Being a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters has changed Darren Warrian’s life.
Four years ago, the 33-year-old Red Deerian heard an ad on the radio saying Red Deer and District’s Big Brothers and Sisters were looking for volunteers.
“I thought it would be something I could do to help youth,” said Warrian. “A lot of people need help that don’t get it and I never had children of my own on my radar so I though it was going to be a good fit.”
Warrian then met the child he was going to mentor, Kai Brown, who is now 12. The two hit it off almost instantly, Warrian said.
“We were playing a game for a bit to get to know each other and he says, ‘I like you, can we be friends?’ It’s pretty hard to say no to that,” he said.
Warrian has visited Brown for a couple hours every week since then. Sometimes the two would go bowling, see a movie, cook supper or go for a bike ride.
“It’s all about spending time with them in their life and trying to steer them in the right direction and helping them make the right life choices.
“He reminds me of myself as a kid … so I try to give him some advice and help him learn from the mistakes I made when I was younger,” said Warrian.
Spending almost five years as Brown’s mentor has been a great journey, Warrian said.
“Sometimes you don’t really notice time go by, but when I look at him and think about the first time we met and how young and shy he was. Now we talk about lots of stuff and I can see him growing up,” he said.
Recently, Youth HQ revealed the Red Deer and District Big Brothers Big Sisters is in need of volunteers. There are nearly 100 children without mentors through the program.
Jacquie Boyd, executive director of Youth HQ, said it would mean a lot to see each child with a mentor.
“It would be phenomenal and completely overwhelming,” she said. “It’d be a challenge to take on that influx of volunteers, but I would love it.”
The mentors are “a very critical success factor” to the children in the program, Boyd said.
Youth mentored through Big Brothers Big Sisters are 17 per cent more likely to be gainfully employed as adults and they earn three per cent more on average in those jobs, she said. They also have stronger social networks and report being happier and more confident, she added.
It isn’t just the Red Deer area that needs volunteers, as 4,000 youth across the country are in need of a mentor.
More information can be found at www.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca.