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Big Sister Jeanette | Little Sister Monique


Right - Monica, Left - Jeanette

Big Sister Jeanette

It was 18 years ago. I had just turned 19 and was searching for something to give meaning to my life. I was well on my way to starting a career in teaching music with plans to open my own music studio, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to make a difference and help others. I happened to be looking through the newspaper, when I saw an ad looking for “Big Sisters”. I was immediately drawn to the advertisement and called to inquire about the mentoring program and during that phone conversation agreed upon a date to be interviewed.

Shortly thereafter I was matched with a 9 year old girl named Monica. At the time, I would never have imagined that this young girl would become one of the most important people in my life. I loved Monica unconditionally from the moment I met her. I remember her adorable brown eyes, long brown hair and sun kissed skin. She was absolutely beautiful in every sense of the word and I felt an instant connection to her. Knowing a little about the challenges she faced early on in her life, I decided that in my role as her Big Sister, I would try to slowly gain her trust through our friendship. I remember bringing her to my home for pizza and movie nights, making crafts together, playing board games, attending her school play and baton practices, hanging out together in my music studio and creating a scrapbook for Big Sisters that would win us first prize and a trip together to Canada’s Wonderland. It was easy to fall in love with this energetic, funny and intelligent young girl.

As the years went by, Monica would come to know Richards who would become my husband. On our wedding day I was honored to have Monica stand by to support us as one of my bridesmaids. I was beginning an exciting chapter of my life with a new husband, and a new home. Monica was a teenager now with her own set of challenges. Her two older brothers started having children at a very young age and Monica shared much of the responsibility in helping to raise and take care of her young nieces and nephews.

Knowing Monica’s potential and her dreams, Richards and I felt that Monica needed more structure and support in order for her to reach her goals and realize her dream of going to University. We opened up our home to her, and she moved in with us a month after our first child was born.

Monica lived with us for just under two years. We would experience the challenges of raising an infant and a teenager juggling nap times, diaper changes and infant play dates with driving lessons, after school jobs and high school homework. Monica helped in any way she could and having experience in caring for her infant nieces and nephews became a blessing and help in the care of our son Caleb and later our newborn daughter, Maya.

Richards and I were proud to stand by Monica on her high school graduation day and were excited when Monica received letters of acceptance to all three universities to which she applied. We would spend much of the following summer helping her prepare for her next big move to begin University. The day we packed up her things, drove her to University and helped her settle into residence was filled with so many emotions. Three years later we would be in attendance to watch her graduate from the nursing program with honours.

Since then, we have seen Monica grow into a responsible adult with an impressive career in nursing and teaching. She is a beacon of hope and support to her nieces and nephews as they grow and face their own life challenges. We are so proud of the young woman that she is today. To our children, she will always be their “Aunt Monica” and to me, she will always be my “Little Sister”.

As Big Sister’s celebrates their 100th year, I thank them for the opportunity to reflect upon the 18 years I’ve shared with Monica. I never would have imagined that at a time when I was looking to make a difference in a young girl’s life, that it would have such a profound impact and bring me so much love in return.

Little Sister Monica

This year I turned 27 years old. Old enough to raise a child, teach at a university and drive a car. But still young enough to refer to my sister of 18 years as my ‘Big Sister’. I’ll never forget being eight years old and being told by my mother, a single parent at the time, that I would soon meet a new friend. 

My family (consisting of my three brothers, my mother and I) had recently moved from another city to escape my alcoholic and abusive father. I met Jeanette in my home, my mother preparing me before her arrival. My family was introduced to Jeanette, and we were soon off on our first outing together. I still remember that day so vividly. Not what we did, where we went, or the length of time we spent together – but the internal struggle I faced as I walked away from my home with her for the first time. 

I looked to her for cues, but couldn’t be sure. I looked at her swinging hand by her side, and thought ‘does she want to hold my hand’? I decided no. She was a new friend and I did not want to lose her already by reaching out an unwanted hand. Little did I know, that on July 12th, 1994 I didn’t just meet a new friend. I met, in every sense of the word, my sister. Jeanette would, and did become my mentor and role model. She was a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear when I needed it most. Her subtle guidance led me to pursue my deepest ambitions. I remember sitting in school and imagining Jeanette looking in through the window at me. I wanted to always behave in a way that would make her proud. The road has not been easy, by any stretch. 

While matched with Jeanette, my family moved more than 10 different times. Jeanette followed me where I went, and continued to support me. My two older brothers fell into some

difficulty, and started having children at very young ages. By the time I was in my last year of high school, I had 14 nieces and nephews, many of which I shared responsibility for. My life was quickly being consumed caring for my brothers’ children, and I was finding it difficult to keep my own dreams in sight. 

When I was 17 years old, Jeanette and her husband, Richards welcomed me into their home. They knew I would need more support and stability during my last year of high school to be able to get myself off to university where I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. During my time in their home, I learned a great deal about how families function in a stable environment. I witnessed a loving marriage, and the incredible bond that had formed between Jeanette and Richards and their two infant children. I helped in whatever ways I could, and felt useful in helping with the care of their babies. 

The following year, I made the big move off to university in another city and have since completed my program with honours and started graduate school – much of which can be attributed to the support I received over the years from Jeanette and Richards. This year, Big sisters celebrates its 100th year and I celebrate the 18th year of a match that truly changed my life. A match that brought strength and support to an eight year old child who needed it. A match that gave me the tools I needed to change the course of my life forever. 

Happy anniversary Big Sisters. And thank you.