At one point or another, I’m sure you’ve heard of Big Brothers Big Sisters in some form or fashion. If not, let me introduce it to you and share my story. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nonprofit organization in numerous areas throughout the US. The program is mentor-based where an adult can mentor a child who might need a positive influence in his or her life. Before I was involved with the program, I always had the idea that it was for kids who might not have one or both parents alive or in their lives, but that’s not always the case. Children are usually identified through teachers and educators in the child’s school as someone who could benefit with some one-on-one time with an influential adult.
I became part of Big Brothers Big Sisters almost 5 years ago. I was recently divorced at the time and had heard about a few experiences that my work supervisor had with her Little Sister. I’ve always been a fan of volunteer work, and I was looking for something to do with my time other than working and dating.
The interview process has multiple levels so that you are more likely matched with a child who can get the most out of an adult with common interests. They carefully match kids with adults and never press it on too fast just because they have unmatched kids and unmatched adults. I applied in October of 2008 but wasn’t matched until April of 2009.
There are more women volunteers and more male kids needing to match, so it’s not always a Big Sister with a Little Sister or a Big Brother with a Little Brother. Some women prefer having a Little Brother for various reasons, usually because they grew up in a house with more boys, so it doesn’t have to always fit into some standard scenario. In the class that I took to learn about being a mentor, we learned it’s more about how you bond with people. I knew early on that I wanted a Little Sister.
Another misconception is that you are only matched with kids missing a parent of the same gender as the mentor. In my case, I was matched with a Little Sister whose mother was (and still is) a great mother to her two kids. I was not taking the place of an absent mother. I admit that it was a little odd at first, given the misconception that I had, but it was soon apparent that my Little Sister might not need another female role model in her life, but having any role model was a positive experience.
My Little Sister was introduced to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program because her older brother was in the program, and she felt like she was missing out on something awesome if her brother was getting to go out and do things with his Big Brother. I soon learned that my time with my Little Sister gave her some one-on-one time with an adult, where our time was about doing something she enjoyed. It also allowed her mom to have some one-on-one time with my Little Sister’s brother while I was out with my Little Sister. It ended up being beneficial to everyone.
Through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, we attended many events sponsored by, through or because of the program. We attended picnics, skating parties, craft parties, hockey games and nature outings all because of our connection with the program. Not everything you do with your Little Sister or Little Brother is free, but they generally try to help you find low cost outings. It doesn’t have to be expensive, so don’t let that deter you from looking into mentoring a kid. It really is all about spending some quality time with a kid. Many matches enjoy sports, reading or other adventures together. My Little Sister and I have done lots and lots of crafts together.
My Little Sister and I are still together, almost 5 years later. We’re no longer matched through the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, because she moved to another county, but we still do things together at least once a month. One thing I have learned through this entire experience is that it is not only about what my Little Sister gets out of my mentoring her, but it is also about what I get out of being her mentor and learning from her, as well. The experience has been tremendously great for me, just as much as it has been for her. I am truly blessed because she and her family are in my life.
I encourage you to think about what you might be able to offer in mentoring a kid. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee information is below, but there is most likely a program in your area through another Big Brothers Big Sisters group or other similar mentor programs.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee
1704 Charlotte Avenue, Suite 130
Nashville, Tennessee 37203
This post is part of a series I am writing, 31 Days of Nashville, where I am introducing several awesome places that make Nashville a great place to live and visit. Each day of the week has a different theme, and I am trying to focus on those hidden gems that aren’t as well known but just as worthy.