Social Question

Likeradar's avatar

Care to share experiences with Big Brothers/Big Sisters?

Asked by Likeradar (19555 points ) September 1st, 2009

I have a little time freed up this year, and I’m considering donating my time to Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Do any of you have experience, opinions, or info about the organization you’d like to share from either the POV of a Big or Little Bro/Sis?

Thanks!

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9 Answers

answerjill's avatar

I had a very good experience as a Big Sis. I did it for a couple of years, but I did the less intensive program. That is, at my local branch, they had two programs. One involved spending about 6 hours a week with the kid and you would decide where you were going to meet and hang-out. The one that I did was less time-consuming and independent. I went to the child’s elementary school once a week and spent lunchtime with her. We would chat, eat lunch, and then do something like read together, play on the playground, or work on the computers. I highly recommend the experience. I started doing it at a difficult time in my life, but it felt good to be productive and to see how happy she was to see me each week. I was helping her, but she was also helping me!

dee1313's avatar

I’d also like to hear about it too, as I too have been thinking about it. Do you just hang out with a kid where ever, or is there a goal for each hang-out time?

Darwin's avatar

My husband was deeply involved in Big Brothers before we married, and I know he felt his time was a valuable gift to the kids he worked with. He also was a Boy Scout for 52 years and did much the same thing with the boys in his troop whose dads were serving overseas. He would generally set up an activity, such as going bowling or going hiking, and then he and the kid would do this together. Thus there was something to do but also plenty of time to just talk if needed.

Since my husband is now disabled and unable to do all the “guy things” with our son, we contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters to try to find a Big Brother for him. They were very nice and very thorough in their interview process. Unfortunately, the demand for Big Brothers is far greater than the availability, so we have never been able to get assigned to one.

However, we are doing a similar thing through our church with what we call a “loaner Dad.” About once a week he will call in advance to be certain what he plans to do meets with my approval and fits in our schedule, and then he will come get my son for the activity. Once he took my son on a fishing boat, once to go SCUBA diving, and last weekend they just hung out and worked on his car. Next week they are supposed to go out in the country and ride ATVs (and probably spend a lot of time fixing them), which is something my son is really looking forward to doing.

Sometimes sports coaches fill a similar role, especially in leagues that cater to the lower income kids. My son was also in the baseball program put on by the Salvation Army and the Police Athletic League. That coach was terrific with the boys and even had extra events outside of practice and games. He took the team to Fiesta Texas and held several barbecues for them. He also holds study sessions in his living room. Generally, the guys who do this best are ones who grew up poor and/or without a dad, but have managed to be successful in spite of their hurdles.

YARNLADY's avatar

My Grandsons were helped a great deal with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in Yuma, AZ, where they grew up without a Dad. The program worked through the Boy and Girls Club which provided a place for them to meet, work and play in a safe environment.

akmcg's avatar

I had a negative experience as a Big Sister. I did it for about a year, but never really felt like I connected w/ the kid although I tried all the “right” stuff. Some people just don’t click naturally. I ended up feeling like I was being used in a way b/c all the stuff she wanted to do had a price tag to it. I realize that her family wasn’t financially stable but nor was I (her mom continued to make a lot of bad decisions that affected them financially but we won’t go into that…)We did a lot of fun activities but after a while I explained to her that we needed to start choosing activities together that didn’t cost money. She ended up stealing from me. I was at the point where I was fed up w/ the situation and I was about to enter a very time consuming 4 year endeavor so I ended the arrangment. I felt really guilty about it because she probably felt that in some way, all the adults had “given up on her”, but I could’nt mentally handle it anymore…I wasn’t able to help her in the way she needed help…I still feel really sad about the whole thing and it was years ago. It’s hard b/c they only have so much information to go on when pairing up Bigs and Littles so I am not sure what the answer is. Just make sure you have your intentions clear to begin with and get some of those coupons and freebies from the organization to help you do fun activities for cheap. I hope this helps in some way.

Darwin's avatar

@akmcg – Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. If it helps any, I slip our loaner dad money for things like fast food, or I buy the tickets to whatever and then hand them over so he doesn’t have to lay out lots of cash. He is relatively young and not yet making a big salary.

My son has brought home kids like the girl you were paired with. It isn’t so much Big Brothers, Big Sisters’ fault, as the fault of the parent. However, you might feel as if you wasted your time, but you might be surprised how big an effect you may have had on that girl. It may not show up until she is out on her own, but it never hurts to expose kids to different ways to live.

answerjill's avatar

@akmcg – Sorry to hear about your bad experience! In my program, we were not supposed to spend any money on our “siblings.” Once in a while, I would share a treat from my lunch with her, but that was about it. Sometimes, it was a hard rule to follow, but I think that it was a wise one.

jlm11f's avatar

@Likeradar – Did you take on this project yet? I just did my phone app and am waiting for the face to face interview now. I was about to ask a Fluther Q about this but then saw yours in the search. Would love an update if there is one :)

Likeradar's avatar

@PnL Not yet… I’m back in school more than full time and got a dog, so I’m trying to see what time I have in my schedule when things settle down a bit. Let me know how it goes for you!

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