Young Toronto man helped by older mentor becomes a mentor himself

TORONTO – For most of us, there’s that one person in our life that we look up to, that inspires us. For Charlie Lo, that person was and still is Phillipe Devos.

“You know, I get as much out of Charlie as I give him,” says Devos. “He’s much more outgoing than I am, so when we are in social settings, he’s the one making the introductions —; he’s the one making the connections.”

But that wasn’t always the case. Growing up, Lo was a hyperactive child with low self-esteem.

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“I actually had a learning disability so I was actually falling behind in reading and writing,” he says. “My mom, who was a newcomer to Canada didn’t speak English so she couldn’t teach me to read or write.”

By the time Lo was eight, his mother had connected him with the Peer Project, an organization that helps at-risk and newcomer children and youth find their way by pairing them with a youth mentor who can offer support and guidance. For Lo, Devos was that mentor.

“Philippe taught me those skills like reading and writing, and because of that, I went to George Brown, I went to college, finished high school,” says Lo.

Peer Project mentors attend mandatory training sessions to better support the children with whom they are matched. Mentors agree to spend three hours a week with a child for one year. But in the case of Lo and Devos, it’s been 15 —; and still going strong.

Two years ago, Devos decided to take on the role of mentor to 9-year-old Jeffrey Mei. He hasn’t looked back.

“It was important to now give to Jeffrey, because I felt like I had all these great experiences,” he says. “I felt like I should give back to someone else and share that with someone else.”

Each week, Lo takes Jeffrey out to the park, plays sports with him or goes bike riding —; just a few of things Jeffrey looks forward to.

“He takes me to new places, because every day I am home lonely with nobody to play with except for my sisters,” Jeffrey says.

Fifteen years ago, Lo was mentored by Devos —; a match so strong, they continue as friends today.

“To see him now mentoring his own child, working, being successful in school, all those things to him anyway seemed out of reach when we first started connecting,” says Devos. “Now, they’re well within his grasp.”