Earlier this year, I realized that I might be a bit selfish. Not in a bad way exactly, but I recognized that everything in my life was directly related to me. I recently got married, own a home and have a good job that I love. Everything is great, but on weekdays and weekends, I realized that all the activities I do outside of work are focused solely on me.
Because of that, I started thinking about ways I could do things that weren’t necessarily all about me. I thought about getting a second job or picking up a new hobby, but many of those ideas were still self-focused. That is when I realized that I wasn’t super involved with my community.
Building a better community together
I have a friend who is involved with Special Olympics and participates in various other volunteer experiences throughout the community. She enjoys the many friendships she has made, as well as the feeling of fulfilment when it comes to giving back and being a part of something bigger than herself. She has told stories of events that she has attended that not only impacted those she was serving, but herself as well.
After hearing about her positive experience with that organization, I decided that I wanted to find somewhere to volunteer my time for the benefit of others, but also something I felt passionate about.
I thought about volunteering at an animal shelter but, the fact of the matter is, I am slightly timid of animals, and I don’t think that would be the best fit for me. I considered volunteering at a food pantry once every two weeks, but I knew I wanted to be more involved with people and possibly development as well.
How I landed on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana
I am active and love walking and running in and around my neighborhood in Broad Ripple.
One day, as I enjoyed the great outdoors, I noticed several Big Brother Big Sisters of Central Indiana yard signs in my neighborhood seeking volunteers to become a Big. In fact, every day as I drove to work, I counted at least three or four signs, one being right across the street from me. I felt like it was God putting the most obvious signs in front of my face to encourage me to start looking into the process on how to become a Big.
How to become a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana’s (BBBSCI) mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth and that is exactly what I wanted to do.
The process began with a simple application on the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana (BBBSCI) website. I filled it out and sent it in. I heard back from the organization right away and had a quick phone call with BBBSCI. Once I learned more about the organization and its mission, I knew this was what I wanted to do.
What does it look like to be a Big?
I learned that Bigs and Littles see each other approximately two to four times per month and are required to make a minimum commitment of one year. Upon matching, BBBSCI will assign us a professional staff member for our first visit together, and that person provides continual support throughout the match, providing activity ideas, guidance and coaching.
I was so happy to learn that the parents fully support their children in being part of this program. They want the best for their children, including a caring adult role model, which I hope and plan to be for my chosen Little.
After I was certain that I wanted to become a Big, I filled out a bit more paperwork and was on to the next steps—references and my in-person extensive interview at BBBSCI. I had to list three references who all received forms with questions to fill out. It took my references between 20-40 minutes to fill out and I spoke to them each beforehand, so they knew what was coming.
Next, I attended a two and a half hour interview at the BBBSCI office in downtown Indianapolis where they asked me all sorts of questions about myself, my background, my hopes for this experience and my ‘why’ behind wanting to become a Big.
This helps guide BBBSCI as they learn the best fit for you. All Bigs are matched with the same gender identifying Little, ideally within 20 minutes from their home or work location. It helps make it easier to get together on a regular basis. The BBBSCI match team also looks at our shared interests, personalities, experiences, goals and specific preferences.
I remember explaining in my interview that I almost majored in social work in college and ended up completing my undergrad in public relations. As I got older, I realized I was seeking experiences that led me back to social work and helping with the development of children in tough situations. I realized as I explained my answer that I was exactly where I needed to be, and this was exactly what I was looking for to fill that cup of wanting to do something outside of myself.
After that interview, I attended a two-hour course that taught me more about what being a Big would look like, and how I would have a Mentor Relationship Specialist (MRS) who would be there along the way for questions related to being a Big and having a Little. It also taught me that there were boundaries that needed to be created between me and the Little to enforce what kind of relationship this would be, and who I needed to be for them as their Big.
It has been a little over a month, and I’m still eagerly looking forward to getting matched with my Little. This part of the process can take a while because BBBSCI is taking into consideration all the qualities about both you and a Little to ensure it's he best fit.
I am patiently awaiting the next steps of the process and truly look forward to creating a bond with a child that I wish, more than anything, to just be someone who is consistently there for them.
How does volunteering help the community?
BBBSCI is an organization that helps build children and adults up to be their best selves, and I can’t wait to be a part of their mission! Learning that many of the Big/Little relationships last for years, and even a lifetime, is a testament to the power of these matches. This organization is also one of Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance’s many community partners.
There are currently 1,300 kids on BBBSCI’s waitlist in Marion, Hamilton and Johnson counties. That’s 1,300 local children (ages 8-18) in need of supportive, encouraging relationships to provide them with the best foundation for growth and success.
There are additional volunteering opportunities if being a Big Brother or Big Sister doesn’t match your unique situation. A Big Couple is a pair of Bigs who are in a two-plus-year romantic relationship that wants to be matched together to the same Little. Big Couples do not have to be married.
Big Friends are two individuals who have been friends for a minimum of two years and want to be matched together to the same Little. These options are great opportunities for couples or friends that would prefer a shared experience as opposed to each of them having a Little of their own.
If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with BBBSCI, visit bebigforkids.org/volunteer/ or contact Charles Stringer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-472-3720.
My journey at BBBSCI has just begun, and I couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds for me and my Little!