Deanna Bodeau is program coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Child & Family Services, which in 2013 marks its 40th year of serving children in the Greater New Bedford area during which it has matched thousands of ‘littles’ and mentors.
As part of the anniversary celebration, Child & Family Services is hoping to add 40 new mentors to its program in order to help meet the more than 100 boys and girls looking for, and who greatly benefit from, positive adult role models.
Bodeau said statistics show that children who take part in mentoring programs are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or take part in other adverse activities such as skipping school.
PBN: Where is your greatest need for program volunteers?
BODEAU: We currently have 74 matches, but there are more than 100 on the waiting list, many of whom are young boys. Our greatest needs are for male mentors from anywhere to Rhode Island to Eastern Massachusetts. Although our ‘littles’ live in the Greater New Bedford area, we have volunteers from throughout Providence and Massachusetts, even as far as the Greater Boston area. Often [‘littles’] come from difficult home lives or have a tough time in school and their parents, who might be busy trying to make ends meet in this tough economy, are increasingly realizing the importance of role models in their children’s lives.
PBN: Why is a mentor so important for the children you serve?
BODEAU: While it’s important to have positive role models at every stage of life, it’s especially critical for children, particularly those who may have a difficult time at home or at school. Growing up isn’t an easy process but mentors can make it so much easier. Our volunteers are friends who listen and let children know that they are important. This positive influence in children’s lives can go a long way in helping shape their future so it is essential to surround them with role models, in and outside their family, starting at a young age.
PBN: How do your adult volunteers benefit from their service?
BODEAU: Volunteering is always a win-win situation. The mentors in our program report just as much satisfaction from the experience as their ‘littles’ do, likely because it always feels good to do good! A lot of adults considering getting involved in a mentoring program may think they don’t have enough time or much to offer a child but that’s very rarely the case. The minimum time requirement is just four hours a month for one year. Our adult volunteers find that they can help make a positive difference in a young person’s life while doing activities they genuinely enjoy, too, which could range from watching a movie or playing a sport to going to a play or to a basketball game. One of our mentors even got al ong with her ‘little’ so well that she’s going to be a flower girl in her ‘big’s’ wedding!
PBN: You also are looking for community members to join the program’s advisory board and to work on increasing program awareness. Any ideas on how the board could best do this?
BODEAU: We have six leaders in the South Coast community on the board and hope to add two to four members this year. The board is helping to drive recruitment by hosting events like our ‘Bowl for Kids’ Sake’ on March 10 and by spreading the word with their networks whether that’s family, friends or coworkers who are looking to get involved and make a difference.
PBN: Is there a difference between Child & Family Services’ Big Brothers Big Sisters program and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State?
BODEAU: While both programs match children with responsible role models, Child & Family Services serves children from the Greater New Bedford area while the Ocean State program serves children from Rhode Island. We do, however, readily accept mentors from Rhode Island and, in fact, we have a good amount form the Greater Providence area at this time.