If you have ever wanted to make a big impact in your community and you have just a few hours to spare each month, there is a great opportunity available right now in the Quad-Cities that you won't want to pass up.|
In June, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley kicked off its 100 Days/100 Bigs Campaign -- a call to service to fill the ever-growing demand for local youth mentors. At that time, more than 150 area children were waiting to be matched.
The campaign ends on Sept. 8, leaving plenty of time left to answer the call. The benefits of doing so are immeasurable.
"It can literally change the lives of children who are facing adversity," Beth Clark, BBBS director of development, explained. "These are kids who are really facing some challenges. When you are able to get the kind of guidance we can provide and keep that relationship going for a long time, we keep that child from getting into trouble and help them become a person who contributes to the community."
I am entering my third school year as a Big. My Little and I meet once a week during her lunch hour at Longfellow Elementary School in Rock Island. I have enjoyed every moment of building this friendship. We talk, laugh, play games, draw, read and otherwise entertain each other.
All my Little has ever asked of me is my time and attention. And what a difference that small amount of time can make in a child's life.
According to research, after 18 months with a match, Little Brothers and Little Sisters are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol, 52 percent less likely to skip school, 37 percent less likely to skip a class and 33 percent less likely to hit someone. And those are only a few statistics. The impact goes far beyond these numbers.
The one-on-one relationship between Bigs and Littles is incomparable and mutually beneficial. Not only does the Little receive the benefit of your nurturing and strengthening presence, you as a Big will gain the personal satisfaction of knowing you are impacting a child's future, and therefore, the future of this community. Besides that, it's just plain fun. My Little makes me laugh. She brings a youthful exuberance into my life that I wouldn't otherwise get and has reminded me what it's like to have experiences through a child's eyes.
There are many ways to participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters, such as becoming a school-based or community-based mentor. The school-based program works with area schools, teachers and counselors to identify children at the elementary level who are in need of a little extra support and encouragement. You are matched with a child and must commit to enjoying activities with them at their school on a regular basis. The community-based program allows you one-on-one outings and activities with your Little in the evenings or on weekends. In both cases, the time commitment is minimal when compared to the impact.
"You don't have to be a child psychologist to do this," Ms. Clark emphasized. "All you have to be is a friend to a child. All it takes is someone who can be a friend to a young person. It's not that difficult, and it doesn't take a lot of time to do."
If you cannot commit to volunteering as a Big, you can still support Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley by making a monetary donation. For more information on how to volunteer or donate, please visit bbbsmv.org.
Brandy Donaldson, a former poiltical reporter, is a communications specialist for a Quad-Cities company.
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