When Matthew Armet learned Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg was looking for mentors, he saw an opportunity to make a difference.

When Matthew Armet learned Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg was looking for mentors, he saw an opportunity to make a difference.

It was late 2020, and the 36-year-old actor and dance instructor wanted to do something to help change the world for the better — particularly for young people.

"I’d been teaching dance to students and seeing how isolated they felt," Armet says. "I was able to help them a little bit, but that was through a group setting and I wanted to help out in a more meaningful way."

Armet signed up for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg’s Prism program, which matches children and youth who identify as LGBTTQ+ with an adult who also identifies as LGBTTQ+ for a one-on-one mentoring relationship. The program’s goal is that through regular outings, the match will foster a friendship that is supportive, empowering and fun.

Armet and his "little" meet once a week. Because of the pandemic, the pair met on Zoom for the first few months after they were matched. During one of those early meetings, Armet baked cookies in his South Osborne home while his little baked cookies with a parent in his own home. Afterward, they exchanged cookies.

Once they could meet in person, Armet and his little started doing things like getting together to watch movies, visiting Assiniboine Park and going to a corn maze. Armet also introduced his little to sushi.

Beyond the fun activities, Armet says it has been meaningful to share about his experience as a gay man with a young person who is exploring his gender identity. He recalls telling his little about the Pride Winnipeg Festival and the rainbow flag, which his little had never heard of before.

"He was like, ‘Wait — they have a festival for us? They have a party for us every year?’" Armet recalls, laughing. "Introducing him to the Pride festival and the pride flag is a special memory from the beginning of our relationship."

It’s not Armet’s first experience volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters. More than a decade ago, while living in Toronto, Armet got involved with the organization as the lead mentor in a group mentorship program called Play On.

The experience gave Armet the desire to become a one-on-one mentor, which the COVID-19 pandemic made possible.

"I finally found myself with enough time to volunteer every week for a whole year, knowing I wasn’t able to travel and leave the city for work."

Armet, who grew up in Battleford, Sask., describes his decision to get involved with the Prism program as a no-brainer.

"If I had had this type of mentorship as a kid, it would have changed my life — especially having someone who was queer to look up to and learn from, and ask questions to that maybe my parents couldn’t answer for me or that I wasn’t open to my parents about," he says.

"Volunteering with Prism was an opportunity for me to be able to do that and give someone an opportunity that I never had growing up."

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg is currently looking for trustworthy, energetic, mature, stable adults to volunteer for its mentoring programs, including Prism. Anyone interested can apply at bigwinnipeg.com.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com