Volunteers needed for Big Brothers Big Sisters

Aug 06, 2014

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina is hosting a Back-to-School Volunteer Recruitment Drive beginning Aug. 20 the first day of school, and culminating Oct. 17. The organization hopes to recruit 60 new volunteers in the next two months.

Volunteers are needed locally to share one hour each week with an elementary-age student in the school-based and after-school programs. Volunteers can choose to mentor in one of nine elementary schools and several after-school sites in Haywood County. Big Brothers and Big Sisters mentors are needed in Buncombe and Henderson counties as well.

Volunteers are also needed for the community-based program that focuses on matching youth from single parent homes with caring adult mentors. The adult and youth share two outings a month either on weeknights or weekends. They engage in mutual interests, such as sports, cooking, attending cultural events, etc. The organization offers free and low-cost events including rafting, horseback riding, golf, local museums, and a college tour at UNC Asheville.

Through a federal grant targeted toward offering effective support to children of incarcerated parents, Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC is strengthening its focus on providing mentors to youth whose parent was or currently is incarcerated.

According to a 2009 report by The Sentencing Project, one in 43 American children in 2007 had a parent incarcerated in a state or federal prison, and approximately half of children with incarcerated parents are under 10-years old. A report, “Focus on Children with Incarcerated Parents”, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation states that children whose parents are incarcerated may experience anxiety, sadness, loneliness, guilt, and school difficulties.

Currently, 88 youths whose parents is or was incarcerated is matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister. The agency hopes to match 55 additional children in the coming year whose parent has been or currently is incarcerated. BBBS staff will provide specific training and support to mentors relating to the challenges that the youth may face.

Youth in Haywood County are not matched with a mentor in the community-based program right away due to a shortage of mentors. Boys in Haywood County wait nearly two years to begin the enrollment process after their parent or guardian has requested a mentor for them.

In the school and after-school mentoring programs, volunteers share one hour a week with a student. Teachers in the school-mentoring program determine when the child is out of class for an hour. The mentor spends part of the hour reinforcing academics with the student through reading, class assignments, or working on vocabulary words or multiplication facts. The mentor and child spend the rest of the hour enjoying a variety of activities, including art and board games, to build the youth’s self-confidence and social skills.

Recent surveys have shown that 75 percent of the students who had a Big Brother or Big Sister last year improved attitude toward school, 73 percent improved relationships with adults, and 72 percent increased self-confidence.

To volunteer as a mentor, call 356-2148 in Haywood County or visit www.bbbswnc.org for information about volunteer opportunities in other counties.

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