It was going to end.
Matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC), Andrew, 11, and Parbal Idhu, 23, thought their mentoring relationship was finished.
They had spent two years getting to know each other and becoming friends.
Idhu had spent four years at McMaster University studying biochemistry and had just been accepted to medical school at the University of Toronto. He sold his motorcycle to help pay for school and said goodbye to Andrew.
But now, Idhu and Andrew will keep in touch through the Digital Heroes program, a BBBSC e-mentoring initiative that allows Big Brother and Big Sister relationships to take place online.
Idhu says he is glad he can maintain contact with Andrew so he can continue to give him guidance.
They chat about things like school, Idhu says, and as a Big Brother, he encourages Andrew to do well.
Rebecca Hart, case manager for Big Brothers of Burlington and Hamilton-Wentworth, is also pleased that they can continue their relationship.
“Everyone was sad” when Parbal moved to Toronto, she says.
Andrew gets a computer as part of the program, which will be beneficial to him, Hart says.
“He can get on top of things and learn about computers and technology at a young age,” he says.
The Digital Heroes program is a new spin, E-mail, and online chats, on traditional BBBSC one-on-one mentoring relationships.
Digital Heroes is being administered by nine BBBSC agencies in Ontario and Frontier College. The program is expected to expand to different parts of Canada in 2003.
Computers for the project were contributed by RBC Financial Group and CIBC and were upgraded by reBoot Canada. The Ontario’s Promise initiative launched the project and formed the partnerships.
AOL Canada is the major sponsor of the project. Jon Hamovitch, vice-president of human resources at AOL says Digital Heroes is a true example of what can be accomplished through partnerships.
“This program brings together technology, innovation, and human spirit to benefit children and youth,” Hamovitch says. “I applaud Ontario’s Promise for their ingenuity and determination to make this program a reality.”
Karen Hancock, national programs coordinator for BBBSC, says that Digital Heroes will benefit a lot of young people in BBBSC programs, including older youth and rural youth, who often have a hard time being matched with volunteers.
Mentors will also benefit, Hancock says. The program is less constraining for elderly mentors, and for those who don’t have a lot of free time.
Idhu agrees the program is a more convenient alternative to the traditional one-on-one match.
“I think it’s a little easier online,” he says. “A lot more people can get involved this way, and it still gives the Little Brother support.”
Idhu says he values his relationship with Andrew.
“I grew up by myself, without siblings. It makes me appreciate Andrew and hanging out with him.”