Big Brothers Big Sisters makes difference

Jessica Knieff

Of all of the opportunities there are to give back to your community, one of my favorites is through one-on-one mentorship relationships where you have the chance to truly impact someone.

Big Brothers Big Sisters allows community members to form positive role model relationships with children who could benefit from healthy, positive friendships.

Volunteers can become involved in various levels of commitment. Site-based bigs visit their little at their schools during lunch. Community-based bigs have more freedom as to when and where they spend time together depending on how it fits their schedules. Big Brothers Big Sisters will be expanding their scope even further by starting a new program called Bigs in Blue, where they pair at-risk children with law enforcement officers.

Eric Maydew, area manager for Topeka of Kansas Big Brother Big Sisters, talked about some of the children that enter this program seeking a mentor.

“Some domestic violence, and alcohol and drug abuse come into play with most of the children in this program,” Maydew said. “Most come from single parent homes, and more than half of those are single mothers.”

Maydew says these children are looking for a positive role model in their lives. He said they don’t always have someone at home asking how their day was, or how they are doing in school. This program provides a support system that lets these children know that they matter and that they are important.

I personally have been involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for two years, and I have gotten so much fulfillment out of the relationship I’ve formed with my little sister. 

My match is a community based match. Each week for a few hours, my little and I get to do something fun together. Before you start worrying about the time and financial commitment of this- hear me out. 

Like many college students, my financial resources are pretty limited. My little and I spend a lot of our time doing things that cost little to no money. 

We regularly attend events hosted by Washburn and the City of Topeka. We have spent many nights watching movies on Netlix, cooking dinner at home or just going to Petland to pet puppies.

One great aspect of my match is the support I get from the Big Brothers Big Sisters office here in Topeka. 

There is grant funding for STEM based matches, so on occasion, the Big Brothers Big Sisters gives us many fun DIY science projects. My little and I have done many experiments like making slime, making our own stress balls and growing crystals in a jar. 

As far as time commitment goes, I am an extremely busy person. I fill my days to the brim and sometimes struggle to find time to relax. 

When I made the commitment to be my little’s big in October 2015, I agreed to a few hours every week or two where I got to focus my attention on something other than my own stresses and worries. 

Spending time with my little reminds me to take the time to do fun things, relax and be silly for just a little while before returning to reality. 

It is also good for my little, I think, to see someone who is focused on education. Sometimes I have to take her home early because of a test I need to study for or homework I need to do. I am able to spend some time with her but also show her healthy prioritization of my education. 

Looking at statistics from the Big Brothers Big Sisters website, it says that 85% of littles come from single parent homes, 80% of littles live at or below the poverty level, 40% have witnessed or experienced domestic violence and 30% of them have an incarcerated parent. 

I tell my little as often as I can that she is a natural born leader and that she can do anything she wants to. 

Many of the kids in this program however, are not always told that they are enough or that they matter. 

There is a long waiting list of littles in need of a big. It is an opportunity that I would recommend for anyone- I wouldn’t trade my big-little match for anything. 

For anyone interested in volunteering through this program, I can definitely say that bigs get just as much out of the program as the littles do.

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters, or to sign up to be a big, visit