When Hurricane Harvey was about to hit Houston, Big Brother Andrew called his Little Brother Javier’s mom to make sure they had the supplies they needed. A single mom working constantly to make ends meet, she hadn’t yet had a chance to go to the store to buy things like extra bottles water and packs of batteries. “I still remember when I got home from work and looked at the food and the necessary things that Andrew had brought us,” Javier’s mom says. “I wanted to cry because only a good-hearted person does that for other people and that person is Andrew.” The action was just another on the long list of times Andrew has been there for his Little Brother Javier and his family.
Each match between a Big and a Little is special. Each has its first match meeting, its own obstacles to overcome, and ultimately its own outcomes in the lives changed. Each match has its own story, some of which you will read here. Our match stories are called “Big Impacts” because they celebrate not just the impact of the Big on the Little, but also the impact of the match on the families, the impact of the Little on the Big, and the impact of the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency that supported everyone along the way.
Just as her match with her Little Sister Amari was approaching the one-year mark, Big Sister Lindsay got some big news – she would be starting a new job. The one catch was that she’d have to move two hours away. The last thing she wanted to do was end her relationship with Amari, who had already experienced so much loss and change in her life. Faced with the decision of closing her match with Amari or seeing her less often, Lindsay talked through the options with their Match Support Specialist and then Amari’s grandmother before deciding to keep the match going and making the most of their less-frequent visits.
Little Brother Jolen’s mom says she knew early on how important it would be for Jolen to have someone to look up to, so she enrolled him as a Little when he was just 6. “His father had been incarcerated since he was a baby, and I wanted him to have a network of positive men doing positive things,” Jolen mom says. When Jolen was 9, he finally got his Big Brother. He was matched with the Murray, who he calls “Mr. Miller.” Last June, after five years of being the role model that Jolen needed and his mom wanted, Murray was named the National Big Brother of the Year.
When Little Sister Saleen was 6 years old, she lost her father. At school, her teacher knew she wasn’t coping well with the loss, so they referred her to Big Brothers Big Sisters. She was matched with Myra, who became her Big Sister and began visiting her at school once a week. The two connected instantly, but their match hasn’t been without obstacles. Early on, Myra noticed patches of Saleen’s thick brown hair were missing, and discovered she was pulling out her hair to cope with the loss of her father. With the guidance of her Match Support Specialist, Myra decided to bring supplies to Saleen’s school and help her make a memory book about her father, so they could talk about the happy, positive memories she had of her dad. In June, when Myra was recognized as the National Big Sister of the Year, Saleen stood confidently next to her as she accepted the award and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Jacquelyn knew the toll that having an incarcerated parent could take on a child, as her father had been incarnated most of her life. When she heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Amachi program, which matches mentors with children who have incarcerated parents, she signed up to be a Big Sister to help a child in a familiar situation.
When Monterro was 6, he was already reading at a fifth-grade reading level. Monterro’s mom was proud of her son’s intelligence, but as a single parent with health problems, she feared not being able to help Monterro reach his full potential. She heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters and signed Monterro up to be a Little, hoping that a Big Brother might be able to do for Monterro what she couldn’t. Her expectations were exceeded when he was matched with Big Brother Kyle.
One afternoon over burgers, Little Sister Alejandra shared with her Big Sister Jessica a story that changed their relationship and their entire lives. Jessica remembers her heart breaking as Alejandra revealed to her that she was experiencing a situation at home that no child should ever have to endure. “It still feels surreal, six years later, but I went into autopilot in contacting Big Brothers Big Sisters,” Jessica says. “With the help of my match support specialist, steps were taken to ensure Ale’s safety.” Alejandra is in a much safer place now, partly because she was able to open up to a trusted adult, her Big Sister. Building that trust took Big Sister Jessica’s time and dedication.
Growing up in Japan, Big Brother Toru felt lost. The pressure to succeed was overwhelming, and it wasn’t until he came to America that he felt that he had the support of mentors looking out for him. When he became a firefighter, and later a photojournalist, he found people who showed him the path forward. “In each job, I was blessed to have mentors who took me under their wing and guided me through the ups and downs of life and my career,” he says. Toru knew he wanted to make sure he helped someone who was feeling lost like he had, so he signed up to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He was matched with Little Brother Javi, who he helped find success not by applying pressure but by providing support.
At the beginning of Boshanna’s senior year, her best friend and her brother were involved in an incident that resulted in their arrest. It hit Boshanna hard. Big Sister Karen remembers it being one of Boshanna’s lowest points. “Boshanna was devastated and depressed,” she says. “She stopped going to school.” For four months, Boshanna didn’t attend school. Even when she faced truancy court, her dedicated Big Sister never lost faith in her. They talked about it, and Big Sister Karen let Boshanna know she was disappointed and that she felt graduating high school was crucial. With a new resolve to succeed both in and out of the classroom, Boshanna returned to school.
Gavin used to lie in bed, crying, because his dad showed no interest in being part of his life. Dealing with the pain of that crowded out everything else. He started struggling with his grades and getting in trouble at school. Gavin’s mom was worried about her son, so one of the resources she turned to was Big Brothers Big Sisters. Gavin was matched with Big Brother Nick, who he met with a big smile. Nick showed up with a set of goals, which turned out to be all their match needed.