Why I became a big sister with BBBS
Pay it forward. Why becoming a big sister or big brother is so important.
I'll never forget the day I was matched with my big sister in B.C. Canada. Her name was Rhonda, she owned a 1980 Camaro and her bangs were teased higher than the pop singer sensation, Tiffany.
She was around to fill a void after my parents divorced and having that time together on a weekly basis felt like I could escape from reality. Fast forward 25 years later, and now I'm a big sister to a little sister in Cork, Ireland.
When I stumbled across the Irish organization, Foroige I learned that they were facilitating the Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) programme in Ireland. I expressed my interest via email and was contacted immediately for a face to face introduction with the programme officer. It was an informal meeting to establish my interest in becoming a big sister and understand the next steps if wanting to progress.
I was delighted to learn that the application and training process was rigorous given that the end goal is dealing with young people. Foroige complies with the current child protection legislation. They are a reputable Irish organisation enabling young people to involve themselves consciously and actively in their development and in the development of society.
From the moment I commenced conversations with Foroige about becoming a big sister in December, I was officially matched with my little in April. That included processing application, garda vetting, references, official training, interview process and visiting my residence. Foroige's mission is to match you with a little based on similar interests and of course what you're comfortable with in terms of the little's circumstances.
The day I was matched with my little sister is a memory I will keep forever. She's a teenager so I had to think on my feet, keep my cool and let the conversation flow organically. We immediately clicked and were excited to firm up our first meet.
As part of the programme you are expected to spend 1-2 hours per week with your little so we decided to meet every Thursday after my work hours. Our first encounter was at Funderland. What I love the most is that you get to revisit your youth and do the things that (let's be honest) on your own or with other adults might cause some to raise eyebrows. But.... with your little, it's perfectly acceptable to bounce around the activity park on the flying swings, haunted house or get soaked on the roller coaster!
Our weekly activities change depending on our interests, the weather and each other's availability. We visit the cinema, go for dinner, city centre for window shopping, bowling, arts and crafts, swimming at Ballyhass Lakes, manicures or just get a coffee at Costa for the chats. It allows both of us to disconnect from work/school and from our own personal lives which was welcomed.
My little sister is a motivated, confident and a resourceful teenager. She's an academic so her focus is on her studies, grades and making time for tests and assignments. She's an extremely bright and witty young woman that has more street smarts than some adults. This makes our conversations extremely entertaining and keeps me grounded and connected to the younger generation's lingo!
I really enjoy our time together as it provides an opportunity to empower, mentor and make her feel important during a time that can be difficult for many young people. It's been the most rewarding part of my adult life knowing that I'm making a positive impact on a young person.
I would encourage everyone to become a big brother or big sister as Foroige have limited volunteers and are in need of your assistance. Start the conversation to determine if this is for you and get ready to make a huge difference to a young person's life. #foroige #bbbs #payitforward