Stepping up to mentor youth

Kyle Webster with Big Brother Joshua Buck at his high school graduation.

Kyle Webster with Big Brother Joshua Buck at his high school graduation.

Rachel Lallouz, Staff Writer ~

Ten years ago Joshua Buck watched a movie that stirred his desire to mentor a young person in need of guidance.

The movie was “Good Will Hunting.” The scene that set him in motion was a hug between Robin Williams’ character and the troubled young man played by Matt Damon. The connection between the characters spoke to him.

That day, he resolved to become a Big Brother for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria.

“I believe that all children need a fatherly or motherly figure in their lives,” says Buck, who works for Lookout newspaper. “Being a Big Brother is an important role; many times the Big Brother may be the only male influence in a young man’s life that he can rely upon and trust.”

The non-profit organization has been working in Victoria for 39 years to support vulnerable children in the community through their In-school Mentoring Program, Community Mentoring, Teen Mentoring and Go Girls program.

“Many of the families that receive our support are single parent families, some have experienced the death of a partner and others separation or divorce,” says Executive Director Rhonda Brown. “Other families are challenged by issues related to poverty, mental health, addiction, chronic health, or isolation. These families seek the support of a mentor, a role model to spend quality time with their child.”

Before Buck was paired up with his Little Brother to provide that quality time, he went through an online application and screening process designed to train and educate him as a volunteer.

Once he was approved and prepared, he, like all volunteers, was asked to make a one year commitment to mentoring.

“We hope and often find that this commitment extends well beyond a single year,” says Brown. “Mentors often have a sustained and significant impact on a child’s life and teen years.”

Guidance for the mentor is continually provided in the form of conversations between Big Brothers Big Sisters social workers and the mentors, should they need any help. This support is available until the child turns 18 and graduates from the program.

Buck has enjoyed his match with Kyle, who is now a 17-year-old high school graduate, proud of his Aboriginal heritage and supported over the years by his single parent mother.

Though not Aboriginal himself, Buck says he specifically requested to be an Aboriginal Mentor because his father worked for a native friendship centre in Victoria. It was his father’s experience that gave him insight into Aboriginal culture.

“I always encouraged Kyle to learn more about his own culture, which I knew would help him gain a better understanding of himself,” says Buck.

Buck and Kyle spend roughly two to four hours a week together in the community, attending sports games or events with free tickets provided by Big Brothers, or simply spending time outdoors.

“A lot of people don’t volunteer as mentors because they think it’s going to be a lot of work,” says Buck. “But spending time with the youth or teen doesn’t have to be a big event. Kyle feels like family, and we just enjoy each other’s company. All it takes is a little planning to fit the time in.”

Other ideas for mentoring activities, says Brown, include hiking, swimming, doing arts and crafts, or sharing a mentor’s special skill – like speaking a different language or playing an instrument – with their little sister or brother.

“Looking back, I’m amazed at how simple it is to be a mentor in someone’s life,” says Buck, adding he is honoured and privileged to have gotten to know Kyle.

Over the scope of their 10-year relationship, Buck has gotten to know Kyle’s family, and was even invited to his graduation ceremony with First Nations Elders. It was here that he was gifted with an engraved First Nations cross.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is strengthening the community one relationship at a time,” says Brown. “When we match a child with a mentor, we know that the outcomes of the relationship are in the child’s social development. This means their relationships with family members, friends at school, and other community members are improved. The child learns by example, is able to problem solve and becomes more resilient. This increases the likelihood that they will reach their full potential.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters is currently looking for volunteers. Applications are available online at:

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