"Just one hour a week can change the course of a young person's life."

Brenda Buchanan, case manager for the Stratford branch of Big Brothers, Big Sisters (BBBS), says the young people who are matched with a "big brother" or "big sister" through the BBBS programme benefit greatly.

While volunteer mentors may only spend an hour a week with their young mentee, "the difference they bring to that person's life lasts forever," says Brenda.

Currently, the programme is a victim of its own success, she adds.


"We have a waiting list of young people to be matched with a mentor, but we just don't have enough Big Brothers or Big Sisters to go around right now, we need more people to sign up as soon as possible."

In the hope of encouraging more volunteers to sign up to the programme, Brenda will have a table set up at the Stratford Library for a couple of hours a few times this month so people can ask her questions and find out more about the programme.

"It's through a friendly chat, rather than feeling they have to sign up and make a commitment on the spot."

Brenda says she thinks people think they don't have enough time to commit to the programme.

"Or maybe they think they don't have anything to offer, but the reality is, just one hour a week sharing a hobby, playing board games, or just going for a walk can make a real difference in a young person's life".

The young people in need of a mentor are simply in need of an adult friend, says Brenda.

"For one reason or another, a young person can be finding it difficult to cope with something life is throwing at them. These youngsters, says Brenda, often end up lacking in self-esteem and confidence. Research showed that the involvement of an adult mentor through a programme such as BBBS can make a huge difference in a child's life.

"Research has shown that young people who have been involved in mentoring are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, less likely to truant from school and are able to develop better relationships with their families."


You don't need special skills or qualifications to be a volunteer with the BBBS programme, says Brenda.

"Just a desire to help young people feel better about themselves and to feel valued and important. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and every single one of them has made a marked difference in a young person's life."

To find out more about becoming a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters, find Brenda at Stratford Library between 11.30am-1.30pm on Thursday, March 9 or Monday, March 30. Brenda works from the Stratford Community House on Juliet Street, or call her on 027 520 8336.