COLUMN: The art of reflection
Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything.
-Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock
Peter Sykes since moving to Pictou County has found Big Brothers Big Sisters to be a rewarding program
©Rosalie MacEachern photo
Peter Sykes wanted to be a Big Brother for years but the time was not right until he settled in Pictou County.
“I was seriously interested while I was a student in Prince Edward Island but I didn’t feel I was settled enough to get involved,” he said.
While Peter was finishing his PhD at UPEI his wife took a job as a veterinarian at New Glasgow Animal Hospital.
“We’d spent quite a bit of time apart so being just a ferry-ride away was a pretty good arrangement for us,” he said.
Living in Pictou County fits their lifestyle and was no deterrent for Peter to find work since finishing his studies in aquatic epidemiology.
“I’ve been studying and working in fish farm research and development for 10 years. I’m working for a company in Halifax that is involved with setting up a small scale salmon farm and as I do quite a bit of travelling, Pictou County has worked out to be relatively central for me,” he said.
He acknowledged there has been some controversy around fish farming.
“But it is the fastest growing protein product in the world and I see a real future in it.”
Peter says he got a warm welcome at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County.
“There is a bit of a process to go through before being matched but it was all enjoyable. Beyond the other requirements they needed to get to know me and my interests so they could find the best match.”
Peter’s match turned out to be 11-year-old Baillie Langille who shares his love of the outdoors.
“I got some information about him, he got a little information about me and we were both interested in more. Then we were introduced and right away I got a sense that they had done a really good job of matching us.”
For their first outing they went to the beach and Peter brought his dog along.
“We were just beginning to get to know each other and I thought it might be good to have the dog with us. He wouldn’t have much to say but it would give us something to talk about and that worked out fine. We both found it pretty easy to connect.”
The match was made just weeks before Peter’s daughter was born and he wondered briefly about the timing.
“That was not an issue at all. We felt like Baillie was already incorporated into the family by the time the baby arrived.”
Baillie has also been welcomed by Peter’s parents and his wife’s family.
“Baillie comes from a great family and he’s met most of our family. It kind of amazes me how he fits in with us so well.”
Peter volunteers with the Pictou County Rivers Association and its Fish Friends program which sees fish from a provincial fish hatchery incubated and hatched in selected Pictou County classrooms.
“It just happened that one of the classrooms I went to was Baillie’s. It is pretty cool for us to be able to share that experience.”
Just recently they also took part in the Gairloch Lake ice fishing tournament.
“We both like to fish and ice-fishing is a little different but we had a lot of fun.”
Peter pointed out there is a lot of flexibility regarding the time they spend together.
“We decide when and what we do. We do things we think we’ll enjoy. Sometimes we go to a Crushers game or we might catch another hockey game. Sometimes we hike up Fitzpatrick Mountain or he might just come over for supper and we’ll hang out together.”
If Peter has to travel or if Baillie has a school dance they just switch their plans to another date. Not long ago Peter ran into Baillie and friends at a rink.
“We hadn’t planned to see each other so that was a different experience for me, to see him with his friends, but it was nice.”
Peter was attracted to Big Brothers because it strives to help children reach their potential but he suspects both Big and Little probably benefit equally.
“I like kids and I like to see them have opportunities to develop their interests and try new things. My wife is a soccer coach and she enjoys that but I’ve learned over the years that I prefer the independence and detail of a one-on-one relationship so Big Brothers is a good fit for me. I couldn’t be happier with the way it is working out.”
Pictou County Big Brothers Big Sisters recently kicked off its annual fundraising campaign with Bowl for Kids Sake scheduled to take place April 12.