I was not especially eager or excited to volunteer in high school, but since it was required I had no choice. When my friend asked me to sign up for Big Brothers Big Sisters with her, I was not entirely sure what to expect. After hesitantly accepting my friend’s offer, I found myself a part of what became the most rewarding, fun, and eye-opening experiences of my life.
What is Big Brothers Big Sisters
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a non-profit organization which assigns mentors (all of who are background checked and interviewed first) to children in the program. The mentors are intended to provide one-on-one guidance to children who may not receive this at home. Together, the mentors and their children do anything from working on homework, playing sports, going to parks, and more. This personal and constant relationship promotes and encourages the success of these children. Many of the children not only establish a close relationship with their big, but also experience an increase in confidence, motivation to succeed, and improved decision-making skills. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission statement specifically is to “Create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth” (bbbs.org). Knowing this, it is no surprise that this experience is rewarding and beneficial for both the mentor and their little.
Meeting my first sister
Being raised predominantly in the suburbs and attending a very small, private, high school, I wasn’t exposed to much diversity in my teen years. I had not heard much about Big Brothers Big Sisters prior to joining, so I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. The Big Brothers Big Sisters program I had signed up for was an after-school program held at an elementary school in an urban area nearby. Upon entering, I was greeted by a lady who worked for the organization and assigned me to a child to mentor for the afternoon. She explained that the young girl was struggling in school and feeling unmotivated, so I was directed to help her with homework before completing fun activities. I was expecting to meet a grumpy and unruly child, but this was far from true. As I was approaching the young girl, she greeted me with a huge smile on her face. Knowing we had homework to do, I was surprised by her excitement. She took no time to warm up to me, the young girl was clearly outgoing and very friendly. While we worked on our homework this sweet, bubbly little girl began telling me about her life and family at home. In talking to her, it was clear that she didn’t receive much attention at home. She mentioned stories implying of her fathers’ drunken afternoons with friends, where she was left to mostly looking after herself. It was clear that this young girl didn’t understand the problems with this or what was really going on. Still, she was a happy girl full of optimism and good intentions.
An eye-opening experience
She was not the only child I met with trouble at home, either. It truly opened my eyes to hear that many of these children were being held back, by circumstances at home which they couldn’t control or understand. As the school year went on and I worked with other children at this school, it was clear that they did not all have an ideal home life. They were all in this program for different reasons- either both parents worked, they had a single parent, they were raised by elderly grandparents, they needed help in school, or their parents simply didn’t want to spend time with them after school. Hearing all of these heartbreaking stories, I felt like an absolute clown forever complaining about my own family. I was also amazed that so many of these children did not let their circumstances hold them back or affect them. Every child I recall working with was so kind-hearted, sweet and welcoming to me. Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters was definitely an eye-opener and allowed me to meet people I never would have met.
It doesn’t feel like work
Volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters truly did not feel like typical volunteer work. I always enjoy working with kids, but working with these kids was much more fun. Every child I met was excited to be there and excited to have a new big sister, even if only for a day. Many times, Big Brothers Big Sisters was the highlight of my day. I was able to meet so many different children, all different from the last. Their optimism and charismatic attitudes were contagious and fun to be around. I would often find my self giggling with my little and losing track of time playing games together. Although most times I was with a new child each time I returned, I would be greeted by the friendly faces of children I had worked with in the past. Volunteering there often became the highlight of my days, because their optimism and cheery attitudes were contagious and fun to be around. The overall atmosphere of the program was always very pleasant and so much fun to a part of. These reasons are largely why Big Brothers Big Sisters has undoubtedly been one of my favorite volunteer experiences, and one that I can not forget.
A rewarding experience
Working with these kind-hearted children every day, the elementary school and their friendly faces quickly made it feel like home. They knew me by name and always made me feel welcome in their school. Despite how my day had been going, I always left these children feeling happy and with warm feelings. As the school year came to a close, I was honestly a little broken-hearted to be ending my time with Big Brothers Big Sisters. One little girl gave me a hand-made card, saying how much fun she had this year and other sweet messages. Tearing up reading this, my heart hurt to be saying goodbye to these amazing children and the organization I was so deeply involved in. My experiences there were unforgettable in the best ways and taught me more than I could have expected. Big Brothers Big Sisters was truly one of the most rewarding and heart-warming experiences I’ve had.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organization I hold close to my heart and likely will be involved in again. I am beyond grateful to have met such wonderful people and to have had eye-opening and rewarding experiences there. If you haven’t volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I strongly recommend becoming a part of this program.
Featured Image Source: bbbs.org
Senior at FSU.