Big Brothers Big Sisters tries to build lasting relationships

October 21, 2004|KATIE McBRIDE

Looking for an opportunity to get in touch with your inner child? Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters is an excellent chance to help local children and have fun.

Big Brothers Big Sisters provides one-on-one mentorship with children of single-parent families. Libby Suttles, regional coordinator with Big Brothers Big Sisters, says the program mainly works with children ages 6-13, but financially supports the match until the little brother or sister is 18.

There are three programs that people can participate in: school-based, community-based, and escapades.

The school-based program is one hour a week meeting with the child in school. The first 20-30 minutes are spent on academics, and the rest of the time is spent developing a relationship by playing games, talking and making crafts.

The community-based program involves three to four activities per month. Some possibilities include meeting to play cards, go to a movie, play outside, or do a creative project.


There are also escapades about twice a year with Centre College students. These are day-long activities between volunteers and children who are on the waiting list for a match. Officials say this is an important opportunity for the kids to not feel forgotten and also a good recruiting opportunity for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Children from Boyle, Lincoln and Garrard

The local Big Brothers Big Sisters supports children from Boyle, Lincoln and Garrard counties. With help from the United Way, which makes up 60 percent of its budget, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been able to add the school-based programming and more employees. Suttles says that there were only six matches 11 years ago, but now the agency supports more than 150.

"The Heart of Kentucky has been incredibly giving," she says.

There are currently 50 children waiting to be matched, but Suttles says "just to give a number doesn't demonstrate how incredible our kids are."

Suttles describes the program as "life changing without a doubt." Two little sisters are about to graduate from high school and be the first generation from their families to go to college. "We work with kids who don't have a lot of hope, but to have that one person stay true and say, 'I care about you' really makes the difference," says Suttles.

Suttles explains that the main purpose for Big Brothers Big Sisters is "to enhance the life of a child, but also develop that trust and encouragement to draw all of their unique qualities."

The program shows significant results in self-esteem enhancement and cultural exposure. From the academic angle, absences decrease, grades increase and involvement with extracurricular activities increases.

The little brothers and sisters aren't the only ones who reap the benefits of this program. Trina McFarland, director of community service at Centre College and big sister to Breon Oliver, 9, says, "I learn a lot from her, probably more than she learns from me. My time with her is the best time of my week."

She chose Big Brothers Big Sisters

McFarland didn't rush into joining Big Brothers Big Sisters. "As community service director, I see so many amazing projects, and I wanted to watch them before committing to one. This was the program that called out at me.

"My mom was a single mom and raised me and although I wasn't involved with this program I could have benefitted from it. I wanted to give that to someone else."

The time spent with a little brother or sister doesn't have to be extravagant. "Mostly we just have fun together, and we talk about things going on in her life," McFarland says.

"One of the best times we had we went to the park. I was really tired and thinking I wasn't going to be as energetic. I got in the sandbox with her, and we hung upside down from the monkey bars and did cartwheels. She loved that day! She brings out the kid in me."

The entire family is able to benefit from Big Brothers Big Sisters. McFarland and Oliver's mother, Natalie, have become close friends. Natalie Oliver says that Big Brothers Big Sisters has been "a blessing for my daughter and myself" and has provided "a type of support system as a single mom."

"Trina is a role model for my daughter, not only a role model but a sense of strength, not just a big sister but a sister."

Breon Oliver also describes McFarland as a great role model for her. "She makes me feel more happy about life when I'm sad about something. She makes me smile when she smiles."

Central Kentucky News Articles