After a long hiatus, Nathan is back to once again bore readers with his insensible drivel! Hopefully, however, this time you can take something from it, particularly that you might become interested in learning more about or even becoming engaged with Big Brothers Big Sisters in your own region, whether that’s here in northwest Missouri or far away. As a sort of background, I became interested in BBBS by way of my campus minister, Jim Davis, who serves on the board for BBBS of Nodaway County. After speaking with several Bigs and others involved with the organization, I took a fancy to helping out. When I received an assignment to use reading and writing to engage an issue, I knew immediately what my topic would be. What follows is a result of that assignment. I hope you enjoy!
According to an oft-repeated adage, it takes a village to raise a child. Yet is that entirely true? Sometimes, all a child requires is one or two adults who are willing to listen and care for them. For many children, these adults are their parents, but some children are not so lucky as to have a stable family environment at home. Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is a nonprofit organization that connects children in these less than desirable situations with adults who serve as mentors to those children, giving them a friend and confidant. By helping these children, called “Littles”, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes an incredible difference in the course of our communities and although I am unable to take on the time commitment required for volunteering as a mentor, I will contribute by spreading awareness of the cause, this paper included.
Childhood is a pivotal time in a person’s development, and family instability and lack of role models can lead to problem behaviors and negative academic outcomes in children and adolescents. In America today, only 68 percent of children live in a two-parent household, and even then, that number includes non-traditional households such as unmarried, step-, or cohabitating parents (Sandstrom 24).
Non-traditional households are not all to blame, however, as divorces among traditional couples also contributes to family instability. To counteract this, BBBS attempts to provide a foundation for children in these unstable environments to help them overcome these negative effects. In this, the
organization has been effective, with drastic decreases in illegal drug usage, alcohol usage, academic absences, and other delinquent behavior (Big impact – Proven results).
So how can a member of the public contribute? The largest way one interested in supporting BBBS can contribute is by committing time to serve as a mentor, or “Big”, to a child enrolled in the program. Even though the Big may not believe they have any special characteristics or skills to offer the program, just donating time to listen and pay attention to a child who is lacking that relationship in their life can make a difference. According to a study by Public/Private Ventures cited on the BBBS of Greater Kansas City’s Website, “…what mattered to the children were not the activities. It was the fact that they had a caring adult in their lives. Because they had someone to confide in and to look up to, they were, in turn, doing better in school and at home.” Because of this, BBBS encourages anyone who has the ability to listen to volunteer – no special experience required.
The relationship between Littles and Bigs often goes beyond one of friendship, sometimes to the surprise of the Big. Jim Davis, Chairman for BBBS of Nodaway County, says, “many Bigs come in with no expectation that they are going to form lifelong bond with the child. They may anticipate a solid lasting relationship. However I am not sure that all Bigs realize how deep that relationship can and most likely will become over time. It’s a family relationship.” It is important to note that this is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, as matches that do not form this family-like bond and seem more like tutorship are less likely to endure, although they can still positively impact the academic performance of the enrolled child (Big Brothers Big Sisters [BBBS]).
If a member of the public is unable to make the commitment to mentoring a Little or serving in administration, one can still contribute through a variety of means. One of the most important ways is simply to help the organization spread the word about their mission. Word of mouth is important to raise awareness of the organization’s presence in the region. They can invite BBBS to present in churches, clubs, even to a group of friends (Davis). Like many nonprofit movements, BBBS relies on this word of mouth publicity to promote their cause, so while this may not seem an important contribution, doing so truly can make a difference informing people who may not have heard of the organization previously and giving them the opportunity to volunteer.
Few arguments can be made against supporting BBBS, as the evidence of the positive impact the organization has on communities and individuals is very clear. Even a common argument against many charitable organizations – that they overpay administrators – does not seem to apply to BBBS, the national branch of which, BBBS of America, spent only 8.5% of their budget on management (Big Brothers Big Sisters of America 4).
In conclusion, I find supporting BBBS to be one of the simplest and most potentially rewarding charitable activities possible. Because of the benefit they bring to a region and the variety of ways in which a citizen can be involved, almost anyone can and should contribute to their local branch. If the reader is already involved or has been in the past, consider sharing your experience with the organization. According to Davis, “there is amazing power in the narrative of a life changing story,” and telling those stories could truly change the life of someone else.
“Big impact—proven results.” BBBSKC.org. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City, 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.
Davis, Jim. Email interview. 19 Apr. 2016.
Sandstrom, Heather and Sandra Huerta. “The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development.” Low-Income Working Families Discussion Paper. 3. (2013): 24-28. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. http://www.urban.org/research/publication/negative-effects-instability-child-development-research-synthesis/view/full_report
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Audited Financial Statement. Tampa, FL: Crowe Horwath, 2015.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS).” Whatworksforhealth.wisc.edu. University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.