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Study shows benefit of Big Brothers Big Sisters

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Canada has saved the country money by pulling children off unhealthy life paths, says James Maxwell, executive director of Orillia’s Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“It reduces the strain in regards to mental health, in regards to the judicial system, social assistance...” Maxwell said Wednesday. “If the children and youth took a different path in life, it could cost the taxpayers a lot more.”

Not every youth who goes through BBBS is “on a path of destruction,” he said, but some are.

Partnering with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, BBBS of Canada conducted a five-year research study involving 1,000 children and teenagers.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got numbers to prove there is value in our mentoring programs,” Maxwell said.

This is helpful to the non-profit when it comes to getting donations.

BBBS receives no government funding and relies on donor support.

“It’s really difficult for us to raise money through events so it is creating awareness to the general public about... the byproduct of what we’re doing,” Maxwell said.

Prior to the recently released report, the organization couldn’t quantify its benefits, Maxwell said.

The study concluded girls with Big Sisters were four times less likely to bully, fight, lie or express anger than girls without a mentor.

The study also found boys with Big Brothers were three times less likely than non-mentored boys to suffer peer-pressure-related anxiety and two times less likely to bully, fight, lie, cheat, lose their temper or express anger.

BBBS mentors children between the ages of six and 16, providing them with a positive adult role model.

“Regardless of their surroundings, if that kid becomes a positive contributor, wants to give back, wants to find a good job... all of those indicators are in contradiction to typical mental-health issues that a child or youth is facing,” Maxwell said.

Locally, a BBBS child has gone on to be a Lakehead University professor and another has become a high-school principal, he said.

“We have Little Brothers, involved in (the) agency years ago, that have come back and said, ‘Without the agency, I would not have gone in the direction I did in life,’” Maxwell said.

The study has been developed to build the profile for positive mentoring.

“If we can get other elements to understand the value... it’s a win-win for everyone,” he said.


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