Be a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters
When you were a kid, was there an adult in your life – someone besides your mom or dad – who was your mentor? Perhaps it was a teacher, coach, librarian or scout leader, or someone who shared your passion for piano or model airplanes. If you were lucky enough to have an adult mentor, you probably had lots of fun and learned useful life lessons in the process.
January is National Mentor Month, an opportunity to harness the community’s attention on the need for adult mentors, and the great opportunities which exist today for adults to mentor kids. No other organization puts so much effort and expertise into making it happen as Big Brothers Big Sisters. All across the nation, Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates match adult volunteers with kids who need a responsible adult in their life, someone they can rely on to be there for them every week, someone who offers an attentive ear, sensitive advice – a caring companion.
The Center for Human Development provides support for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, which has been at work since 1975 connecting “Bigs” and “Littles” in our area. Let me tell you about some matches we’ve made.
As a former public school principal, Tim worked with many children coming from families facing multiple challenges. When the last of his three kids went off to college, he and his wife found themselves with an empty nest, so he decided he wanted to actively help change a kid’s life. In August 2012, Tim became a Big Brother to 10 year old Excalibur. Their favorite activities include attending sporting events, swimming, playing basketball, eating, and going to the movies. Tim provides Excalibur with undivided one-to-one attention as they develop a trusting friendship and enjoy new experiences, and Excalibur, with his laughter and active personality, provides Tim the opportunity to feel like a kid again.
Michelle and Morry were matched in 2012. Since then they have enjoyed facing challenges and adventures together, whether that’s meant pumpkin carving, navigating an outdoor maze or making dinner. Michelle loves how spending time with Morry lets her step away from her daily routine and enjoy things she enjoyed as a kid, such as playing imaginary school.
Retired Big Brother Ray was matched with 13-year old Martin in 2012 because of their shared interests in science, board games, and bad jokes. During their weekly visits, the two became fast friends as together they learned and mastered nine different versions of chess. Ray admits that Martin beats him most of the time, but he enjoys the challenges of being a Big Brother. Now that Martin is 16, Ray enjoys hearing about all of his adventures as a high school student. Martin’s week just wouldn’t be the same without his Thursday “guy time” with Ray after school.
You can imagine the fun these Bigs and Littles have. Their trust, friendship, mutual respect for one another, is what really matters. As a Big, you’re not a tutor or parent or a wealthy relative, you’re simply someone who is there to develop a friendship with a kid. Our Littles have had too many disappointments in the short time they have been on the planet, so Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County does everything possible to ensure the success of each match and works to nurture the relationship. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A Big just needs to make their Little a part of what they would normally do anyway – hike, shop, watch a movie, go for a run or to the gym, cook, read and the list goes on and on.
Not surprisingly, there are many more Littles than Bigs. In Hampshire County alone, 180 kids are on the waiting list. About two-thirds are boys. We really need new Bigs to step up and be matches for kids. There are no special qualifications or age restrictions. Some Bigs have careers, others are retired. In greater Amherst, many Bigs are college students.
What about you? Make a New Year’s resolution that matters. Be a mentor to a kid.
Renée Moss is the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County, a program of CHD. Renée can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org