From a difficult childhood to a blossoming adulthood, Jen reflects on the the positive impact that the Big Sisters mentoring program had on her life, particularly through her match with Sandy who became a close and trusted confidant.
Jen’s journey has not been an easy one. With personal struggles and difficulties with her birth mother, Jen grew up in foster care. From the tender age of three, Jen and her brothers were raised by her Papa Bob and late grandmother, Barbara. Despite the challenges of being raised as the only girl in a family, Jen persevered with the love and support of her grandparents.
At the age of 10, Jen experienced the loss of her beloved grandmother. Growing up in a household of men, Jen found it challenging to talk to her Papa about woman-related issues. Recognizing that Jen needed influential women in her life, her Papa enrolled her into the Big Sisters Mentoring program at 11 years old, where she was matched with her volunteer mentor, Sandy.
Sandy became a mentor for Big Sisters shortly after her move from Ontario to BC in 2008. As a volunteer mentor, Sandy describes herself as a “mature” Big Sister due to her age in comparison to other mentors. Although she didn’t have children of her own, Sandy had a strong affinity towards children and a desire to make a positive impact in their lives. She was drawn to the Big Sisters program as a way to support and empower young people in need.
One of the earliest match meetings between Sandy and Jen was a kayaking trip. Jen was initially very nervous to meet Sandy. However, Sandy’s warm and friendly personality made her feel at ease. During the trip, Jen found it easy to open up to Sandy. Looking back on that day, Jen recalls feeling a strong connection with Sandy, which has only continued to grow over their 13 year relationship.
“The program helped me be more open and less anxious. I’ve had really bad anxiety my entire life and the Big Sisters program has really impacted that because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
Over the course of their three-year match, Sandy and Jen formed a deep bond through their shared experiences and invested commitment in the Big Sisters program. They spent countless hours together, participating in outdoor activities, watching movies, biking, and engaging in both lighthearted and intense conversations. Jen looks back on these memories with fondness and credits the program for bringing Sandy into her life.
Sandy’s belief in Jen’s potential and her ability to overcome challenges has been a driving force in their relationship. Through her consistent encouragement and support, Sandy has helped Jen to develop her creativity and grow in confidence. Additionally, Sandy has learned from Jen’s resilience and determination, which has been a source of inspiration for her own life.
“From the place Jen was to where she is today, I keep telling her how proud I am of her… Considering all the challenges she’s been up against and where she’s arrived today and how she’s matured, it’s just been a lovely thing to observe.”
Despite the busyness of their lives and the physical distance between them, the impact that they had on each other’s lives is immeasurable. For Jen, the program helped her become more open and confident, and she acknowledges that she wouldn’t be where she is today without it.
Jen and Sandy’s relationship is a testament to the power of positive relationships and connections. The Big Sisters program provided an opportunity for Jen to meet a caring and supportive mentor who has had a lasting impact on her life. Over the years, Jen and Sandy have built a strong bond through shared experiences and open communication. Even after their formal match ended, they continue to stay in touch and support each other.