‘There’s hope:’ Big Brothers Big Sisters launches holiday campaign to support PA youth

Natasha Thomson, development coordinator for BBBS Prince Albert, speaks at a Community Networking Coalition meeting on Nov. 28, 2023. – Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Playing at the park, doing a craft, or going to a sports game with a Prince Albert youth could have a lingering impact on their lives.

That was the message of a Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) presentation at a Community Networking Coalition meeting on Tuesday.

“From our perspective, mentoring is not a nice to have, it’s a need to have. Sometimes, people think it’s just they go to the park or the Raider game and they have fun. That’s just on the surface,” said Natasha Thomson, development coordinator at BBBS Prince Albert.

“What’s really happening is that the young person is developing a relationship – a relationship that helps them build confidence, build skills, build courage, and really find their own voice.”

The non-profit organization pairs volunteers with youth between the ages of six and 18 to bond over activities for one to three hours per week.

They also have in-school mentoring, monthly activities, and a new circle group program, where both matched and unmatched youth can come together.

The Prince Albert location launched its holiday campaign, Ignite a Little Sparkle, on Tuesday. It runs until New Year’s Eve.

Thomson said they’re hoping to raise $10,000 to recruit and train mentors and to fund programming. The first one thousand dollars raised will be matched by Redhead Equipment.

“We’re finding that relationships are actually the really important thing in people’s lives, the thing that makes a difference for them in their health and in their mental health,” said Thomson.

“(They also) learn the skills to have and maintain a healthy relationship.”

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, youth is a critical period for mental health. Most people with mental illnesses show symptoms before 18 years old.

However, the 2023 BBBS report shows positive results in Saskatchewan.

It suggests that 80 per cent of youth participants are more likely to try new tasks, 81 per cent are more comfortable talking to others, 83 per cent gained self-confidence, and 87 per cent have a more positive self-identity.

“There’s hope. We know that young people’s critical development occurs in the first few years of life,” said Thomson.

It’s estimated that for every dollar invested in BBBS, between $18 and $23 is returned to society through taxes, higher incomes, volunteerism and donations.

Thomson said about a dozen youth in Prince Albert are matched with a mentor and about another dozen remain on the waitlist.

You can donate to the Ignite a Little Sparkle campaign at any Lake Country Co-op location or on the BBBS Prince Albert website.