You Can Light a Spark in Kids Like Me



How A Life-long Friendship Began

You may not realize the effect you have on my life. And I want you to know that 12 years ago, my life was vastly different. A chance conversation about mentoring ignited my future potential. I am profoundly grateful.

When I was ten, me and my mother boarded a plane, leaving the only home I had ever known, on Ecuador’s coast. I had no idea what Canada would be like, yet I was excited. I imagined that we were going on a journey to a theme park, and the vacation would never end.

Did you ever make up stories as a child so that you did not have to face difficult or unpleasant moments?

I did not settle into my new life very well. I struggled and lacked confidence. My mother worried about me all the time. As a single parent, she was struggling, too.

A few years after we moved, my mother had a conversation with her boss, and she asked him for advice. Mom wanted to find a positive male role model for me. She was trying her best, but she needed help too. My mom’s boss told her about Big Brothers Big Sisters. He explained that they had mentoring programs just for kids like me.

As a caring and compassionate person, you helped to make sure that a child like me does not have to feel lost and alone. Big Brothers Big Sisters relies on generous community members like you to help them train adult volunteers to be mentors and change lives.

My mom loves me so much. She tried her best but there were things I was really lacking – self confidence – someone to talk with about guy things, learning how to build stuff. Her intention was to connect me with a positive male role model. Someone who would help me to grow my confidence and learn about life.

I did NOT want to go. I struggled with the idea of trusting someone else in my life. But I did not want to disappoint my mother. So, one Saturday afternoon, I agreed to meet this new person in a gymnasium. We talked and hung out. I remembered that I felt very open and safe because they were willing to do what I liked and was interested in. I did not like sports, and in Ecuador, it would have been soccer – and I hated soccer!

Big Brother Maz

Maz Riverin, Jose’s Big Brother, fondly recalls that first meeting in the school gym as if it was yesterday. It was a very special day. Their case worker had prepared him for what to expect and Maz understood why they were matched. They shared a love of science and STEM.

Maz recalls that their first meeting didn’t feel awkward because there was lots to do and look at. And he and Jose each had someone there to support them, just in case. Maz added, “We sat there, we talked, and we may have even played a bit of basketball.” This makes him smile because he was able to share his love of sports with Jose. He learned later that Jose wasn’t really a big sports fan, so future activities included museum visits and great conversations.

Maz recalls teaching Jose how to cook homemade macaroni and cheese, from scratch. The two would hang out for a few hours a week, listening, talking, learning and growing.

“One of the most important things Jose taught me was to be a good listener,” says Maz. “I’m an extrovert. And with Jose, I learned to really listen to another human. It’s one of the most important skills.”

In addition to the supportive team at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto, Maz credits Jose’s mother, Jazmin, for being a superstar. It was her courage to seek support for her son, and to make sure he had access to these mentoring moments. Their regular communication helped all three of them navigate life over the years. A decade later, they are all friends.

For Jose, he says he does not want to think about what his life would be like if not for all those little moments of goodness since he first met Maz.

“My life as a Little Brother is much more than I thought possible. I was matched with another Big Brother after Maz was pursuing his doctorate and needed to focus. He didn’t want me to miss quality time,” says Jose.

The Next Chapter

I know you are caring and kind. And I do not think you want other kids like me to have to struggle and worry about being a child. You don’t want them to be afraid of what the future might be like. You want all children to thrive, I’m sure of it.

My Big Brothers lit a spark in me, each in different ways. I have graduated from university, and I have started my career in digital training and support, all thanks to amazing people like you who made my life better.

Before you go, I have just one question for you. Will you make a generous gift today so that another young person like me can have access to a positive role model and mentor like Maz?

Jose J.
Little Brother
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

Did you know that in Canada, there are over 15,000 kids feeling alone, waiting to be matched with a big sibling? Give the gift of mentorship.