minutes during the lunch hour or after school.
This curriculum helps meet the increasing need to encourage a self-led healthy active lifestyle; youth engage in physical activity and nutritional workshops during which they learn the benefits of simple, healthy eating. Youth also participate in activities in which they explore issues of physical and social wellness, personal safety and diversity.
Go Girls! and Game On! have proven to make a significant impact on a young person’s mental and physical health by enhancing their confidence, improving their pro-social skills and inspiring them to pursue a healthy lifestyle.
“When visiting one of our tougher schools in Scarborough, one of the girl's teachers pulled me aside and thanked BBBST for offering the Go Girls! program. She said that her student had been aggressive for quite some time now, but just this week she told her teacher that Go Girls! is truly making her a nicer person. She also said that it has helped her to not bully and notice how it affects people. She loves the program!” - Sarah, Go Girls! program coordinator, 2014
In 2013, Go Girls! and Game On! served 550 children and youth in 22 schools across Toronto.
Toronto Vital Signs Report
“Fewer than 50% of children in a 2012 GTA study got mandated Daily Physical Activity, and none were spending recommended 20 minutes in daily moderate to vigorous physical activity.” -Toronto’s Vital Signs, 2013
School liaisons across Toronto recognize the steady decline in physical activity amongst children and youth and the negative impact this has on social and academic behaviour. As such, school liaisons view BBBST’s programs as an effective deterrent to these trends. Go Girls! and Game On! are specifically designed to ensure that youth are given the necessary take-away tools that will positively change their attitudes towards physical activity and overall health habits; which in turn, inspires them to adopt a self-led healthy, active lifestyle outside of school. Following the completion of the Go Girls! and Game On! sessions, many school liaisons reported that students more actively participate in sports at recess and during physical activity lessons.
CIBC Mellon, Edwards Charitable Foundation, General Mills Canada, Ministry of Education, Paul B. Helliwell Foundation, Shaw Communications, TD Bank Group, Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, United Way Toronto, private individual donors.
What You Can Do
Big Brother Big Sister Mentoring Program
Big Brothers Big Sisters is different from other mentoring organizations as we adhere to rigorous screening, training and monitoring practices which are rooted in the National Standards of Child Safety and Development. Additionally, BBBST seeks volunteers who are committed, consistent and willing to serve a minimum of one year. BBBST is currently in need of Big Brothers and Big Sisters within neighbourhoods in North York, Rexdale, Scarborough, and Etobicoke. Our professional staff is available to work closely with each volunteer, child and the family throughout the course of the mentoring relationship to provide necessary training and support.
Funding enables BBBST to recruit, screen, train and match over 500 children and youth annually with a dedicated mentor. BBBST currently operates in Toronto's Priority Neighbourhoods, in addition to the inner suburbs and downtown core. By focusing on underserved communities, BBBST can reach out to youth in need of guidance and support to overcome the circumstantial barriers they may face. By facilitating long-term mentoring relationships, BBBST enables youth to break their cycle of poverty, develop the confidence to pursue their dreams and flourish into productive citizens.
Activities a donation will support
BBBST is looking for adult volunteers to meet with a child in need of a mentor and friend at a local elementary school near you. The program requires a commitment of one hour a week on the school grounds. In-School Mentoring relationships are closely monitored by BBBST caseworkers and school staff. Each volunteer is assigned a dedicated BBBST staff member who will offer training and support.
Without a prominent role model in their life, many of the children enrolled in the ISM program have experienced challenges such as school adjustment, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, inability to trust, and a lack of social skills. With ISM, the mentor is a positive role model who works with a young person to improve their conflict resolution skills, attitudes towards school and overall confidence. As such, BBBST’s time-tested ISM model has proven that children who have access to mentors are more likely to develop positive relationships, improve academic performance, and have an increased sense of security.
Go Girls! & Game On!
Activities a donation will support
The school liaisons with whom BBBST is working have identified a significant need to provide mentorship and support through Game On! programming to youth in order to raise awareness of steps their students can take towards leading a healthier and safer lifestyle. Based on community needs, BBBST is currently looking for volunteers who can mentor groups of 8-12 boys in the Game On! program in schools located in the following neighbourhoods: Jane-Finch, Eglinton East-Kennedy Park, Flemingdon Park-Victoria Village, Kingston-Galloway and Dorset Park priority neighbourhoods.
With financial support, BBBST can promote physical activity in a social and non-competitive setting to children and youth from underserved communities, while creating an inclusive, engaging environment that encourages good social relations such as team work, mutual respect, compassion and empathy. Children and youth in underserved communities are given access to physical exercise that energizes them, and are introduced to caring mentors who are there to listen and offer support while providing an invaluable boost to their sense of self, both in their confidence levels and self esteem.
For more information on volunteer opportunities, please visit our website or contact Max Beaumont at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-925-8981 ext. 4118.