Surrey resident Hanne Madsen is the executive director of Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland. (Submitted photo)

Surrey resident Hanne Madsen is the executive director of Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland. (Submitted photo)

Now with a home in Surrey, Big Sisters finds way to connect girls/mentors during COVID

‘We’re really seeing an increase in the demands for our services here in Surrey’

COVID-19 has hit Big Sisters particularly hard.

The B.C. Lower Mainland chapter’s 60th anniversary this year has lost some sparkle due to the pandemic and physical-distancing rules that make in-person visits less frequent or more difficult.

“Our clients are among those most negatively impacted by the pandemic,” Hanne Madsen, the organization’s executive director, told an online audience during The Big Sisters Luminary Award Soirée, the agency’s largest annual fundraiser.

On the bright side, the Sept. 30 event raised a record-breaking $1 million in its sixth year.

“We were speechless and overwhelmed by the tremendous response from our supporters,” Madsen said. “The generosity and commitment of our community will ensure that the vulnerable youth we serve never feel forgotten. We are deeply grateful.”

(Story continues below video)

Madsen, a South Surrey resident, has been with Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland for more than two years, and has long been a champion of women and girls.

Next to Vancouver, Surrey is the second largest community served by the organization, so it made sense to open a Surrey office early this year, in the 7300-block of 137th Street.

“We’re really seeing an increase in the demands for our services here in Surrey, and so we really wanted to have that presence in this area,” Madsen said in a recent phone interview.

“I’m calling from the new office we opened in Newton at the end of January, the beginning of February,” she added. “We were here for about six weeks before COVID happened and the staff started working remotely, from home, but I’ve been able to work here, more or less, throughout COVID.”

Right now, Big and Little Sisters are doing both virtual and in-person visits.

“We’re kind of doing a hybrid at the moment,” Madsen explained. “It was a difficult time early on in COVID, and I really credit the team here for pivoting and putting some of our programs online.”

Among them is Go Girls, a healthy bodies/healthy minds program aimed at those in the 10-to-14 age range.

Surrey Schools has really embraced Go Girls, Madsen said, but when COVID hit in March and schools were closed, those sites could no longer be used for the small groups of girls involved in the weekly two-hour sessions with mentors.

“They would get together and talk about healthy eating, staying active and proper nutrition, how to be a good friend – you know, some of the social issues, bullying, things like that,” Madsen explained. “And of course we couldn’t get access to the schools, right, and so that was put on a virtual platform. Now it’s offered twice a week, still in small groups, and we’ve gotten very creative in what we offer in that program. We’d like to continue to build on that and get the word out to parents that it’s still available but just in a virtual format.”

Of course, there are still many young people in Surrey on the Big Sisters waitlist, and one of the organization’s struggles is recruiting volunteer mentors.

Since 1960, Big Sisters “has been fighting loneliness and helping to build resiliency in the over 800 at-risk youth we support each year, but we can’t do it without your help,” says an appeal for donations on bigsisters.bc.ca, where “Become a Volunteer” information is also posted.

The organization serves female, transgender and non-binary youth, aged seven to 17, in need of a positive female role model in their lives.

“Research shows 1 in 10 kids in the Lower Mainland do not feel they have a single adult in their life who cares about them,” the organization said in a news release. “In 2019, the organization supported over 850 youth. In addition to continuing support for these existing matches, Big Sisters receives over 400 referrals annually. Each one is a youth looking for a Big Sister of her very own. With a positive adult role model in their life, girls in the Lower Mainland are set on a path to reach their full potential.”

(Story continues below video)

During this year’s online Luminary Award Soirée, six women were recognized for their long-time commitment to Big Sisters “and incredible contributions to vulnerable youth in our community.” They are the Honourable Janet Austin, Joanne Brown, Kay Gray, Linda Parsons, Patricia Shields and Susan Mendelson.

The fundraiser, hosted by Fred Lee, attracted more than 500 guests “at home and in their bubbles.” They were treated to “a gala-in-a-box experience with delectable eats by The Lazy Gourmet and wine from Mission Hill, while bidding in the silent auction and listening to musical performances by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Side One.”

Meantime, Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver also says mentoring doesn’t stop during social isolation. Volunteer information is posted to bigbrothersvancouver.com.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Charity and DonationsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Delta Mayor George Harvie. (Submitted photo)
Mayor asks Fraser Health to reconcider North Delta vaccination site

Harvie wants a North Delta clinic to complement the South Delta location

Surrey RCMP are investigating a reported assault at Panorama Ridge Secondary. (Shane MacKichan photos)
UPDATE: Two youths arrested after assault with a weapon at Panorama Ridge Secondary in Surrey

School placed on a ‘hold and secure’ until safety of all students confirmed

Image Surrey.ca
Surrey to pony up one-third of cost to cover Cloverdale lacrosse box in 2022

This will be at the Cloverdale Athletic Park at 64th Avenue and 168th Street

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

On some blocks in North Delta it was nearly end-to-end refuse during the city’s 2018 Spring Clean-Up. (James Smith photo)
Delta’s Large Item Pick-Up Program starts today

Beginning March 1, residents will be able to dispose of up to four large household items per year

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on October 27, 2020. The City of Vancouver says it has purchased a former hotel at a major thoroughfare that can house about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. A joint news release by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and city says 2075 Kingsway, Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver, will be ready for accommodation this November. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen also announced a $51.5 million Rapid Housing Initiative for Vancouver that is expected to create 135 new affordable homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former Vancouver hotel to be converted to 65 units for homeless people by the fall

The former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Most Read