Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), the program that makes a big difference by matching children facing adversity with older role models in one-to-one relationships, is adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. While bringing people together in person to go out and share activities is their main goal, they cannot do that at this time. BBBS wants everyone to be safe, and to their surprise, their families of matches have embraced the moment and are having lots of fun connecting virtually.
“During this very challenging and uncertain time, our mission remains to build and support one-to-one relationships, and to ignite the biggest possible future for our youth,” said Courtney Ikawa, Maui BBBS Regional Director. “These are really scary times for all of us, but especially for the children. Since the stay-at-home orders were enacted on Maui, the youth have lost access to school meals as well as resources that connected them to the outside world. Our Maui staff, working from home, have innovated our service delivery to ensure the children stay virtually in touch with their BBBS mentors.”
BBBS is serving as a hub for families by directing them to community resources and by providing virtual workshops for both the parents and volunteers. Their one-to-one matches have been meeting through phone calls, video chats, texts, and email. In fact, they have become highly creative, and went on their first virtual matches tour to visit the USS Missouri, the historic battleship anchored at Pearl Harbor.”
“We are still enrolling children and volunteers, and we are continuing to support virtual relationships during this time of social distancing,” Ikawa said. “Our program is an essential service that we must continue to provide because the young people that we serve through this pandemic are likely to bear the heaviest burdens of trauma and economic fallout. Each child and mentor is connected with one of our staff who provides ongoing coaching for the youth, training for the volunteer, and resources for the family. We continually need investment in our mission to ensure our agency remains open, which community members can do in numerous ways.”
BBBS’s youth-centered program helps children to create goals that mentors can help them achieve. For more information visit www.bbbshawaii.org
Courtney Ikawa, Maui BBBS Regional Director