Local Lifestyle

Helping Kids In Our Community in a "Big" Way

Local mentoring organization seeks volunteers to change kids lives for the better forever

Making A Difference in a "Big" Way

We all have had mentors in our lives that have helped us become who we are today.
But some local children in our community are in need of a Big Brother or Big Sister, someone that just by showing up can change the course of their lives for the better forever.

When you first meet Naomi and Jimena, you might think they're related.

"She's like part of my family," Jimena said.

But the relationship goes much deeper for these who were strangers to each other just eight months ago.

She was really shy and quiet but it was really cute during our interview," Naomi Recania said.  "She was looking at me and smiling this really big smile."

Recania volunteered to be a mentor in Santa Barbara County's Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

"Very often the kids in these programs are missing a parent in their house, maybe they have to move around a lot.  Maybe their parents struggle  with finances and so they're not able to be there for their children at the level that they'd like," said Sarah Rudd-Lawlor, who works for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Barbara County, a program with Family Service Agency.

For the Big Brother or Sister, it can be a small commitment:  just a few hours every couple weeks.

For the Little Brother or Sister, it's a chance to do everyday things many of us take for granted.

"We ride bikes down on the beach, we've done handstands on the beach, so just anything that we can do, we do," Recania said.

"We had a picnic!" Jimena said excitedly.

These are just simple things that over time, truly impact a child's life.

"She just blossomed into this wonderful, extroverted excited girl who could take on life where i was really worried when i first met her," said Megan Johnson, who has known Jimena for months while working at Girl's Inc.

And somewhere along the way, it also changes the life of the mentor.

"It makes me want to be a better person," Recania said.  "Not just for her, but for me and everybody around me."

One hundred children countywide are waiting.

And since January is National Mentor Month, Big Brothers Big Sisters is in the middle of a challenge to get 30 new mentors in the next 30 days.  

"What if every child were on the right path?" Rudd Lawlor said.  "And what if every child graduated from college? And got a job and gave back to their community.  What if every child reached their potential, what would that start?"

"We're all tired, we're all busy but these kids need just a few hours a week just to have an additional friend in their life," Recania said.

I was a big sister twice and can tell you personally, it is one of the most amazing things in the world to see what you  do in the life of a child.

For more information about the program, please visit www.sbBIGS.org

Slideshow: Helping Kids Our Community in a "Big" Way

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