15 children have been waiting for mentors for more than a year
The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is down to just five mentors so is renewing its efforts to attract more adults to mentor children in the Cayman Islands.
The group hosted an information session at Cayman Islands Yacht Club on Wednesday evening for people who were interested in finding out more about what being a mentor entails.
For the past year, the organization has had 15 “littles” – eight girls and seven boys – who said they want to be paired up with someone who cares.
Close to 50 people, including Big Brothers Big Sisters members, turned up to the session and about 7-8 people raised their hands when asked if they were interested in committing to being mentors to youngsters aged 5-14 year-old. Organizers say that until paperwork is done and new mentors officially sign up, they do not know how many new volunteers will have joined the program from the meeting.
Currently, only five mentors are paired with young people. Mentors should be able to commit to spending at least one to two hours a week with the child.
The organization hopes to expand the age limit of the young people in the program from 14 to 18 years in the near future.
Attendees at Wednesday’s meeting had plenty of questions for chairwoman Pilar Bush, ranging from whether couples could share the responsibility of being a mentor (no, individual volunteers are preferred) or if being a male mentor can be paired with a female child (no, the group does not match a “big brother” with a “little sister”).
Ms. Bush related some U.S.-based statistics that show that a child who has a meaningful relationship with a mentor is 46 percent less likely to use drugs, 27 percent less likely to use alcohol and less likely to resort to truancy,
These, she said, were some of the reasons the group wanted to help children in Cayman, where indications are that young people were starting to use drugs and alcohol from an early age.
“Many children in Cayman society are facing adverse situations,” Ms. Bush said. “We don’t need a child to be at risk for us to want to give them a mentor, many other situations and things in their life can make children vulnerable.”
However, she added that there was an urgency to pairing up children at risk with a “big brother” or “big sister.”
According to Ms. Bush, the screening process for volunteers might seem a little daunting and she did not want to scare off potential mentors, but the group had to take all the required steps and necessary precautions to ensure the children are in a safe environment.
“If you are not ready to be a ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister,’ then encourage someone else who is willing because there are 15 children [waiting] and we know there are dozens more who just want someone to make a difference in their lives,” she said.
BBBS case worker Julissa Castillo said being a mentor was not just about taking a child to the movies or playing games, it was about one-on-one conversation with an adult figure. She said she did not want to discourage potential volunteers, but if a person did not feel comfortable being a mentor, they could volunteer to assist in other areas of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and training and orientation would be provided.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has been established for more than 100 years in 12 countries. It was set up in the Cayman Islands in 1995 by a group of concerned citizens. Although it partners with the Lions Club of Grand Cayman, the organization operates independently.