Christmas came early for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Cornwall and District this year, who were awarded a grant of $25,000 to launch a Wellness Workshop Series starting in 2023.
The grant is part of The Commonwell Mutual Insurance Group’s new L.E.A.F. (Learning Engagement & Accelerator Fund). The company invited community groups across Eastern Ontario to apply for a total of $300,000 in grants that focus on learning and building the skills and capacity of local communities.
“We had a meeting with our Big Sisters and our Big Brothers, and our goal was for them to tell us, ‘What you need from us? What do you think should be a priority for the grant that we want to apply for?'” explained BBBS Executive Director, Pierre-Luc Byham, “They really came forward with ideas.”
“My job as a caseworker is to help support the matches in any way that I can to see them succeed, and having this meeting with the Bigs, it just identified all these things that were missing or needed in the children’s lives,” shared Joel Gibeault, “It’s just so great that we got this grant because now we can do that, we can provide these services to the littles in our community that need it.”
The purpose of The Wellness Workshop Series is to support the children and youth within Cornwall and District who are participating in BBBS mentoring programs and services through a series of workshops dedicated to assisting in cooking/budgeting a meal, meditation, yoga, cyber safety, and consent.
“I think following COVID-19 everybody’s routine was all over the place for lack of better words. Especially the children, who were working so well in a routine and now they were at home and lots of them felt isolated. We have lots of kids that as a result of that have social anxiety and stress, so this is kind of our way to give them tools to deal with that,” Byham told Seaway News.
Our local BBBS also considered the social priorities set out the Social Development Council, led by councilor Carilyne Hébert, when applying for the grant. One thing that stood out was the emphasis on the food crisis happening in Canada, our community being no exception.
“There are going to be cooking classes to teach the kids how to make the most of a grocery budget while cooking healthy and tasty food,” said Byham, “We’ve partnered up with the Cornwall Police for cyber security workshops and there will be classes talking about consent within a relationship so that kids know what consent and healthy boundaries are all about.”
This program will be launched in 2023 and will last a year. Classes will start around February and will happen on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. The BBBS team is already working to secure funding to keep the program going if it is successful.
“Were just so grateful for Commonwell to have chosen us. Not only were we able to secure this grant but we’re one of the only organizations to do so in our region. We are very happy that kids in Cornwall and SDG will benefit from this project through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Cornwall and District,” said Pierre-Luc.
Of all the projects that were submitted, only ten of them were funded across the province, two of them in Eastern Ontario. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cornwall is one of them.
“We had almost 100 applications and they were all worthy of supporting. Making the selection was difficult, but we feel the 2022 L.E.A.F. grant recipients represent a very impressive range of community causes that will result in a long-term community investment by funding the sharing of knowledge,” said Tim Shauf, President and CEO of The Commonwell Mutual Insurance Group.
2022 was a successful year for BBBS Cornwall and District, who will have made 18 new matches through the program by year end. Since hiring more staff in the spring their waitlist has gone down significantly. Soon they will be looking for more Littles and hope to make even more matches in 2023.
“We’re so grateful for the way the community has responded,” Byham stated, “You know, when you’re volunteering with our organization it’s not like volunteering for an event where you show up and nine and you’re done at three for example. Its weekly volunteer hours that the Bigs are giving to the kids for at least one year so it’s a long-term volunteer commitment.”