Volunteering gives student happiness

Kristina Wyman's picture
Maggie Basmajy

Throughout high school, I always enjoyed volunteering through various programs within the school as well as in my church. I remember one specific program where I would help little kids learn to cook and gain basic culinary skills. Once I volunteered through this program, I knew I loved helping kids as I would always walk out with the biggest smile on my face. At Assumption, I first got involved in volunteering when I was a sophomore.

I attended the Clubs and Activities Fair, stopped at the Reach Out Center table and received some helpful information. They had me fill out a form that would place me with a specific program based off my interests. I was placed with Big Brother Big Sister and I was eager to start. Being the youngest sibling as well as youngest cousin in my family, I had never really been around little kids. I would get very excited when I got to spend time with little kids, play a board game, or run around and play tag. I was so eager to have a Little Sister and after going through the interview process, I was finally placed with my Little.

The first time I arrived at Flagg Street School I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was happy to be spending time with my Little 3rd grader. I loved kids. I knew this program was the right fit for me. However, when I met my Little, she was extremely shy. She did not talk nor did she even look me in the eyes. I had no idea what to do with her. I would ask her questions like, “How was your day?” or “What did you learn today?” She was always short with her answers. Simple responses like “good” and “stuff.”

I struggled with my Little and I was extremely frustrated. I knew I understood kids. I had always been easily able to connect with kids, make them laugh and have fun, but with my Little, I just couldn’t get through to her. I remember looking around at the other Bigs and their Littles and feeling so much jealousy and resentment. I felt powerless, like everyone was building these great relationships with their Little, laughing and getting that rush from volunteering and I was there struggling to even get her to talk to me.

I continued to go to the program every week, and every week was the same routine. I would pick her up from her classroom and she would choose a board game. We would play the game with minimal conversation and when what seemed like an endless 30 minutes was up, I would walk her back to her classroom and say, “See you next week!” and she would just nod and smile very shyly and go back into her classroom.

I was very frustrated, so incredibly frustrated. I remember speaking to one of my friends in the program explaining my aggravation and how everyone was building these lasting relationships while I was not. She was smiling, but she just would not talk. I couldn’t read her. He told me, “Well, don’t give up on her. She needs you. You could be the one thing helping her out. This program is made to give these kids the special attention that they don’t get at home. Even though she’s not very talkative, don’t give up on her. You’ll never know how much she really needs you.”

He was absolutely right. I didn’t know how much she needed me. She didn’t talk much, but she was always smiling and giggling whenever I saw her, so I must have been making some type of impact. I listened to what he said and I did not give up. I tried different approaches on how to connect with her. I talked about my interests like my favorite color and what my day was like instead of asking her and then she slowly began to ask me follow-up questions or make a comment about what I said.

I’ve been in the program for almost two years now, seeing the same Little once a week. Every week our relationship gets a little stronger. She has opened up to me as she voluntarily tells me information and I don’t feel as if I have to continuously ask her questions. We’ve truly built a relationship that is awesome. It’s still the same routine, I pick her up from her classroom, she picks out a game, and when the 30 minutes are up, I walk her back to her classroom. But now, she has the biggest smile on her face when I pick her up from her classroom. She runs out of the classroom and sometimes even gives me a hug. She picks out a game and asks me my opinions on what we should play and what game is fun.

We talk the entire time and she tells me about what she learned that day and what subjects she is struggling with. And then, what seems like the shortest 30 minutes is up, I walk her to her classroom as she skips down the hall with a smile on her face. I’ve built a relationship with my Little and it continues to grow stronger. Big Brother Big Sister has given me an amazing opportunity to really connect with one child. I’ve seen my Little grow, I’ve seen her become more outgoing with me as well as with her friends and I’ve seen her become more educated. It’s really amazing.

I see how the small time I have with my Little every week really helps her. She has gained so much from having that small individualized attention and I have gained so much. I have gained new skills such as being able to connect on a personal level with a child and I also gained the experience of overcoming a battle to create that connection. Volunteering gives me such happiness as I get so excited to see her and I now really feel like I have a little sister. I am so eager to see her grow for another year and build my relationship with her even more. Big Brother Big Sister is a truly rewarding program and I encourage anyone interested in volunteering and making a significant difference in a single child’s life to join the program.

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