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What is a Big?
A “Big” is a mentor to a youth in need of a positive role model. Bigs help their Littles through challenges by listening, giving advice, and providing a good example for their Little to follow.
What are the requirements to become a Big?
A potential Big must:
- Be at least 19 years of age (18 if attending college where a BBBS program is in place) for our Community-Based programs.
- Be a Berks County resident or attend school in Berks County.
- Have access to a car, possess a valid driver’s license, have a good driving history, and proof of car insurance.
- Complete the BBBS Application and Training Process.
- Make a one-year commitment to the agency.
- Commit to the ONE-TO-ONE mentoring program (8-10 hours per month), the SMART school-based mentoring program (4-5 hours per month), or the COUL program (minimum 6 activities per year).
- Attend any support or training workshops and meetings required by BBBS
Cooperate with the agency in the supervision and monitoring process of the mentoring match relationship.
How long does it take to become a Big?
The application process, from first contact to acceptance, could take as little as four to six weeks, but could be longer depending on the Big’s schedule. Besides the actual application, the process includes contacting references, attending trainings, conducting an interview, and – for One-To-One Bigs – conducting a home assessment. Our application process is thorough, but not arduous for the volunteer; however, a potential volunteer with a less flexible schedule would result in a longer application process.
How long is the program?
The minimum time required is 1 year, but matches can last a lifetime.
When can I see my Little?
It’s all about “inclusion and not intrusion” on a Big’s life: the goal is including a Little in things you do in your everyday life, not intruding upon your time. Matches get together based on the schedule of the Big, Little, and the Little’s parent or guardian, whether that’s weekdays, weekends, or a combination thereof. Times are also dependent on the three match participants (Big, Little, and Little’s parent). There is a lot of flexibility with a match, in terms of WHEN they meet as well as WHERE. The hope is that all three parties are communicating properly so they can pick meeting days and times that work for everyone involved.
How much time/money should I spend?
Our matches meet an average of eight to ten hours per month, and no less than four hours per month in our Community-based One-To-One program. We encourage our Bigs not to focus on spending a lot of money, because money doesn’t buy a strong relationship. We want the matches to do meaningful activities that improve the child’s life and strengthens their relationship with their Big. Of course, our Bigs do sometimes spend money for things like taking their Little to dinner, for an ice cream, or admission fees. However, it costs nothing to take a Little to the park to play some basketball, to take a walk in the local park for some fresh air, to play chess, or to even rake up some leaves, and yet these are great opportunities for Littles and Bigs to spend time together. That’s what it’s all about—spending time, not money. Our Bigs in the group-mentoring program Club of Unmatched Littles (COUL) are required to attend at least six activities per year. These activities could range in length from two to six hours. A Calendar of Activities is published every other month to inform Bigs, Littles, and families of the upcoming activities so they can plan their schedules accordingly. Volunteers in our school-based Students and Mentors Achieving Results Together (SMART) program meet with their Littles once a week for about an hour during the school year. SMART matches DO NOT meet during the summer break. SMART match meetings are conducted at the Littles’ schools.
What types of activities should I do with my Little?
Besides those mentioned above, other activities could include:
- bike riding
- helping with homework.
What kind of support does Big Brothers Big Sisters off a Big after they are matched with a Little?
Each match participant (Big, Little, and parent or guardian of the Little) is required to do Case Supervision with their Casework Manager, the schedule of which is determined based on when they were matched and how long the match has been in existence. Case Supervision is designed to ensure the match is developing and that the match participants are working toward the goals of the Little’s unique Case Plan. The safety of the Little is always a top priority. Otherwise, our professional BBBS staff is available for the Big, Little, and/or parent or guardian at any time to discuss the match, overcome any issues (i.e. communication issues) that the match may encounter, or do what is needed to strengthen and support the match. In addition, some of our activities featured on the Activities Calendar are what are called “COUL & Match” activities. As with all of our activities, these are FREE OF CHARGE to our matches. It gives them an opportunity to spend some no-cost time with the Littles and for the Littles to spend some time with the friends they made while awaiting a One-To-One match.
What is the application process?
There is a 15-minute phone orientation, followed by the application process, which includes criminal background and CHILDLINE checks. After that, applicants must complete the Empowerment training process, a personal interview, and a home assessment for One-To-One volunteers. High school students interested in volunteering at one of our SMART schools should contact their guidance office for more information.