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Big Brothers Big Sisters: Where Volunteers Get Even More Than They Give

January is National Mentoring Month.

All month long we are featuring guest posts from many of our local nonprofits that work with youth and need volunteers to become mentors and tutors. On January 26, 2012, the United Way Volunteer Center invites you to our annual Mentor and Tutor Opportunity Fair from 11:00 - 2:00 at the Omni Hotel. There you will be able to meet in person with representatives from 17 local organizations and fit the right fit for you as a mentor or tutor.

Mentor. Tutor. Pass it on!

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I’ve been volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge for the past few months, covering group events and writing articles for their online newsletter. At each event I’ve attended, I’ve been continually amazed by how much fun everyone was having—not just Littles, but Bigs too. I have to admit that it’s unclear to me who enjoys the program more, because the volunteers are always some of the happiest people in the room!

Traditionally, I have viewed volunteers, or Bigs, as “helpers.” They are the ones who support and encourage Littles; they are the ones that Littles look up to and learn from. Imagine my surprise when I was fortunate enough to witness a tender-hearted moment where the Little was the one encouraging the Big! Talk about a role reversal!

This unexpected scene played out at the recent holiday ice skating party in downtown Charlottesville. One pair in particular caught my attention—the Little was an experienced skater, but it was the Big’s first time on the ice. When the pair took to the ice, the Big nervously clung to the railing while the Little patiently skated by her side. And while it was apparent that the Little could have skated circles around most people on the rink, she loyally refused to leave her Big’s side.

The pair proceeded to circle the rink this way, with the Big clutching the railing and the Little sweetly shouting words of encouragement. The Little only left her Big’s side twice, to protectively clear the path along the railing as needed. Finally, once the Big felt somewhat confident, the Little held out her hand and slowly coached her Big away from the railing towards the middle of the rink.

It was endearing to see this gentle scene play out. The proud, determined face of the Little—who was only half as tall as her Big—shouting, “you’re doing good, keep going!” Meanwhile, the wide-eyed Big nodding and clutching her Little’s hand, drawing all the support she needed from her newfound ice skating coach.

This scene demonstrated to me that, at Big Brothers Big Sisters, it really is a two-way street. Bigs benefit just as much—or more so!—from the program as Littles. It’s an amazing deal when you think of it. In exchange for donating their time, Bigs get back so much more in return:  friendship, trust, adoration…and even the occasional coaching lesson!

Guest post by: Angelique Paul, Red Press, LLC,  BBBS mentor

 

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