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Alberta

Volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area (BBBS) is a local branch and accredited member of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada Federation, established in 1994 to provide the youngest members of our city with access to life changing mentorship relationships.  

Children and youth may experience childhood adversity through a number of individual or compounding societal barriers, such as family violence, mental health struggles, poverty, substance abuse or identity challenges. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area caters to these young Calgarians by connecting them with volunteer mentors who can form “strong one-to-one relationships with their mentees that express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities.”

A foundational element of the organization is reflected in the creation of intentional matches, meaning mentors are not simply assigned on a first-come-first-serve basis. BBBS takes a number of variables into account when assigning a mentor to a waiting child, including shared experience, likes and dislikes, proximity, and more. Working hard to ensure compatibility prior to assigning matches is a great way to increase the likelihood of a successful, beneficial relationship between mentor and mentee.

“We really want to see these matches succeed,” says Jennifer Booth, Manager of Communications and Stakeholder Relations at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area, “if we weren’t as intentional and selective as we are, we wouldn’t see the success in these relationships that we do.”
The minimum time commitment when signing on to be a mentor with the organization is one year. According to Booth, many of the matches that originate in the BBBS program carry on well past the one-year mark as organic, mutually beneficial relationships beyond the parameters of the organization.

In the Community Mentorship program, relationships are built through shared activities and time spent together. “Bigs” can take their “Littles” to the zoo or the park, they can do a hike together, cook or bake, shoot hoops at the court, or even just sit down together to relax and talk. Over the course of a year, the relationship develops a level of trust and confidence that the child or youth mentee can benefit from significantly
“For children who have one or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs),” says Booth, “working with a caring mentor can really enhance their social and emotional competencies.” Emotional competencies include things like social awareness, self-awareness, responsible decision-making and relationship skills. These are developmental benchmarks that may have been negatively impacted by different ACEs in the child’s life, and stand to benefit from an intentional, healthy relationship with a mentor at BBBS.  

In addition to their standard community and school mentorship programs, BBBS introduced the PRISM program in 2018. Standing for Pride, Respect, Identity, Safety, Mentoring, PRISM connects mentors with young individuals from the LGBTQ2S+ community. These relationships are built on a shared understanding of the unique adversities faced by members of the same community, and strive to support young people in the celebration of their own, unique identities. 

Currently, there are between 250 and 300 children and youth at Big Brother Big Sisters of Calgary and Area, who may wait up to three years for a pairing. This is a result of gaps in volunteer positions, as well as the organization’s commitment to intentional matches. “We’re really hoping to achieve a sustainable momentum,” says Booth. While the organization is always seeking an increase in mentors in general, currently, they are specifically short in numbers for male-identifying volunteers, she says. 

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area and how to apply as a volunteer, visit https://bbbscalgary.ca. To learn more about the PRISM program, visit https://bbbscalgary.ca/prism/

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

Somali-Canadian group says another woman wearing a hijab attacked in Edmonton

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EDMONTON — The chair of a group representing Somali Canadians in Edmonton says there has been another local attack on a woman who was wearing a hijab.

Jibril Ibrahim alleges the Somali-Canadian woman was walking by herself in northeast Edmonton on Friday evening when an unknown man grabbed her by her neck and pushed her down to the sidewalk before fleeing the scene.

He says her face was bloodied, some of her teeth are loose and she spent Friday night in hospital.

Police said in an email they are investigating a report of a Black woman in her 50s who was walking in the area at around 9 p.m. when she was assaulted by an unknown suspect.

They said she received treatment for non-life-threatening injuries at a local medical centre and then reported the incident to police.

Ibrahim says the alleged attack, the latest in a spate of similar incidents, has left the woman badly shaken.

“She’s traumatized,” Ibrahim said in a phone interview after visiting with the woman on Sunday, noting she’s afraid now to leave her home alone.

He said she wasn’t up to being interviewed on Sunday, and was frightened to appear on camera.

Edmonton has seen a number of alleged attacks on Muslim women in recent months.

City police say two women wearing hijabs were sitting in a mall parking lot in December when a stranger shattered a window, assaulted the passenger as she tried to flee and then assaulted the second woman when she tried to help. A man faces charges of assault and mischief in that case.

In March, a man was charged after three allegedly hate-motivated attacks on women in Edmonton.

In the first, police said the Black victim was followed inside a convenience store on Jan. 18 and allegedly assaulted.

The second and third attacks took place on the same day in early February. One woman was wearing a hijab and the other wore a burqa.

A 44-year-old man faces three counts of uttering threats and three of assault in those incidents.

“What we are aware of is only what has been reported to police. There is more than that, and a lot of people are afraid to report it, afraid that someone is going to follow them to their house,” Ibrahim said.

Police said in their email that their Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit has been told about the most recent incident on Friday, but its Investigative Response Team is still handling the case.

The incidents, as well as the deaths of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., earlier this month, have many Canadian Muslims on edge.

Ibrahim says the most recent victim has been in Canada for 30 years, and while she’s been harassed in shops and other places, she’s never experienced such violence.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced on Friday that groups that experience hate crimes will soon be able to apply for grants to pay for security upgrades.

Ibrahim is calling for the bar for hate crimes to be lowered.

“So far, it looks like more or less, our leadership from the prime minister to the mayor, they’re hoping that these people will go away. But it doesn’t work that way,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2021.

Rob Drinkwater, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

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EDMONTON — Alberta is launching a multimillion-dollar lottery in a bid to encourage more residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Premier Jason Kenney unveiled some details of the “Open for Summer Vaccine Lottery” in a video posted to his Twitter account.

The video, shot at a mass immunization centre in Edmonton, shows Kenney lamenting the lack of crowds at the facility and opining that not enough Alberta residents are seeking protection against COVID-19.

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other unspecified prizes. 

He says the first instalment will be open to Albertans 18 or older who get at least their first dose of vaccine within a week of the day the province partially immunizes 70 per cent of the population.

He says the first grand prize draw will take place the day the province enters Phase 3 of  its pandemic recovery plan, adding more details will be announced in the coming days.

“We need to just nudge those who haven’t gotten around to getting their vaccines yet,” Kenney said in the video posted Saturday.

“After all, we’ve had to spend billions of dollars in our health-care system and through supporting people through the past 16 tough months. So if we can just keep pushing up those numbers of people who are vaccinated, that will easily pay for itself in future savings.”

As of Friday, the province said almost 69 per cent of those 12 and older had received at least one dose of vaccine. About 729,000 people have had two shots.

Alberta is not the first jurisdiction to unveil incentives to make residents roll up their sleeves for a vaccine shot. Earlier this week, Manitoba announced it would be holding two lottery draws this summer with $100,000 prizes and $25,000 youth scholarships

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2021

The Canadian Press

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