Shania & Ashley

Growing up, Big Sister Shania moved around multiple times with her family. As a timid child, she constantly had to face the challenge of adjusting to a new environment and making new friends. Luckily for her, she had older siblings to guide and support her. Eventually, Shania attended SFU to pursue a career in education. One day, her school was hosting a career and volunteer fair and Shania stumbled upon Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland’s booth. She knew this was the perfect volunteer opportunity for her because as the youngest sister in her family, she understood what it felt like to be a Little Sister and have people to look up to. She knew this would be a great opportunity for her to build her leadership skills all while making a difference in a youth’s life. 

Little Sister Ashley joined the Study Buddy program in grade 6. After suffering from a concussion, Ashley lost all of her confidence and quickly retracted into her shell. As a freshman in middle school, Ashley cried every day. Moving into a new school is tough for any young girl and Ashley felt it was a big shift in her life. At the time, her family was experiencing a financial crisis but her mother was adamant to seek out extracurricular activities to distract her daughter from the situation. Her mother came across a poster for Big Sisters one day and thought it would be a great opportunity for her child to improve her academics, meet new people, and build her confidence. The added benefit, it was all free! Little did she know; a simple tutoring service would ignite a new-found passion within her daughter.

Upon joining the program, Shania was matched with Ashley. Initially, the two would meet at the Coquitlam library to go over Ashley’s homework. Shania recalls them both being extremely shy in the beginning of their Study Buddy relationship but as the weeks went on, deeper conversations were had and real connections were made. The quiet library that they spent their time in every week quickly became a safe space for them to connect. “It’s more than just homework,” Ashley says, “it’s a place to meet a friend.”

Over the years, Shania watched Ashley pursue her love for acting and evolve into a passionate, goal-oriented, and charismatic young woman. Shania noticed the passion that was radiating from Ashley whenever she spoke about acting. Ashley’s ambition and enthusiasm inspired Shania to consider if she should take an acting class. Now as a substitute teacher, Shania says, “I can learn so much from her, just as much as she can learn from me.”

The pair continued to grow their bond stronger and Ashley could feel her confidence increase every day. “I feel like I would still be kind of lost without Big Sisters,” Ashley said, “I would still be struggling with self-confidence.” With the pandemic, the pair were unable to see each other as often as before but continue to stay connected via Skype.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

5 years ago, the duo started out as complete strangers. They were quiet and unsure of what was in store. 5 years later, they have a bond that they never would have imagined. All thanks to the little safe space at the Coquitlam library.