Big Brothers, Big Sisters symbolize Mentoring Month

Did you know that January is National Mentoring Month?

If so, you might wonder, “Why is there a need for such a month?”

The answer is, having a named month helps raise awareness, not only of an important need, but also an important opportunity.  In the United States right now there are more than 9 million young people who need extra guidance and support.

That means there are 9 million opportunities for an adult to make an enormous difference in the life of a young person.

Jessica Mimms, Eastern Shore Executive Director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake, reports that the adult volunteers who participate as mentors in BBBS usually find the mentoring experience to be enormously fulfilling.

The children who need mentoring often come from homes without fathers.  In many cases, the mother may be absent as well, with the child being raised by a grandparent.

It can be a lonely and difficult situation. One in three of these children report that they have no meaningful connection with an adult outside their home.  These are children who feel alone and without guidance.

BBBS is in business to help change that.  When a Little (that is, a youngster) is paired with a Big (that is an adult mentor), transformations happen. The mentoring relationship helps meet one of the deepest needs of most human beings and that is the need for friendship and connection. Further, the Little will almost certainly have his or her eyes opened to a better future

Adult volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters commit to at least a year of interaction with their Little.  The match is likely to be successful because the caseworkers at BBBS put a lot of effort into finding pairs who will be compatible.

In any given month during their roughly two to four times together, the Big and the Little might do things they’d both enjoy, like going to a movie or the Salisbury Zoo or maybe they just hang out and talk. They’re also likely to have long talks about the Big’s own life and what worked and didn’t work for the Big.

Often these talks will turn to how the Little is doing in school, what he or she needs to do to graduate, and what he or she wants to do afterwards. The Little has a friend and an advocate and no longer feels alone.

Jessica Mimms would love to have this kind of mentoring for every child who wants it. Unfortunately, there currently aren’t enough adult volunteers to meet the need.

If you’d like to help a youngster navigate the challenges he or she is facing, Mimms would very much like to hear from you.

However, if this is a greater time  commitment than is right for you, Mimms would still welcome your participation.  BBBS has just inaugurated “Positive Pathways,” a monthly workshop for youngsters over 14 who are on the waiting list for getting their own Big.

At these evening workshops, 15 youngsters come once a month for two and a half hours. They make friends, socialize, and listen to adults who in turn listen to them, share experiences, and encourage the youngsters.

If you’d like to be a BBBS volunteer, whether as a mentor or helping as an occasional Positive Pathways speaker, Jessica Mimms would like to hear from you.  Her phone number at Big Brothers Big Sisters is: 443-366-2471 and her e-mail is:

Salisbury author Mitzi Perdue writes about local United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore funded agencies for Salisbury Independent.

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