Big Brothers Big Sisters Reach Out to Local Kids
Published: August 28, 2013 (Issue # 1775)
The international non-profit charitable organization Big Brothers Big Sisters, or BBBS, which has been operating in Moscow for the past 10 years as BBBS of Russia, is now launching its program in St. Petersburg.
The organization, named by Forbes Magazine as one of its top ten charities, is aimed at helping children realize their potential through professionally organized relationships with adult mentors.
Anush Ovsepyan, the program lead in St. Petersburg, said the organization’s success in Moscow led the charity to bring its program to St. Petersburg.
“The program is not about giving gifts to children in need, but rather about weekly, one-on-one interaction between adult volunteers and children. The adult mentors try to educate the children on various topics and take them to theaters, cafés, sporting events or museums to show them how to negotiate a number of everyday social interactions,” Ovsepyan said.
“It’s an unfortunate fact that those children who grow up in orphanages, who have had their everyday needs satisfied by an institution, often don’t know how to take care of themselves when they come of age and begin living on their own. They often don’t know very basic things: That they need to pay bills, that food should be kept in the fridge, how to cook for themselves or manage money, or that they can’t miss work without a suitable excuse,” Ovsepyan said.
The aim of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is to provide such children with an individual mentor who can share this kind of knowledge with them as well as show them around the city or help them tackle inner conflicts and doubts, helping them to become more confident.
BBBS has a very rigorous recruitment and selection process for its volunteers, who not only need to go through psychological and medical testing and provide police records, but also attend special training sessions before working with the children involved in the program. For the first couple of months, the weekly meetings between the mentor and the child are overseen by BBBS supervisors.
“Most of our volunteers are women over the age of 25. Only 15 percent of our mentors are men, which is a real shame. Boys in particular need a male presence in their lives. Women are able to work with both boys and girls, while men are only assigned to mentor boys,” Ovsepyan said.
“To start we’re planning to form about 35 child-mentor matches in the city and see how it goes,” Ovsepyan said, adding that in Moscow they currently have 180 children being mentored.
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