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Big Brother/Big Sister

The Big Brother/Big Sister program is a mentoring initiative designed to support the emotional and social development of children and adolescents through one-on-one relationships with adult volunteers. These mentors provide guidance, friendship, and support to help young people navigate challenges, build confidence, and achieve their potential. The program aims to create meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), focusing on the development of positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

Best Age to Start

Children and adolescents aged 6 to 18 are eligible to become “Littles” in the Big Brother/Big Sister program. Adults 18 and older can volunteer to become “Bigs.” The program is designed to cater to the needs of young people at various stages of their development, from early childhood through adolescence.

Benefits

  • For Littles:
    • Improved self-esteem and self-confidence.
    • Better relationships with peers and family members.
    • Lower likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.
    • Enhanced academic performance and educational aspirations.
  • For Bigs:
    • A sense of fulfillment from making a positive impact in a child’s life.
    • Enhanced leadership and communication skills.
    • Opportunities for personal growth and development.

Resources

  • Websites: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (bbbs.org) provides comprehensive information on how to become involved, either as a Big or as a Little.
  • Books: “The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships” by Lois J. Zachary, available on Amazon, offers insights into effective mentoring techniques and strategies.
  • Documentaries/Movies: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” – a documentary about Fred Rogers, exemplifies the profound impact that caring and mentorship can have on the lives of young people.

Equipment and Materials

No specific equipment or materials are required to participate in the Big Brother/Big Sister program. However, engaging in various activities may incur some costs:

  • Activity Costs: Varies depending on the chosen activities. Many mentors and mentees enjoy low-cost or no-cost activities, such as visiting parks, doing crafts, or playing sports together.
  • Membership Fees: There are no fees to join the Big Brother/Big Sister program, but volunteers may undergo a background check, the cost of which is typically covered by the organization or may be the responsibility of the volunteer, depending on the local agency’s policy.

Starting Tips

  1. Commitment: Be prepared to commit to the program for at least a year to ensure a stable and impactful relationship with your Little.
  2. Be Open: Approach the relationship with openness, patience, and a willingness to learn from the experience.
  3. Listen Actively: Many Littles need someone to listen and offer support; your attention can make a big difference.
  4. Plan Engaging Activities: Think of fun, educational, and inexpensive activities that match both your interests.
  5. Respect Boundaries: Maintain a professional relationship with your Little, respecting their boundaries and those set by the program.

Frequency

The Big Brother/Big Sister program typically requires a commitment to meet with your Little 2-4 times a month for a few hours each time. The consistency and regularity of these meetings are crucial to developing a meaningful mentor-mentee relationship.

Requirements/Tasks for Mastery

  1. Build a Strong Relationship: Establish trust and rapport with your Little through consistent, reliable engagement.
  2. Positive Impact: Demonstrate a measurable positive impact on your Little’s life, in terms of academic performance, behavior, and emotional well-being.
  3. Active Participation: Engage actively in program events and training opportunities to enhance your mentoring skills.
  4. Feedback and Reflection: Provide and receive feedback effectively, using it to strengthen the mentor-mentee relationship.
  5. Advocacy and Support: Advocate for your Little’s needs and support them in achieving their goals and overcoming challenges.

Famous Mentors

While the Big Brother/Big Sister program focuses on everyday individuals making a difference rather than celebrity status, famous individuals who have spoken about the importance of mentorship include:

  • Oprah Winfrey: Has often discussed the impact of her mentors in guiding her career and life.
  • Maya Angelou: Served as a mentor to Oprah Winfrey and many others, emphasizing the importance of passing wisdom and encouragement to the next generation.

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