By Ananya Mukherjee:
The concept of Big Friend has arrived from America wherein it’s known as the Big Sister and the Big Brother program. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors that try to have a measurable impact on youth.
In India, this concept is very new and has come up recently with collaboration of a Delhi based NGO called Udayan Care and a New Jersey based NGO called New Path Foundation.
The programme is based on a long term one-on-one volunteer service. It is a voluntary and altruistic work without material payback. Unlike some other voluntary services (e.g. picking up garbage is a good service whether you do it once or you do it forever), there is a minimum time commitment of one year for this service. This is because it is believed long term and consistent caring is a very important factor in building confidence and happiness in people.
It is believed, in accompaniment, there is no purpose or expectation. Accompaniment neither necessarily means helping the other person in solving his problems, nor an intent to change the other person. Accompaniment shows itself through caring with equality.
Accompaniment without expectation is wonderful but it is also hard to achieve. Â We can work towards not to expect appreciation from our beneficiaries, and not to expect approvals from the society, etc., and gradually, we will be closer to the state of accompaniment without expectations and closer to be ourselves freely.
Another capability of love is to be mindful (doing things with a caringly focused mindset) in whatever we are doing. Whether we are writing a letter, engaging in a conversation, working in the office, or playing soccer, we will enter a state of complete focus if we are mindful. Letting go (even just temporarily) of our fears and expectations of the future, letting go of our attachments and regrets of the past, and then we can approach whatever we are doing in a more wholly manner.
One usually will only strive for something one really wants (playing tennis well, having a nice car, etc.), and often it will take a persistent and hard effort before one can get it. The practice and growth in love is the same. The primary goal for our service is to be in a loving mindset consistently while doing our service, as we believe accompaniment in love over the long term is a good enough gift in itself.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the oldest and largest youth mentoring organizations in the United States. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors children, ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country.
Public/Private Ventures, an independent Philadelphia-based national research organization, conducted a study from 1994-95, monitoring 950 boys and girls nationwide to study the effects of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Out of the 950 children half were randomly chosen to be matched, and the others were put on a waiting list. According to the study the matched children were with their Big Brother or Sister about three times a month for a year.
After surveying the children at the beginning of the study, and again after 18 months, The researchers found that “the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, compared to those children not in our program, were:
* 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
* 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
* 52% less likely to skip school
* 37% less likely to skip a class
* 33% less likely to hit someone
They also found that the Littles were more confident of their performance in schoolwork and getting along better with their families.”
“We have known all along that Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring has a long-lasting, positive effect on children’s confidence, grades, and social skills,” affirms Karen J. Mathis, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s President and CEO, “and the results of this impact study scientifically confirm that belief.”
“These dramatic findings are very good news, particularly at a time when many people contend that ‘nothing works’ in reaching teenagers,” said Gary Walker, then-President of Public/Private Ventures. “This program suggests a strategy the country can build on to make a difference, especially for youth in single-parent families.”
Udayan Care’s Big Friend Program in India is a group of idealistic people providing this little platform mindfully. As we walk together on this path of joyous service, we wish we can happily be ourselves, loving companions for the people we serve, and caring teammates for each other. May we often walk in the path of love, and may this loving accompaniment brings peace, abundance, and joy to those around us.
Indeed it’s a joyous path and the Big Friend gets a chance to grow up once again with his Little Friend. And truly, we would all want to grow up once again!
Image courtesy: http://www.operationsmile.org/, an amazing NGO.