Every week, McGill Pharmacology student Emma Leblanc meets with her 12-year-old buddy Luka for tutoring sessions, homework help or sometimes just to hang out and watch a movie.
Leblanc, along with about 40 other students, takes part in McGill University’s Beyond Me Program, where volunteers provide one-on-one mentorship kids and teens under the age of 18 with special needs.
Students from a wide variety of academic backgrounds can apply to the program, they then go through an interview and mandatory training sessions on how to interact and support kids with cerebral palsy, partial hearing loss, autism and other disorders.
Volunteers dedicate at least eight hours a month and are paired with their buddies according to mutual interests. Along with academic help and one-on-one sessions, there are many group outings organized like trips to the Biodome, a bowling arena or skating rink.
Medical student and Co-President Rockey Chen says the goal is to create mutual friendships between buddies and students and raise awareness about disabilities not just on campus, but in the rest of the Montreal community. Chen, who has a background in volunteering and working at camps, joined the program in his second year. Though he had been part of other organizations at McGill, he says he prefers the personal and direct community involvement of this program.
Parents can enrol their kids anytime as the program lasts throughout the academic year and sometimes into the summer. Since the organization is non-profit and offers its services free of charge for families, Beyond Me holds a number of fundraisers and receives support from the Students’ Society of McGill University.
For more information, visit montrealbeyondme.com.