The one thing Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters can’t seem to do is convince people that one-on-one child mentoring need not take much time.
Some of their better mentors take a kid out for ice cream or feed them a brownie. Or take them to a movie they were going to anyway.
Have lunch with a kid and make the world better, one lunch and one kid at a time. Or one kid and one ballgame, if you like ballgames. It’s that simple, they say.
They’ve got 800 to 1,000 mentors mentoring one child at a time with lunches, afternoons together, ballgames, school events and more.
But they’ve got another 800 kids on their waiting list in Sedgwick County. They’d like to find people to hang out with them.
“We know we have to do a better job to demystify what it means to be a Big,” said Mary Shannon, chief development officer.
“It’s about hanging out with a child. It’s not about rescuing a child.”
Becoming a Big Brother or Sister does have minimum requirements:
▪ There’s a background check. They say it’s easy. And thorough.
▪ It requires a commitment of one year.
▪ It means a promise to spend a minimum of two to three hours a week with a child. It’s fine to blend the kid’s activities in with yours (movies, ballgames, take them home and feed them cookies, and more). If the program is based at a school, volunteers commit to spending 20 minutes a week at the school.
The payoff for good work like this is that for a small and fun effort, you get to give children something vital they don’t get enough of: affection, a familial hour or two. The idea that they matter.
Bigs, as they call them, help steer children in healthy directions, sometimes when no one else will. About 85 percent of Littles, as the children are called, come from single-parent homes. Eight percent of Littles live at or below the poverty line. Sixty percent come from families with a history of substance abuse, and about 30 percent from homes where a parent is incarcerated.
Those problems get perpetuated unless adults intervene and mentor, Shannon said. It’s a public payoff requiring not that much time, she said.
To apply, go to www.kansasbigs.org or call the local office, 316-263-3300.