As kids, we typically have dreams and big ideas for after high school, college, and maybe again in our adult lives, but sometimes those dreams and ideas seem impossible without support or assistance. These reasons are why Big Brother, Aaron, a four-year mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sioux Empire (BBBS), volunteered when the time was just right! Aaron, who has had two little brothers, always wanted a brother growing up. He was lucky to have a sister but felt there was still something missing. Aaron's mission was to find that opportunity with a little brother, to provide friendship and a support system for a young man like he always had growing up.
BBBS is a funded agency of Sioux Empire United Way and their community-based mentoring program is a big part our community, a need that Aaron sees as a necessity for kids like his Little Brother, Da'Veeun.
When BBBS works to match a Little with a Big, they take into account the needs, personality, interests, and goals of both the child and the volunteer. Aaron mentioned, "Every match will be different and some will be more challenging than others, but you trust that BBBS has found a good little match for you and together you work to create a relationship that fits you both."
Da'Veeun stated, "When I first met Aaron, I was nervous and scared, but he made a great first impression. He has always shown me his kindness and compassion and I felt that I could trust him, something that isn't always easy for me to do."
Throughout their few years together, they have enjoyed many adventures. Da'Veeun credits the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for allowing him to participate in something different to overcome some fears while finding new interests. Some of these adventures have been attending Stampede games, Da'Veeun was not a fan at first as it was loud and crowded, but now he enjoys going and the excitement of the other fans is what keeps the night entertaining. Another top favorite was attending a BBBS match activity at The Outdoor Campus, though a love did not form after this event, he still felt like he accomplished something by trying and that is all his Big Brother Aaron hopes for. Da'Veeun is also looking forward to the next outing of roller skating, not an ideal activity for Aaron, but a prime example of compromise and stepping out of your comfort zone!
It isn't just about what activity they do, but the impact they have on one another when making decisions and overall trusting and respecting each other's ideas and feelings. Aaron's goal for each outing is, "To have Da'Veeun open up to the idea of stepping out of his comfort zone, while both of them try new things and have fun together!"
Aaron stated, "If you are ever considering doing anything more in your daily life, whether that is mentoring or another form of volunteering, do it for yourself and don't let the excuses of life get in the way. Also, remember those that you are interacting with might have a different background, busy schedule, or are shy and scared, but take the time to get to know them first. Understand the struggles and find a common ground. Mentoring especially, is so meaningful to these kids who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunities to try something new like; attend a sporting event, eat at a different restaurant or have an older friend to talk to, see, and create a new bond with. We are not here to replace anything or anyone, we are simply here to encourage them to want more and to dream like we did when we were kids."
Executive Director, Jami Gates, stated, "We have nearly 500 matches, some are Big Sisters, Big Brothers, Big Couples, or Mentor Moms, all have a major impact on the youth we serve and we are always looking for more volunteers to keep children off the waiting list. Currently, we have 60 youth who are looking for a mentor. We ask our volunteers to give a minimum of 4 hours per month, but some matches like Aaron and Da'Veeun give almost 7 hours meeting every other week. It really depends on what works best in each other's lives and what feels right for that match. We want the relationships to create a good impact on one another rather than feel like a task to be met. We greatly appreciate all our mentors for being able to be a support system for their littles."
Da'Veeun and Aaron are just one example of a Big Brother, Little Brother match. These two have put a lot of trust into one another and along the way have seen many challenges, but something neither of them would change. Aaron stated, "Being a mentor to Da'Veeun, has been so rewarding and every time we are together we are always learning new things which makes our relationship stronger." Da'Veeun mentioned, "If it were not for BBBS and Aaron, I wouldn't be who I am today or where I am today and I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this program and have an amazing, caring Big Brother!"