BLX Big Brothers Big Sisters program in funding crisis

DOZENS of disadvantaged Ballarat children could be left without crucial role models in their lives if a Ballarat program does not receive funding.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has been running in Ballarat for almost two years, but is facing possible termination due to a lack of money.

Since its inception in Ballarat in 2011, it has been funded by Highlands LLEN, which is no longer able to keep the program afloat.

Now, unless the program receives immediate funding, it could be forced to shut down.

Mentoring co-ordinator Emma Hoare said dozens of children would be distressed if the program was to cease.

Big Brothers Big Sisters was founded in 1904 in New York and has since become an international institution.

It matches young children with positive mentors that are otherwise missing in their lives.

“It’s the only thing a lot of these children have in their lives apart from school,” said Ms Hoare.

“But unfortunately without money we can’t keep it going.”

About $80,000 in funding is required annually for the program to continue running at the Ballarat Learning Exchange, which currently matches 16 children with mentors but could expand to about 30 pairings if more volunteers get on board.

It services children from Ballarat and a number of other local government ares including the Moorabool, Pyrenees and Hepburn shires.

Ms Hoare said dozens of kids would be heartbroken if the program was to stop.

She said some had been on the waiting list for more than a year and could not wait to be paired up with a big brother or sister.

“These kids have been let down by adults so many times before in their lives so I can’t imagine doing it to them again,” Ms Hoare said.

“We’ve got kids who are now smiling because of the program. Having a good, positive person to look up to certainly makes a difference.”

A public meeting will be held on Monday, March 4 at 5.30pm at Saxon House in Mair St. Anybody who can help in any way is encouraged to attend. Contact Emma Hoare on 5336 5031 or email emma.hoare@bbbs.org.au

patrick.nolan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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