Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fraser Valley’s Mentoring for Mental Health Program Makes a Difference for Local Youth Facing Mental Health Challenges

28 January 2022Grants & Funding, News & Announcements

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fraser Valley (BBBSFV) is a local charity committed to supporting youth by matching young people facing adversity with trained adult mentors in one-on-one or group mentoring programs. The organization believes that mentoring is an important way to give youth a supportive person in their corner that can help them develop into healthy young people, better able to deal with and overcome life’s many adversities.
When we interviewed Cheryl Unger, Program Manager of BBBSFV, she shared her perspective on what makes BBBS special. First, she is proud to work for one of the most recognizable youth-serving organizations both locally and nationally, with a strong reputation for child safety standards and practices. And secondly, she sees the fantastic benefits both mentees and mentors feel from these professionally supported relationships.
On a personal level, Cheryl says that her favourite part about working with the organization is seeing firsthand the transformation that takes place in a young person’s life when a mentor chooses to give their time to a youth in need of support. She believes a person who recognizes, honours, and champions the personal development of a young person can make a lasting difference. Cheryl notes that this simple act of creating a meaningful friendship results in countless success stories from former mentees who have grown into amazing and successful adults. And the mentees credit the transformational mentoring relationship they had with their mentor; many of those say they still are in touch with their mentor to this day, she reports.
Cheryl has been with the agency for over 29 years, first starting as a Mentoring Coordinator and then moving into the role of Program Manager within the last few years. She has seen firsthand the challenges that youth in our community face. She has also seen how society has changed over the years, with families facing more complexities and challenges in their day-to-day lives.
This is why BBBSFV has diversified their programming to better understand and respond to the needs of young people and potential volunteers in the community. They have moved away from a siloed approach to programming and have created strong community partnerships to leverage financial resources, workforce power, and reach. Cheryl says they can serve more young people by working with community partners. She feels like the Mentoring for Mental Health program is an excellent example of this, as it leverages their relationship with Fraser Health through their Adolescent Day Treatment Program (ADTP). The Mentoring for Mental Health is one of the many incredible programs that received funding through Abbotsford Community Foundation’s Smart and Caring Community Fund last year.
The need for more mental health support for youth is clear. Cheryl reports that they have young people entering in the program with significant or emerging mental health needs. At this time, 36% of the youth BBBSFV support in Abbotsford have been diagnosed with a mental health concern. Another 30% of the youth have emerging mental health concerns identified by themselves, by a parent, or school personnel.
Cheryl believes that life is more complex than ever for humans but especially for young people because of the pandemic; things are unpredictable and out of our control, increasing pressure and anxiety on many. Specifically, it is difficult for children and teens to adjust and keep a positive frame of mind with the changing restrictions and increased fear associated with the spread of COVID-19. That’s why services provided by BBBSFV are crucial for the health and wellness of the youth in our community.
When asked about which youth stories stick out in her mind in her 29 years of work with BBBSFV, she says there are too many to count. She shares what one parent wrote recently about her daughter who had a mentor for over two years and eventually aged out of the program:
“I love that my daughter had a big sister because she came at exactly the time we needed her to come. My daughter was in a very dark, lonely and isolated state. Her big sister helped her bring her out of that state and brought some light and love into her life. The mentor, with her genuine, kind, gentle and loving spirit helped my daughter out of this place and gave her some hope and something to look forward too. I will forever appreciate that!”
Looking to the future, Cheryl hopes to see increased funding so that BBBSFV can expand their services to every youth struggling and in need of support. In the meantime, she is incredibly thankful for local fundraising efforts, generous donors, community partnerships and grants just like the one provided by Abbotsford Community Foundation. She knows that every dollar donated to BBBSFV is making a difference in the lives of youth in our community.
To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fraser Valley, click here.
To learn more about the Smart and Caring Community Grants program, click here.


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