Big Brothers and Big Sisters Seeing Positive Results

Robbyn Duchow cuts the ribbon officially opening the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Mahaska County.

Robbyn Duchow cuts the ribbon officially opening the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Mahaska County. (file photo)

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The questions about what a mentorship program would look like and what benefits it could bring to the community began to take shape at the beginning of 2017 when Oskaloosa City Council member Steve Burnett and Mahaska County United Way Director Amy Meyer had a conversation on the subject.

The two facilitated two public meetings on the subject in February and May of 2017, with how the program would be sponsored, what organization if any would be used, and lastly how it would be funded.

With that, a group of volunteers came forward to help direct the program into the next phase, which helped to lead the mentoring program to partner with Big Brothers and Big Sisters due to their proven methodology.

A fundraising event in October of 2017 also helped to raise awareness of the program, and the benefit was not only to the youth in the program but also to the mentors.

Robbyn Duchow was hired to administer the program, and the ribbon cutting took place in November of 2017.

As of July 2018, there are currently seven matches, and thirty people have volunteered to be a mentor, otherwise known as a ‘Big’.

Duchow said that there is a need for more Big Brothers because the Brothers she currently has on the list aren’t matching ‘Little Brothers’ interests.

The process of matching Bigs (mentors) and youth (littles) goes through a stringent and proven methodology developed during the time Big Brothers and Big Sisters has been around.

In Mahaska County, those matches started happening in March of 2018.

Duchow said there are five Little Brothers that are in need of a Big. Two Little Sisters are also looking for their Big.

Duchow shared an exciting story of a person who was a Little at one point, then came in and volunteered to be a Big. Duchow was able to find him a match last month. “That kid and him had so many similar interests and personalities; just everything was matching up.”

“That’s our first Little Brother who became a Big Brother,” said Duchow.

When doing surveys of the youth entering the program, nearly three-quarters of all those over the age of twelve say they don’t have a special adult in their lives that they spend time with.

Duchow said that in conversations shortly after being matched with a Big, nearly all of them say the interaction is having a positive impact in their lives. One little says they are now paying better attention and can focus better. “They are excited to have that one-on-one time. A lot of them come from a single-parent household, so it’s always mom, and so especially the little brothers are excited to have that guy to hang out with and go and do stuff with.”

The more volunteers that sign up for the program, the more opportunity there is for Littles to be matched with a Big.

“I think the exciting part of the job is getting to see our matches, and getting to see how happy the kids are,” said Duchow. “And even what the volunteers are getting out of it also.”

One mentor recently expressed that it’s fun to be a kid again. Things as simple as using sidewalk chalk and blowing bubbles with her Little. The mentor told Duchow, “It’s kind of fun to be a kid again.”

Duchow says volunteers are asked for an eighteen-month commitment doing six hours a month, “with the hope that after those eighteen months they choose to stay together, hopefully through high school graduation.”

The program will host its first group outing at Lake Keomah on July 28th. The purpose of the excursion is so Bigs and Littles get to see that it’s not just them that are part of the program.

In October, Big Brothers and Big Sisters will be undergoing a rebranding. In years past, the program has talked about children facing adversity. The focus will now be that every child has potential. “When you’re pairing off with a mentor, that’s a pathway to potential. So it’s not focusing so much on at-risk youth or adversity, but it’s looking at all youth and how all youth could benefit from having a mentor that helps them reach that full potential,” explained Duchow.

Duchow believes that the rebranding effort of all youth have potential will be a positive change for the program.

Duchow said that there are kids in the program, with different economic and social backgrounds, and that the mentor helps give social-emotional or even academic guidance, while others need that same-sex role model. “It’s all kids. It’s not kids that have it really, really bad or kids that have it really, really good; it’s all kids of the community can benefit.”

You can meet Duchow and learn more about the program during Sweet Corn Serenade, where the program will be in The Alley that evening.

To learn more about the role mentoring plays in our community and to find volunteer opportunities, visit www.BBBSMahaska.org, stop into the Big Brothers Big Sisters office at the Mahaska County YMCA or call Robbyn Duchow, Program Manager at 641-673-8411.

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Posted by on Jul 7 2018. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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