Being a teacher, you have the opportunity to work with and inspire children every day, but what happens when you retire? The ‘free’ time and enjoying a calm, hot morning coffee is nice, but does the quiet make you miss the children who once filled the silence with laughter? That’s exactly what Rose Marie was feeling. After being a teacher for many years she decided to become a Big Sister as “I wanted young people in my life, needed the youthful energy” (-Rose Marie, Big Sister). She noted that her son had a Big Brother years ago which inspired her to sign up to become a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of North and West Niagara (BBBSNWN).
Rose Marie matched with her Little over 7 years ago as part of our In-School Mentoring Program; they later transitioned into our Community-Based Program. Rose Marie shared some of their favourite activities, “arts and crafts [when her little was younger], bowling, mini putting, walks by the lake, picnics, et cetera. She added that “what matters is that [activities are a] vehicle for conversation”. The most rewarding part within her match is “to see a change in their sense of self, as they have grown older. They have become more comfortable in their own skin. They have become more self-aware, more self-confident” (-Rose Marie)
When asked about challenges in recruiting retired teachers as agency volunteers, Rose Marie said, “contrary to the stereotype of retirement, retired people are extremely busy”. Rose Marie recommended “Finding volunteers who would want to make it a priority in their lives” and “highlighting how enriching it is to have a young person in their lives.”
At BBBSNWN, some of our children and youth have been waiting over 3 years for a caring mentor – for someone to learn from and to help them develop important life skills to overcome adversities they encounter. “Being 55 years of age and over, we have a longer perspective that we can bring to the relationship. We can enjoy the perspective of being removed from any pressure in a relationship. It is unlike a parent/child relationship, it is a relationship for enjoyment on both sides. It allows for a more relaxed relationship” (– Rose Marie).
For only a couple hours, once a week, you can change a life – like Rose Marie has. She has learned that, “providing a stable emotional adult presence outside of the family gives her Little an opportunity to see the world from a different point of view. The Little has someone once a week who really wants to listen to them. The most important thing in a match is that we want the young person to lead, with adult guidance” (– Rose Marie).
Like Rose Marie shared – it is best to “let the child lead” and to be there with guidance. If you have considered volunteering before, or find yourself intrigued by Rose Marie who was once in your shoes – new into retirement – then join us, today! We encourage you to sign up for our programs that “provide good guidance towards inclusion, respect, confidentiality and has a good training program” (– Rose Marie).