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Foróige’s Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS) programme is now available in Kilkenny. For almost 120 years, the BBBS programme has been helping reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with volunteer mentors.
Twenty-two years ago the programme went international, and in 2001 Ireland became one of 14 affiliate countries to match children in need of positive adult influences with men and women who wanted to give back to their community.
“The programme seeks to cultivate a friendship between a volunteer adult and a young person” says BBBS Kilkenny Programme Officer Kate Carroll.
“They are matched according to interests, hobbies and personalities. It could be based on a shared passion for the same music or sports team.”
The programme is already active in 21 counties, with over 600 pairings (as well as facilitating a further 2,500 in-school mentorships).
Research has shown that having a mentor improves the emotional wellbeing of the child, as they learn to transfer the communication skills they develop with the mentor into their relationships with their parents, siblings and friends. Since the volunteer is often third-level educated it sends subliminal messages to the child to think positively about staying in school, creating a sense of hope as they look forward in life. They are also less likely to initiate drug or alcohol use and are more likely to make healthier life choices.
Volunteers are asked to commit for one year, to meet with a young person for one to two hours each week, doing activities they both enjoy.
“It’s not taxing on volunteer’s time, as they are meeting with someone they like, who have the same interests,” says Kate.
The programme is unique, individually tailored to meet each child’s needs.
“A match had a boy who was getting into trouble in school. So he chatted to him and discovered he was staying up at night on his mobile phone and was then not waking up on time, arriving late, with no breakfast eaten.
“So they came up with a plan of action to switch off the mobile at a particular time every night. The Big Brother then spent time teaching him how to cook eggs for breakfast. Once all that was taken care of, he encouraged him to get into athletics to tackle his excess energy. He discovered he was good at javelin and represented the school in regional finals. Teachers started seeing him in a different light.”
Foróige provides child protection awareness training so volunteers know what to do if any such issues arise, and during their Big Brother Big Sister training, Foróige walk you through any kind of issues related to your specific ‘sibling’ as well as making you aware of the supports they provide.
See www.foroige.ie/bbbs for more information or contact Kate directly on 086-0685200 and email@example.com.
Participants' stories: Aoife Kelly and Fiona Power
“The reason I joined up for the Big Brother Big Sister programme was to have something outside of the family that was just mine, something personal,” says participant Aoife Kelly, aged 15.
“It’s good to talk and know that there is someone there who will always be there for you, who’ll put the time and effort in. Not every one has that, a person to check-up on them and make sure they are okay. It has helped me emotionally, physically and in ways I will never understand, knowing I always have this friend.
“I was very shy at first, we didn’t know each other and it was hard for me to talk to her as I found it hard to put trust in anyone.”
However, as time went by the activities they did together brought about conversation.
“She introduced me to golf, which I didn’t like and she taught me to play chess and scrabble. We’re very competitive; we like to challenge each other,” says Aoife.
Big Sister Fiona agrees, and says they started off working on school activities, competitions and things.
“Now we’ve been together for three years, we can just sit down and chat over a coffee,” she says. “We don’t need the activities unless there is something in particular that Aoife needs.
“We don’t even need to meet up every week. We go with the flow. Talking is what is the most important.”
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