published: Sunday, January 20, 2013
More volunteers needed for Big Brothers Big Sisters
By ROMONA WASHINGTON
SEBRING - There are hundreds of children in the Highlands and Hardee county area who are being raised by grandparents or in single-parent homes. A large number are being raised in single-grandparent homes.
At least 86 of these children have been matched with someone who is acting as a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Another 96 children are desperately hoping for a match, but more volunteers are needed.
Kiko Vazquez, BBBS community resource director for the two counties, said these children have all been identified by teachers or family members as needing to have an adult more involved in their life.
There are two core programs where adults and older teens can volunteer their time.
The School-Based Program allows the volunteers to meet with a child for an hour a week at school. Some students simply want someone to sit and have lunch with them. Vazquez himself is sharing time with a boy in hopes of helping improve the child's reading comprehension.
The Community-Based Program allows more time to be spent between the child and the Big. Anywhere from four to six hours a month are spent together talking and sharing activities in the community - activities that "foster a relationship that helps youth manage the everyday challenges that are part of growing up."
Jane Hancock, a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters board of directors, said many people are intimidated by the Community-Based Program. They feel they are too busy to take on any extra commitments.
"Just let them interact with your family. If you're not comfortable with that, start with the School-Based Program. Every person on earth wants to feel like someone is interested in them," she said.
Just one person getting involved in a child's life can make a big difference. "That is life changing for a child who has no one to spend time with them," Hancock said.
Vazquez tells the story of a family of eight who packed up their home in North Carolina and moved to Sebring to live with family after going through difficult times. After their car was unloaded the parents left to go to the store. They never came back. The youngest of the six children was matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters and was taken with his Big's family to a local restaurant for dinner. The child had to be shown how to order from the menu and when the meal was finished and the family got up to leave, the children remained sitting. He told the family that they shouldn't leave their food and plates on the table.
"We take so many things for granted. I know there are people out there looking for an opportunity to give back from what they've been given," Vazquez said.
Winter residents are more than welcome to volunteer as well. Vazquez tells of one winter resident who volunteered and stayed in contact with her Little during the summer. She sent postcards of their travels and when she returned, she learned that the child had saved all of the postcards and created a small album to look back on. Upon her return, the two were matched up again.
The youngest that a person can be to volunteer with the program must be 16 or a junior in high school. Once the application is filled out and background checks are completed, the volunteer is interviewed to find out their interests to help in making a match with a young child.
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