What does your donation look like? It looks like Rhea & Anita

It’s hard to articulate in words the extent of the impact a 30-year friendship with my Big Sister Anita has had on my life. Being a part of our match and being a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters has been such a fundamental part of my life for as long as I can remember. Being a Little Sister was and still is one of the most important parts of my life, my identity, my sense of self, and my sense of community. However, if I only had three words to describe my experience as a Little Sister and as a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, they would be courage, community, and lucky.

My relationship with my father was not simple or easy, and far from perfect. He was a single father trying to raise my older brother and I, in a time when single fathers were a rarity. Despite the challenges in my childhood, I have always been grateful to my father for enrolling me in the program that would shape my life. As a parent, I think it takes great courage to reach out to an agency and ask for help for your child. He knew that I needed someone in my life that would provide support and guidance in a way that he couldn’t.  In the face of discouragement, he put my best interest ahead of his parental pride, and called the agency. These of what I call, acts of courage, happen every day in our communities, when parents, grandparents, and caregivers make that same call that my father did.

One of the most valued parts of my life that I attribute to my ongoing relationship with Anita, is a deep sense of community and giving back.  In between cooking, baking, talking, eating ice cream and playing board games – essential pieces to our relationship – Anita and I often spent time volunteering for a variety of community causes, especially Big Brothers Big Sisters.  In my childhood and teenager years we spent time volunteering at fundraisers and local events, supporting the agency in whichever way we could.  As an adult, Anita and I have spent countless hours debating and discussing board and agency activities stemming from our volunteer roles on local boards; her in Fredericton and me in Prince George, Saint John and at a national level.  While Anita modeled the importance of volunteerism by encouraging my participation when I was younger, it’s the act of her own volunteerism with me that I admire so greatly. From her own inherent sense of community and a desire to make a difference, Anita also made a call to the agency. She called to indicate her willingness to volunteer her time to help a child in need.  Because of her call, the trajectory of my life completely changed.

When I think about my relationship with my Big Sister, I often think about how lucky I was to be matched with her.  How lucky was I?  That both her and my dad made these phone calls that would come to impact my life not just in childhood but still today as an adult.  That after 30 years, I have this person in my life that continues to support and encourage me.  I have a Big Sister.

When I think about how lucky I was, I often think about all the children who never got the chance to experience having a Big Sister as I did.  I think about all the missed potential and the missed opportunity to change the course of a young child’s life.   I think about the courage it takes for parents to make a phone call, the willingness of a volunteer to pick up the phone and make an application, and the staff members who work hard to match “Bigs” with “Littles”.  From these individual acts, a child’s life and an ultimately a community can be impacted for many years into the future. My own personal experience of the outcomes of these acts continues to fuel my passion and commitment to give back to agencies and ultimately work to inspire others to make similar acts.

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