Peer Project Mentor Nicole Gives Back and Finds a Friend For Life

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You wake up, go to work, stay late, maybe sneak in a workout and repeat. This is a cycle that many in Toronto follow. If you like your job, it can be rewarding, but for some the job just isn’t enough to feel satisfied. Nicole was one of those people.

“I was literally feeling an emptiness,” says Nicole, who works in marketing but studied international development.

Instead of going out and spending her paycheck on stuff to make her feel better or expensive dinners with friends, she decided to fill the emptiness with giving.

When Nicole was 18, she went on a trip to Ethiopia to help teach boys at an orphanage. This experience had a profound impact on her, motivating her to study international development. But after she finished school and started working in marketing, she felt something was missing from her life.

nicole&mya copyChoosing the Peer Project

Nicole spent some time searching for different volunteer opportunities, and needed to find something that would fit her busy work schedule. She considered helping at an animal shelter, but her allergy to cats held her back. She looked at some larger charities, but really didn’t want to end up in front of a computer doing admin work.

Nicole also considered a few other mentoring programs, but her sister had a bad experience at a larger mentoring charity and Nicole didn’t want to get lost in a large machine.

“I knew if I didn’t have something consistent, I wouldn’t be committed,” said Nicole.

Eventually, she came across the Peer Project; a smaller, more intimate organization that offered a hands-on and personal experience, and had a real need for young people like her to get involved and make a difference in people’s lives. Nicole attended an information session and signed up.

“I realized there was a huge need there and it was servicing my community where I grew up,” says Nicole.

A Match For Life

Four years later,  Nicole says she can’t imagine not having her mentee, Maya, in her life.

“She is a huge part of my life; she has met my entire family” says Nicole. “I see her as much as I can.”

Nicole has a busy schedule, so she sees Maya for a full day every two weeks. Spending a full day with a kid under ten requires some planning, Nicole quickly realized. And a bigger challenge because Nicole tries to spend time outside and stay away from tv and video screens as much as possible.

“I never have my phone out when I’m with her,” says Nicole. “Winter is a lot harder, but there’s lots of fairs and activities that are indoors.”

The girls have gone to every possible street festival or free event the city has to offer – sometimes ending up in places Nicole admits she would never have dreamed about going to if it wasn’t for Maya.

“She loves animals, so I took her to a dog show. We were the only ones that don’t own dogs, but dog owners love kids petting their dogs,” says Nicole.

Even now that Nicole in studying to complete her MBA at the University of Toronto, she still makes time to see Maya. Nicole sees this as a lasting friendship and their futures unquestionably entwined.

“She is like ‘I am going to meet your kids’ and I am like ‘I am without child’ – we joke all the time,” says Nicole.


Be sure to check out this ultra cute video of Nicole and Maya talking about how they have indeed made the perfect mentoring match.

Nicole + Maya = #SoAwesome