My 'Little Sister' and I have been meeting up since September '09. Just before Christmas, one of our activities was painting. We used acrylic paints and had a lot of fun with them even though I hadn't painted since I was a child. She however was very good and the picture she made that day was beautiful. It was of a tree with blossoms on and three birds in the sky but the part that really made it special for me was a shaft of light that came from the sky over the tree and lit up the ground around the tree. And further more, the paints we were using only came from the pound shop! I was really impressed with her gift for art and she inspired me to have a go at painting a proper picture myself, which in due course I did.
However the best was yet to come. On Mother's Day, my 'little Sister's' family invited me to dinner with them at their home. We had a lovely meal and desert and chatted about all sorts. Then my 'Little Sister' disappeared for a moment but returned to the room with a gift wrapped package in her hands. She presented me with it and it turned out to be the picture, framed and with a lovely note on the back hand written by her.
I was deeply touched by her thoughtfulness and delighted to hang the picture in pride of place in my kitchen. It catches people's eye and they ask about the picture. I am proud to tell them about my very gifted young friend and also tell them about the BBBS program and how rewarding it is to be involved.
My 'Little Sister' and I have done lots of fun things together and each week I look forward to meeting her. She is a delight to be with and we always have a laugh. Last week we chased the sunset until we got to a place where we could watch the sun sink into the sea! It's not everyone you could do that with, is it?
Big Sister, Donegal
"Applying to the programme is one of the best things I have ever done for my son. I have already noticed a big improvement in his self confidence. He really looks forward to it every week."
"I can't imagine life without her (little sister) now. She is a wonderful addition to my life."
"The programme has been great for my daughter. Her big sister has given her that bit of extra support that she really needed."
"It has been a great success. My son gets on great with his big brother and it has given him a really good male role model. Before the programme he didn't have any a male influence in his life. Now he has someone to play football with go fishing with and all those kind of things."
"I really enjoy the group events, where all the matches from the region get together. It's a great chance for me to see each of the matches interacting with each other...how well the bigs and littles have gotten to know each other, and how the bigs support and encourage their littles doing group activities."
"Being a Big Brother has been very rewarding over the past 2 years. It is great to see how our friendship has grown from the first few very quiet meetings to the constant chat we enjoy now. The weekend spent in the Delphi resort was a great "get to know you" experience and the Bigs and Littles seemed to enjoy it equally. It was hard to tell who was who at times. It was also great to meet up with other matches and share stories. I would recommend it to anyone who has a few spare hours a week to give."
A Big Brother in Sligo who is matched to his little for two years.
"Regarding my experience with BBBS, it has been nothing but positive to date. Myself and my little sister get on well and I feel that we were very well matched. We have a lot in common and it's normally pretty easy to pick something that we both want to do. Since Christmas we have managed to meet nearly every week and I think it's made a big difference. There aren't many silences anymore and she is much more chatty than in the beginning.
She has come out to my house a couple of times - we made pizza's from scratch one day and made pancakes on Pancake Tuesday. Another week we spent a day in Carrick-On-Shannon, going to Kidz Kingdom and doing a bit of shopping. We've brought my dog out for walks and we've gone swimming. My little sister has big plans for the summer months! She wants us to go to Waterworld in Bundoran, go fishing (!) and go to Dublin for the day to go to the zoo"
From a Big Sister, sharing her experience with the programme.
"It's good fun - myself and my little brother have a bit of craic together, and I try to encourage and support him in the things he has going on. When we meet he asks about my week too, which is nice."
Big Brother, Dublin
"I have a strong belief that young people need alternatives to what is available nowadays.... the Big Brother Big Sister Programme is a nice alternative, and it is a way for me to contribute to that, so rather than just saying it, it's a matter of doing it...."
Big Brother, Galway
"This has been a fantastic opportunity for me and my little brother. We are matched now over a year and this weekend has really opened my eyes as to how much he has matured during this time, in terms of his confidence in his interaction with other young people and adults. We went surfing this morning, the two of us were in the one canoe trying to get it to go in the one direction. He was instructing me!! It was hilarious"
Big Brother, National Event, Delphi Adventure Centre
"The programme is an excellent way for volunteers to engage with young people through common interests and talents. The friendship that develops assists the young person to become a productive and healthy adult. Volunteers are the backbone of the programme. Their commitment to making a positive difference in the life of a young person is to be admired as it is a valuable resource to the community here"
Staff member, Sligo
I have had the privilege to work as a link teacher for the mentoring programme in our school.
It has been a wonderful and enriching experience for the school, the students involved and for me.
Students have benefited greatly. The senior students have given up freely of their time lunchtime to mentor a first year. In doing this they have taken on the responsibility of looking out for a first year and also learned the benefits of giving freely of their time for someone else. 5th years have developed and matured as a result.
The 1st years transition into secondary school has been made so much easier as a result of this programme. They have enjoyed meeting up with their Big Brother, Big Sister, playing games, listening to music or just chatting. As a result of this link they feel at ease with the senior students. It has meant that in the last two years since this programme was introduced in our school we have experienced no incidence of inappropriate behaviour or bullying among first years. This speaks for itself I believe.
This programme has benefited the school as a whole as it has created and developed a caring, respectful atmosphere in the school which has in turn promoted a healthy learning environment. From a personal point of view I have got to know the students on a more informal level. It has helped give me a better understanding of the students and I hope it has made me a better teacher. I have learned also the benefits of giving my time and most of all I have had great fun and enjoyment out of doing this programme.
For me the benefits are mutual and life long, so much so that it is a great privilege and not work involved in this worthwhile programme.
Link Teacher - Mayo.
"The boy I am matched with doesn't have great role models in his life, so it is helpful for him to be taken out of his day-to-day situation and gain a new perspective ".
Big Brother, Dublin
"BBBS has helped me in many ways...each week i am learning new skills with my big sister, like jewellery making and baking cookies..it as also helped to build my confidence...i would like to be a big sister when i am older so that i can help out someone else".
"I was fortunate enough to have adults in my life growing up that I could turn to for advice and support if I needed it. I would like to think that I could offer the same to someone else, and this programme provided me with the opportunity to do so."