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The many benefits of volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters

January was National Mentoring Month nationwide and, during that time, a bright light shined on hundreds of volunteers, families, donors and supporters that make the mentoring movement a success.

In Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Colorado, we could not function without the help of our volunteers who give of themselves to better the lives of children here in Archuleta County.

Some really exciting news has come forth about the effect that BBBS is having on communities across America. The first Youth Outcome Report shows significant improvements for youth during the first year of enrollment in the organization’s nationwide mentoring program in three targeted outcome areas — Educational Success, Avoidance of Risky Behaviors (such as truancy) and Socio-Emotional Competency. Youth progress in these areas is linked to longer term outcomes, such as high school graduation, avoidance of juvenile delinquency and college or job readiness.

This study is important because it shows that mentored youth have a better chance at a successful life. Mentoring builds confidence, increases interest in education and hobbies, improves grades and increases the level of trust between children and adults.

Mentoring works

Not only does mentoring work, but it feels good to have a positive impact on a child’s life. We are always looking for mentors and presently, we have six Littles waiting to be matched. I would like to tell you a little about them. I have not used their real names because of confidentiality reasons.

Jimmy is 11, likes science and is interested in astronomy, engineering and building things rather than taking things apart. He also really likes sports and sledding and is on the ski team. Jimmy is part of the STEM program after school, which includes science, technology, engineering and math. He is also very artistic. Jimmy is new to the program and comes from a single-parent household.

Johnny is also 11, loves to play with legos and to go to the park. He is involved with Special Olympics and enjoys skiing and snowshoeing. He likes math but is not as crazy about reading. He would like a Big Brother to take him to the movies and to the park. He wants someone who is really nice and who will spend time with him. McDonald’s is his favorite place to eat. He is also from a single-parent household and has been waiting for a Big Brother for a year.

Billy is eight and also in Special Olympics, has recently learned how to ski and loves it. He also enjoys fishing, swimming, playing baseball and is becoming something of an expert at Wii. He just wants someone to play with him. His favorite foods are strawberries, watermelon and pizza. He collects rocks, shells and coins. He has been in the program since July.

Frankie is 12 and spends most his time now playing video games. His single mom works out of town and does not have a lot of time to spend with Frankie, but he would like to learn how to cook, how to play golf and learn more about water sports. He loves to swim and imagines that a Big Brother would take him swimming and rafting. He would really like a Big Brother because he is not close to his dad and he would like an adult male in his life. His favorite subject in school is math. He joined BBBS in July.

Bobby is also 12, loves to play airsoft, paintball and to skateboard. He hopes to be a professional baseball or football player when he grows up. To him, a Big Brother is a person who you can hang out with and talk to, and they understand your problems. He feels the best part of having a Big Brother is that he is able to spend time with them. His favorite subjects are math and science, but he is not as comfortable with history. He wants someone to build models with him and teach him archery. Bobby’s mother would like him to have a Christian Big Brother.

Sarah is the only little girl I have waiting, and she is 9. She loves to play outside, to swim and to cuddle with little dogs. She also informed me that she would like to learn how to build as well as how to cook. She describes a potential Big Sister as someone who is kind and who will not argue with her like her real sister does. Her ideal Big Sister would be a lady who is playful, respectful and happy. She really just wants someone to spend time giving her attention. She lives with her sister and mom and does not get the one-on-one attention all little girls crave.

The findings in more than 30 studies show that volunteering benefits health. Research suggests that volunteering is particularly beneficial to the health of older adults and those serving 100 hours annually, which works out to be about two hours a week. Just two hours of volunteering a week can bring meaningful benefits to a person’s body and mind.

A study of adults age 65 and older found that the positive effect of volunteering on physical and mental health is due to the personal sense of accomplishment an individual gains from his or her volunteer activities. Two other studies found that participants who volunteered about two hours a week enjoyed significant health benefits.

With all this research, the findings are positive. Mentor a child. Make a difference. Improve your health. It is a win-win situation.

Please call Maggie at 398-0007 or e-mail Maggie@bbig.org for more information.

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