Aisling Walsh is a Big Brother Big Sister project officer in Westmeath. Here she tells us a little bit about the project, how it helps children in the community and what you need to do to get involved.
I am a project worker with Foroige’s Big Brother Big Sister youth mentoring programme here in Westmeath. I work with young people and volunteers in the locality who want to get involved in the programme. Big Brother Big Sister is a youth mentoring programme that matches young people, who simply need a little bit of extra support in their lives, to an adult volunteer, who we feel they will get on well with and benefit from. They meet once a week to do activities that they both enjoy.
In truth the programme is so much more than that. At the risk of sounding clichéd, it really is a story of inspiration. Little sisters are inspired by their big sisters; big brothers are inspired by their little brothers. They enjoy each others’ company; they become part of each others lives. I recently had a mother tell me she actually doesn’t know where she would be without the friendship of her daughter’s big sister, she was so grateful to me and so grateful to the volunteer. She could see how much of a positive impact that volunteer has made in her daughter’s life every week. All they do is hang out, go for coffee, walk, shop, the same things any girl would do with her friends. But it’s not just a friendship; it is support, it is an adult that isn’t your parent imparting some words of wisdom, guiding you where you might be a little lost.
Now I’m going to appeal to you; because I want to finish this article on a positive note, I’m putting this bit in the middle. Don’t give up on me now, just read on a little further! We have, like I mentioned, some wonderful volunteers, but we do however need more male volunteers. We need some guys who feel that they’d be good with young lads, or even a group of guys who would be willing to meet for a few weeks, to play soccer, GAA, basketball, rugby, anything. Do you know anyone (group or individual ) that would be good to help us out for a few weeks? Think about it, please, and call the number below!
Now that the appealing is out of the way, I’ll carry on!
As the person who organises the programme, I don’t see the day-to-day benefits, I just hear about them from the volunteers, parents, and young people. The little brothers tell me that they think their big brother is cool, he knows all about soccer or that they loved when their big sister asked them for their opinions on an outfit for a wedding. Simple things that make a huge difference. The programme couldn’t exist without the volunteers. These people give up their time to participate, to undergo a procedure that tells us if they are suitable for our programme and what type of person they are. This is so important as each young person and adult volunteer gets the chance to be matched with someone suited to their personalities and with similar interests. The volunteers, once accepted, undergo training, and then they meet their littles on a weekly basis. They are the life and soul of the programme; they are what makes it work. For their efforts I want to thank them; thank you so so much to all the big brothers and sisters in the Westmeath area for your enthusiasm and dedication to the young people in your community. Also to all the people who support the programme in schools, on advisory committees, in our fundraising efforts, thank you!
If you would like any more information about volunteering or you have a fundraising idea you would like to share, please contact Aisling on (086 ) 8596879, email [email protected] or log on towww.bbbsireland.ie