U of G student speaks on behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters organization
BY MARY DICKIESON
“It's tough to talk about yourself — I was pretty nervous.” That was in July when fourth-year student Aiden Abram sat down with a group of University faculty and staff to talk about his childhood experience with the Big Brothers organization.
Abram has told his story at least a dozen times since then and hopes to tell it to many more University groups during this year's United Way campaign. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph is one of 45 local agencies supported by the United Way of Guelph and Wellington, and his own experience confirms that donations to the United Way really do make a difference to the people in your community.
Having a Big Brother was a big thing in Abram's life, and he's eager to support the program in any way he can, even when it means telling his life story to one of his profs.
“It was kind of weird — Anthony Clarke and a room full of University staff listening to me talk about being a Little Brother,” he says.
Clarke is assistant vice-president (academic) and a professor in the Department of Microbiology. He's co-chairing the U of G United Way campaign with Irene Thompson, assistant director of residence life. They invited Abram to speak to a group of United Way volunteers on campus in July and then asked him to serve as campus-wide spokesperson for the 2004 campaign, which hopes to raise $325,000. Look for his picture on a special United Way poster designed by Sean Yo and Lisbeth Sider of Computing and Communications Services.
You may recognize Abram as co-ordinator of the Magic Bus service provided by the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences (CSAHS) Student Alliance and one of the organizers of the United Way tuition lottery. He is also a student senator and co-ordinator of a human rights discussion group for the Human Rights and Equity Office.
His peers know Abram as a member of the CSAHS Student Alliance board, an orientation volunteer and one of those guys who's always helping out at campus events.
“I like to be busy,” he says. “I'm never happier than when I'm doing 100 things.”
Studying fits somewhere in those 100 things, with Abram finishing up a double major in international development and earth surface science. He's concerned about global environmental change and thinks he'd like to work for the United Nations or another non-governmental agency dedicated to making the world a better place.
If he was nervous talking about himself to a prof, Abram says he was really scared when he met his Big Brother for the first time. That was 12 years ago. Abram was 10 and remembers wondering why “some guy who didn't even know me would want to spend time with me.” He asked his mother: “What will this guy ask me? What will we do?”
As it turned out, they did a lot together, and although Abram's Big Brother relationship with John Laidlaw officially ended on Abram's 17th birthday, they still see each other often and are both still involved with Big Brothers. Laidlaw, a two-time Guelph graduate in agricultural economics, is an account manager at the Farm Credit Corporation. These days, he's taking his fourth Little Brother to ball games and camping expeditions. Abram volunteers on the organization's recruitment committee and participates in a group program that he says is an ideal way for university students to help out.
“If you can't commit to a long-term relationship with a Little Brother or Sister, you can volunteer for the in-school mentoring program or participate in a group activity,” he says. Both these programs make the waiting easier for the more than 100 kids in Guelph who are on the list for a Big Brother or Big Sister.
If you'd like to invite U of G's United Way spokesperson to talk to your department or unit, contact Thompson or Clarke or send e-mail to Abram at email@example.com. For information about United Way events, visit the website www.unitedway.uoguelph.ca.
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