Considering he first started volunteering with what was then Big Brothers of London in 2003, it isn’t difficult to believe W. Matthew Chater has strong feelings around the benefits of mentoring.
Chater left the organization to further his education before returning to what is now Big Brothers Big Sister of London and Area in 2009 as a mentoring coordinator before spending the last four years as director of service delivery and advancement.
On Feb. 2, it was announced his career with BBBS had reached the pinnacle, as he was officially named the organization’s new CEO.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters, not only as a local organization, but also nationally, is incredibly important to me,” Chater said. “I am passionate about mentoring and ensuring every young person who needs a mentor, who requires that person to confide in, to be with, has that opportunity.”
The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area, which was formed five years ago, has been to enrich lives by providing quality mentoring relationships to young people.
Chater takes that mission seriously because he has seen first-hand the benefits that come with mentoring.
Mentoring, Chater said, provides a young person with the opportunity to build relationships outside of the family unit. While most families do a great job in providing for young people, Chater said sometimes the needs extend outside of the family unit.
Mentoring helps provide a young person with an opportunity to build self-esteem, confidence, to explore interests they might not have known they had.
There are, of course, benefits to the other side of that equation, as well.
Ironically, Chater said when one speaks to many Big Brothers and Big Sisters they're the ones who often feel like they're getting more out of the experience than the young people they are mentoring.
“They get to build a relationship with somebody outside of what they have experienced. They get to see those experiences that the children have and know they're contributing to that,” Chater said. “A lot of mentors work very hard in their lives to acquire the lived experience they have. To be able to share that and pass it on is great.”
Despite those compelling benefits, Big Brothers Big Sisters has to constantly work to find enough mentors for its various levels of programming.
Currently in its 1-on-1, community based program, Chater estimates there are approximately 300 Little Brothers and Little Sisters. There are some 1,400 children and youth benefiting from all Big Brothers Big Sisters, including those in the school-based and group programs
One reason for that shortfall, Chater said, is the belief of many potential mentors that they simply don’t have the time to take part.
At three to fours hours per week (the recommended commitment), Chater said the problem isn’t so much finding the time to include a Little Brother or Little Sister, but rather realizing there are opportunities to share in everyday life.
If someone is going to the gym, if they're going to watch a London Lightning game, or if they're just going to play soccer with friends, the opportunities are there
“I don’t think we lead hectic lives, I think we think we live hectic lives. It's how we utilize time,” Chater said. “Time is one of those things we always think is disappearing, but when we sit down and look at how we're using it we realize there are ways to use it in a better way.”
One way to use that time is coming up as the annual Bowl for Kids Sake is taking place Feb. 22, 24, 26 and March 3.
All weekday events will take place at Palasad South (141 Pine Valley Blvd.) from 6:30-8:30 pm, and Sunday will feature two daytime slots: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30–3:30 p.m.
To find out more about Bowl For Kids Sake or Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and area, visit www.bbbsola.org.