8-year-old girl finds mentor as mom struggles with disease

Chelsey’s mom connected her with a mentor and an important relationship that remains strong over ten years later.

Chelsey's Big Sister, Carla, is someone she can turn to

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Chelsey’s mom has lupus, an autoimmune disease associated with fatigue and joint pain, which often prevents her from doing some things with her daughter. When Chelsey was eight her mom felt very sad taht she was not able go on outings with Chelsey, like seeing a movie or horseback riding.

“Mom wasn’t really able to take me out. She felt bad, and no one else could really do it.”

Her mom connected with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg, a United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency. The move brought Carla into Chelsey’s life as a Big Sister – an Indigenous role-model for her who is still a part of her life over ten years later. Carla has become an important person in Chelsey’s life and has often been there through times of crisis and has helped her stay on track through various challenges. The mentorship and friendship is invaluable to Chelsey.

Both of them are Cree; Chelsey originates from Peguis and Carla from Mathias Colomb.

“She’s always there for me,” Chelsey says in an office at the University of Manitoba, where she’s enrolled today on her journey to be a teacher. The office belongs to her Big Sister, Carla – a Student Advisor at the University’s Indigenous Student Centre – who is still a big part of Chelsey’s life.

“I had some family issues during high school and Carla was always there to support me.”

Chelsey as a child found mentorship from Carla

“She’s always there for me.”

When Chelsey’s aunt, who she was very close with, passed away suddenly, Carla was there for her. As her dad has battled cancer, Carla has been there to talk to.

“It’s just knowing she’s there to listen all the time, that’s a really big help for me.”

Being a Big Sister has enriched Carla’s life in many ways also. It gave her “focus and meaning” during a hard time in her own life.

“It really made me be a better person. She keeps me young at heart, and whatever Chelsey needs from me, she knows she can ask. I feel honoured that I am one of her ‘go-to people’ when things are not going so well.”

She’s grateful she could be a Big Sister, which she says is, “an opportunity to do something good for myself and for the wider community.”

Having a Big Sister has also inspired Chelsey to be a mentor to others. For three years in high school, she spent her Friday lunch hour mentoring a “little person” at a nearby elementary school. She drew upon her experience of having Carla in her life to be a better mentor.

“I wanted to be a friend to them as well. I would show my true interest…I wanted them to know that I care.”

Chelsey has a message to donors who support Big Brothers Big Sisters through United Way Winnipeg.

“I’d like to thank them…for the past 11 years, I’ve had a good Big Sister, mentor, and friend. And I appreciate it.”

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EricaA Big Sister, a mentor, and a friend she can turn to