“We believe in the value and values of mentoring.”
It’s a hot day in early summer at Cummervalley Public School, where 10 boys aged 12-14 are eagerly waiting to get outside and hang out with their Game On! mentors, Kamil and Colin. These boys were selected by their teachers and resource workers for this program because of their situations, “these kids struggle socially, they don’t have many friends” says Colin who has been a Game On! mentor for 4 years. “Game On gives them a safe environment to make friends, build a community and confidence. They feel special in this group, it gives them confidence to live their lives in a better way” he adds. Game On! was developed to increase self-esteem and confidence in boys during a key time in their mental and physical development. The group setting is key because it allows them to play games, while also allowing friendships to form; it’s small enough that the kids can make meaningful connections with their mentors and each other. Many of the schools in which Game On! runs are located in low-income neighbourhoods. As such, another key part of the program is teaching participants about healthy lifestyles including proper nutrition, something they may not be getting at home “we bring snacks every week, some kids go to school without breakfast or don’t bring lunch. Having access to food allows us to teach them about living healthy. Something we couldn’t do without the resources given to us through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto” says Colin. The boys are also able to ask questions anonymously through a question box. This way they can get answers to things they may not feel comfortable asking parents or teachers; they can ask real questions and get honest answers. The feedback about the program from the boys was unanimous, they wish it weren’t over already even though they will be on summer break in a few short weeks. Rhyoga, a newcomer to Canada enrolled in the program said that it helped him make new friends and get better grades. Barack who said he is bullied a lot in school expressed what Game On! has done for him “I don’t have a lot of friends but here everyone is nice, I made a lot of new friends because of the program. I also changed the way I ate and have lost 9lbs, so I feel better too”. When summer is over and the boys return to school one thing is certain, they will have a group of friends to hang out with and rely on.
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