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Big Brothers Big Sisters pulling out of Yellowknife – volunteer

Big Brothers Big Sisters has ended its Yellowknife operation, according to one of the volunteers involved.

Kieron Testart began volunteering with the organization in January. Now, he says the youth mentoring charity’s national office has decided to suspend programming in the city indefinitely.

“We don’t have any on-the-ground staff or an office here, which is typical of a lot of organizations in the North. It’s unfortunate,” explained Testart.

“Because Big Brothers Big Sisters deals with young persons, there’s a lot of training and oversight that needs to go into the programming. Without having someone here in the North directing the program, it’s a lot harder for them to continue on. Really, that’s what the decision was about.”

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Testart and a handful of other volunteers had been working on in-school mentoring at Yellowknife’s Mildred Hall School.

“Volunteers would come in over recess and the lunch period and work with young people – just provide mentoring, answering questions and developing that kind of ongoing relationship and a real friendship that the young people are actually asking for,” Testart told Moose FM.

“Everyone appreciated that experience.”

The national headquarters of Big Brothers Big Sisters, first contacted on Thursday, has not yet responded to our request for comment. The charity’s national convention, in Toronto, ended on Friday.

Big Brothers Big Sisters first came to Yellowknife in the 1970s Most recently, it relaunched in the city in 2013.

Following its departure, Testart and others hope to launch a similar, independent version of the program.

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“It’s heartbreaking that we have to leave it behind,” he said.

“The decision is final in terms of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ involvement. But it’s not final in terms of the interest our community has.

“The school is interested in seeing something similar happen, and a number of volunteers would like to organize a committee and see if we can build an organization to help do that work.”

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