Are you wondering if you should volunteer as a Big Sister or Big Brother? Here’s my experience as a Big Sister, plus a few thoughts that might help you decide if volunteering as a Big is worth your time.
My Little Sister and I went to the Big Brothers picnic in Vancouver today. My husband is a Big Brother, I worked with two different Big Brothers/Big Sisters organizations, and I was a Big Little Sister when I was 11 years old. I still see my Big Sister, after 35 years! Isn’t that amazing? I live in Vancouver; my Big Sister lives in Toronto. We were matched in Saskatoon so many moons ago.
Below are a few reasons I love volunteering as a Big Sister. My Little Sister is having a huge impact on my life – I feel better about who I am and what I’m doing in this world. If you’re already a Big Sister, read Gift Ideas for Your Sister – Nifty and Thrifty 🙂
Update in late 2016: My Little Sister moved to a different city – a suburb of Vancouver. Our match was officially ended through the Big Sisters organization, because she moved out of the qualifying area. She moved away a year ago, and we still see each other twice a month. She takes public transit to my city, so she can visit her childhood places and neighborhoods. She’s 15 years old now, and our relationship is stronger than ever.
Reasons You’ll Love Volunteering as a Big Sister or Brother
Ideally, your “volunteer job” as a Big Sister or Big Brother will change over time. You’ll become more like family than mentor/mentee. Some Littles are involved in the Bigs’ wedding parties or anniversary bashes, which others stay in touch long after the match is officially closed through the Big Sisters/Brothers organization.
For me, the best reason to volunteer is the life-changing impact you have on a kid’s life. As a Little Sister, I experienced firsthand how encouraging and important it was to have a Big Sister. Her very presence made me feel better about myself – she taught me how to love myself even when I didn’t feel good enough.
Here are a few reasons you should volunteer as a Big Sister or Big Brother, based on my experience with my Little Sister at both the Big Brothers and the Big Sisters picnic, and in my experience as a Little.
1. Little Sisters watch everything you say and do
I asked for extra watermelon at the Big Sisters picnic, and so did she. I chose a particular type of dessert, and so did she. I marched around asking Big and Little Sisters questions about the “Get to Know You” bingo game, and so did she. Mentoring – which is what Big Sisters and Big Brothers is all about – means you’re constantly being watched.
Is this a reason to volunteer as a Big Sister or Big Brother? Yes, because you learn what a huge impact you have on someone’s life, and how important role modeling is. You learn how to filter your words and actions so they are uplifting, kind, respectable, and honorable.
2. Volunteer Big Sisters learn the value of role modeling
I can lecture my Little Sister about manners, life skills, and social interaction until I’m blue in the face, and not have any affect on her. But, if I make a point of saying thank you to bus drivers, flowing with schedule changes, not getting miserable when it rains during the Big Sisters picnic, and not criticizing her family — that’s where I’ll make a difference in her life.
3. Having fun together is life-changing
All I remember about being a Little Sister was roller skating (it was the 80’s, after all), going to a scary movie at the drive in, and going camping. A solid, life-changing mentoring relationship doesn’t have to be about serious heart-to-heart talks about careers, finances, or life decisions. Changing your Little Sister’s life is about showing up once a week, and being enthusiastic about whatever you’re doing. Even if you’re eating cold hot dogs in the pouring rain.
4. Big Sisters get creative
The day you’re matched with your Little Sister, you should immediately start your scrapbook.
Why? Because we met a match at the Big Sisters picnic who have just celebrated their first year together, but couldn’t remember most of the activities they did. That’s why a scrapbook is crucial! They’ve decided to start a Second Year Scrapbook, and regret not starting one when they were first matched.
My Little Sister and I started talking about our scrapbook on our first visit. We daydreamed what it would look like, what we’d include, and how big it should be. We took photos during most of our visits, and whenever we didn’t have anything to do, we worked on our scrapbooks together.
5. Learning how to be a kid again is epic
We watched a magic show at the Big Sisters picnic that we went to as our first outing, and on the way back I thought my Little Sister say it wasn’t that good. I said agreed with her – I could sorta see how the magician was doing his tricks. But my Little Sister said she thought he WAS a good magician! And here I was, cutting down the magician. I felt horrible, like I’d stolen a big of the magic away. So, on our first outing as Big and Little Sister, I realized that I need to embrace the magic, enthusiasm, and wonder of a child.
6. Being a Big Sister changes how you see yourself
Research shows mentoring increases the Little Sister or Little Brother’s self-confidence and self-esteem. But, does research reveal how it impacts the Big Sisters and Big Brothers? I don’t know. I do know that one of my Big Brothers (I’m currently working as a Mentoring Coordinator with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver, which I wrote about in my post about being scared to quit my job) says that being a Big has changed his life.
Are you thinking about volunteering as a Big Sister or Big Brother because you can’t have kids? Read 5 Surprising Secrets for Coping With Childlessness.
If you’re not convinced that you should volunteer as a Big Sister or Brother – for it is a time commitment of 3 hours a week, which isn’t a small matter – consider other ways to support the Big Sisters/Big Brothers organization. For example, I donate a box or bag of clothes, household items, and various accessories to the Big Brothers organization. They take it to Value Village, who pays by weight. Value Village then sells the household items or clothing. Winners all ’round.
Do you have any questions or thoughts about volunteering as a Big Sister or Big Brother? Please comment below.
Thank you, Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland, for the picnic, for matching me with my Big Sister when I was 11, for matching me with my Little Sister when I was 42, and for all the good you do in girls’ and womens’ lives.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me! Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.