More than just a volunteer job

Big Brothers Big Sisters turns 100, continues to build unique families

Allison Moulson

Neither Allison Moulson or Edward Parker knew quite what they were getting themselves into when they agreed to participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters in-school mentoring program. For Allison, then 24 years old and considering a career in education, it was to be a means of volunteering with children. Edward, just eight-years-old at the time and living with a single father and older brother, wasn’t entirely sure what he hoped to gain from the experience, but he had some idea with whom he’d like to share it.

“I chose a big sister because I didn’t have a mother or a girl in my life that I could do stuff with,” said Edward, now 14 years-old and sporting pink hair beneath his toque. “I chose a sister and they chose her.”

Though she had no part in the matching process, Allison felt a desire to connect with Edward once she heard of his earnest request.

“I really wanted to be a positive role model in his life from the beginning. I wanted him to know what it was like to have a mom in his life and I try to be that person for him, to have that type of relationship.”

The pair initially met at Cloverdale elementary where Edward was a student and played a round of Guess Who. Over the years, they moved from playing board games and chatting at Cloverdale, to a community program that allowed them to enjoy activities around town. Today Edward and Allison are technically enrolled in a couples match program through BBBS due to Allison’s husband Nathanael’s equal involvement with Edward, though neither of the three would explain their relationship in terms of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ programming framework.

“It eventually got to the point where we would do things as a family,” said Nathanael, a naval officer. “Once you start putting names and faces to an effort like that, you’re no longer doing it because it’s for Big Brothers Big Sisters; you’re doing it because it’s for a person.”

Not without the standard trials and tribulations of life – such as piercing his lip and later accepting Nathanael’s bribe to remove the facial jewelry – Edward says he’s experienced a personality change since spending time with the Moulsons.

“I learned lessons – life lessons,” Edward said with a smile.

Whether baking with Allison, talking finances with Nathaneal or having the chance to pilot HMCS Regina on a family trip to Vancouver – the Moulsons have impacted every sector of Edward’s life. Two years ago the biggest life lesson came when Allison gave birth to Eli and Edward gained a little sister.

Last year when Edward’s father went through a difficult time financially and Edward needed a place to stay, the Moulsons became his foster parents for six months. Suddenly Allison and Nathanael had a one year old and a 13 year old – a set up that gave them a sneak peek at raising a teen full-time and also afforded the couple some babysitting help. The deal included a family discount, Edward said.

“Basically the worst happened and we were able to step in and provide support beyond the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, but nevertheless, it would never have happened without Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

Edward is now happily living with his father once more.

“Maybe that doesn’t happen to everyone, but it could,” Nathanael said. “It’s not unrealistic.”

Edward describes his transformation from his first time spent with Allison as going from being happy to “even happier, joyful.”

“I wasn’t really thinking long term and how much he would be involved in our day-to-day life,” she said. “I wasn’t really thinking about children then either, but now that he’s in our life, it’s come full circle.”

Edward has considered one day being a big brother himself, though not necessarily as defined by the charity.

“In a way I am already,” he says.