Supporting those in need
At age 17, Christopher – a treaty member of the Muskowekwan First Nation – experienced a series of events that would change his life forever. After suffering through a childhood of abuse and instability, he found a new path through life thanks to the Boys & Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area (BGCBigs) Youth in Care mentorship program.
“I was kicked out of my home because of my sexual orientation and left homeless for a couple of months, until I was accepted into the Inner City Youth Housing Project,” says Chris. “Eventually I made my way into the BGCBigs Youth in Care program where I received support from my peers, group mentors and my individual mentor.”
TransCanada has been involved with Boys & Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters in North America for more than 15 years. In Alberta, specifically, we have focused the last six years of our support on positive outcomes for Edmonton’s African families through the BGCBigs Africa Centre Ethno-Cultural Mentoring Program. This year, we are pleased to expand our support for BGCBigs across Alberta and promote the importance of mentorship.
“The BGCBigs Youth in Care mentorship program provided an opportunity to be cared for — to have someone believe in me and advocate for me. For the first time in my life I felt supported in following my dreams.”
— Chris, Mentee from the BGCBigs Youth in Care program
Supporting not-for-profit organizations such as BGCBigs in the communities where we work and live has been part of TransCanada’s culture for more than 60 years. Whether it’s partnering with community groups or encouraging employee volunteerism and giving, we are committed to building strong, vibrant communities across North America. In 2013, TransCanada invested more than $12 million in funding and donations to 1,600 organizations because we believe in supporting the initiatives that matter in the communities where we live and work.
Answering a call for help
Last February, Alberta’s Minister of Human Services, Honourable Manmeet Bhullar, put out a call to industry to stand behind the Government of Alberta in its goal of encouraging Albertans to become more engaged as mentors in their communities. TransCanada was the first company to formally answer that call with an investment of $45,000 to the BGCBigs Mentoring Moments volunteer awareness campaign.
The campaign will deliver a compelling call-to-action for new mentors in Alberta via 30-second commercial spots. The commercials will depict successful Albertans of diverse backgrounds with wide-ranging professions and interests sharing their stories of mentoring or being mentored.
“I am proud to say that even before the Minister’s request, we were already doing our part to support not-for-profit organizations that facilitate mentorship programs in Alberta,” says Tony Palmer, Senior Vice-President of Stakeholder Relations at TransCanada. “Some of these partnerships include the Africa Centre Ethno-Cultural Mentoring program, the Junior Achievement of Southern Alberta — Economics for Success program and the IMPACT Society — HEROES® program.”
Mentorship is also an important part of TransCanada’s culture. We hire hundreds of interns every year because we know today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and helping them reach their greatest potential is something that benefits all of us in the long run.
“Mentoring is so critical for youth looking to overcome obstacles,” says Chris. “My mentor gave me a support system, a family, and a connection to my culture. He also gave me a feeling of stability and supported my goal of one day becoming a social worker. ‘Chris,’ he said. ‘You are going to be an amazing social worker one day — you have so much to offer.’ ”
Promoting mentorship across Alberta
According to Chris’s mentor, Eric Storey, being a good mentor can be as simple as being a friend to someone or helping with basic errands.
“The little things we do every day that seem easy, can be daunting and overwhelming for a youth in care,” says Storey. “Chris lived on the fourth floor of a walk-up and he would take the bus to and from the grocery store — sometimes carrying $150 worth of groceries. Doing a monthly grocery run became one of our traditions and he was so grateful for the help.”
Storey first became a Big Brother in 1980 when he was living in Winnipeg. Over the years and through various moves, he has continued to mentor youth because he feels the rewards greatly outweigh the sacrifice of time.
“There is nothing like the joy you feel when a mentee is succeeding in life and you know that it is a direct result of the support you’ve given them. Helping others through mentorship makes your life richer. You gain long-lasting friendships, perspective into your own life and an understanding of the realities of poverty.”
— Eric Storey, Mentor with the BGCBigs Youth in Care program
“I could go to university for 10 years and never learn as much as what I’ve learn through mentoring,” Storey says. “I believe we have an obligation to help our community members who are in need because they have the right to enjoy life like we do.”
TransCanada is proud to stand behind the Government of Alberta and their new mentorship recruitment campaign, which will include the BGCBigs Mentoring Moments project. #8000mentors will make sure more kids like Chris benefit from adult mentors.
Albertans are encouraged to sign up at Albertamentors.ca/8000mentors.