Funding shortage halts Big Brothers Big Sisters pairings

By Vanessa Ybarra
December 21, 2016 - 4:53pm Updated: December 21, 2016 - 7:13pm

KAMLOOPS — The Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor program sees thousands of adults and children matched up to create relationships that often last a lifetime.

More than 50 of the Big Brothers Big Sister relationships are right here in Kamloops.

For Eric Rines and Jaime Nolin, their annual trip to Harper Mountain is one they look forward to every year. 

"We're snow tubing on Harper," said Eric Rines, Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops. "It's something Jaime and me do every year."

"I'm excited," said Nolin "It's really fun"

Meet Eric and Jaime, otherwise known as 'big brother' and 'little brother'.  

The two were matched 2.5 years ago through Kamloops Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops.

"I only see my Dad every second week, so my mom and myself wanted me to have a male role model," said Nolin.

"I was really fortunate," said Rines. "Even though I grew up in a single family household I had really strong male role models. I thought it was a really good thing to do, so I got involved with the program."

Once a week, the mentor and mentee meet up to swim, fish, or in today's case go tubing.

The mentor program may be more popular than ever, but unfortunately, a lack of funding has put a hold on new matches beginning in the new year.

"We have had to put a hold on new volunteer mentors coming in the door for the program at this time," said Jessica Gordon, Case Work Supervisor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops. 

"We don't know how long that period of time is going to be but it doesn't affect any of our current matches right now," said Gordon.

According to Gordon, each Big Brothers Big Sisters match requires an average 50 staff hours in its first year. 

"We do a criminal record check, references, interview, the training," said Gordon.

Gordon says money to fund those hours comes from the organization's 'Renew Crew' clothing donation program as well government grants, with funds this year tight.

"It's always tough," adds Gordon. "We're always looking for new funding opportunities. We have a couple new fundraising events that are on the horizon."

With some Big Brothers Big Sisters matches, including Eric and Jaime, taking months to complete, Eric says the program's pause adds extra frustration.

"For us to get matched, I know Jaime was on a wait list for over a year," said Rines. "They have a pretty rigorous process that can take up to four months or more, so it's a bit of a bummer." 

While the date is still unknown, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops hopes to have its mentor program back up-and-running as soon as possible.

It's a role that Eric says is hard to beat. 

"We both really enjoy it a lot," said Rines. "It's the highlight of my week."

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