Building self-esteem, confidence through mentorship of children.

Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday October 23, 2010. Reproduced with permission.
By: Matt Preprost. Photos: David Lipnowski

It took eight years before Justin Hogue found an older brother to call his own.

Justin Hogue: giving back

Justin Hogue: giving back.

Only 10 at the time, Hogue grew up in a divorced family, with his mother and younger sister around him. That was until his mother signed him up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg to find a male role model that could actively be in his life.

After a false start — Hogue’s first brother moved away to open a fishing lodge in Ontario — Hogue was matched with Kevin. From there, the two have bonded over sports, travels to Europe and university — both earned economics degrees from the University of Manitoba.

“Our interests were so similar, he just stuck with me,” said Hogue, now 25. “We went to a lot of sporting events, the Moose, Bombers and Goldeyes. I remember my 15th birthday, he bought us two season tickets so that we could go to all the games.

“My dad wasn’t around and my mom wanted me to be able to go and do things I wouldn’t do otherwise because she always had to go out and worked two jobs to support us,” he said.

“I finally had someone who was always there for me, which I never had other than my mom before.”

The power of having a male role model in his own life pushed Hogue to smarten up and focus in school.

“I was definitely a little troublemaker. I was mad at the world, I didn’t understand why kids got to do things I couldn’t, why their parents were together,” he said. “Kevin was something to look forward to, a reason to care about not getting into trouble. There was always the consequence of not seeing Kevin, which was reason enough to not get in trouble.”

This year, the United Way invested $245,000 into the Winnipeg chapter of BBBS, which helps to pay for the process of matching and monitoring 480 “Littles” and their respective brothers and sisters.

About 100 kids are waiting to be matched at any time.

“Our mission fits very nicely with the United Way philosophy,” said Hogue, who now sits on the board of directors for BBBS in Winnipeg.

“The United Way is working to create opportunities for a better life for everyone. For children and youth they support mentorship and after-school programs that give children the self-esteem and confidence they need to become engaged and productive adults. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg does just that.”

The two brothers stuck with each other until they were 18, the age when matches close.

Kevin, now in his early 40s, works for the Nunavut government. But the 2,000 some kilometres between them doesn’t mean their brotherhood is over.

“He keeps offering me jobs up there,” Hogue laughed.

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