Ammarah’s Little Talks for Big Impact
My first day at Big Brothers Big Sisters of
the Bay Area was on one of our most important nights, our Annual Gala. I was
inspired by the energy, moved by the idea of mentorship, and the honored matches
filled my heart with joy. But within weeks, that high subsided because I was
knee deep in development goals. How can my agency innovate its fundraising
strategy? How do I engage more donors? What can I do to make our next
fundraising event better than our last one?
It is sometimes overwhelming, sometimes
challenging, and sometimes it’s just me fulfilling my responsibilities of my
role. But amidst it all, I am reminded why I love what I do -- a breath of
fresh of air when I connect to donors who are Bigs. I thrive on their
relationships with their Littles and hearing how invested they are in our
mission is what makes the work so real for me.
The story of Big Sister Courtney and her
Little Sister Hailey is one of many stories that I have come across personally
that has inspired me to write and share their experiences. I encourage you to
join me in this journey as I grow in in this role and experience these magical
moments. I would love to hear your story and I invite you to share your
experiences, no matter how “big” or “little.” I can be reached via email
firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 415-503-4037.
One Big Who Knows the Truth Will Win Out
“I couldn’t play with you
because you know too much” Little Sister, Hailey, confessed to her Big Sister,
Courtney, about a new a game she had just learned at her Church Group. Courtney
told me that they were playing Two Truths and a Lie, a classic icebreaker game centered
around choosing one of the three statements
From this one game, Hailey was immediately impressed by
Courtney’s savvy and won over by her playful spirit. In that moment Courtney
realized all she had to do
was start a simple friendship. What she didn’t yet know was how it would
eventually develop into a substantial and meaningful relationship.
Courtney was introduced to
Big Brothers and Big Sisters through a friend, who was a Big Sister during
their time in college. After moving to the Bay Area, Courtney started looking
for an agency that “connected with the local community in a tangible way and
was hands on.” After some research, Courtney decided to volunteer to become a
Big Sister and was matched with her Little Sister, Hailey.
Three years later, Courtney
and Hailey were hanging out at their favorite bookstore in the South Bay
looking through bookshelves for treasures to read over coffee at a nearby
Starbucks. Hailey now refers to the bookstore as “our bookstore” because hidden
in between these aisles of books are memories of simple conversations
and moments with Courtney that have nurtured their relationship.
Courtney describes how the
relationship has changed her and Hailey over the years. When they were first
matched, Hailey was nine years old. Courtney, a young adult, had some concerns
about the age gap and whether they would find
overlapping interests. But soon enough she realized that being a Big Sister “is such a simple way to be
someone’s friend. All you have to do is show up and share your experiences with
someone.” After the initial awkwardness, their friendship quickly developed and
they got to know more about each other's lives. Courtney noticed Hailey
becoming more and more comfortable sharing important aspects of her life.
Courtney tells me she has
enjoyed getting to know her Little Sister’s family and has been a part of many
milestones like her Fifth Grade Graduation and dance recitals. “Courtney is a
mirror image of Hailey, it’s like she is her soul-mate. I am impressed how
perfectly the agency matched her,” says Eva, Hailey’s mom. After seeing the
impact Courtney was having on Hailey, Eva enrolled all of her other children
into the program who are also now successfully matched.
Their match has been equally enjoyable. Hailey
and Courtney love cooking and baking together, which Hailey usually doesn’t get
to try at home. Hailey gets to experience new activities like hiking, reading,
and photography. Hailey used a real camera for the first time with Courtney’s
guidance and realized that it’s something she could pursue. She told her Big
Sister, “I think I will be a photographer.” Watching Hailey’s eagerness to
visit “their bookstore” and her keenness to learn more about photography gives
Courtney a sense of satisfaction as she sees her growing confidence.
“Everyone needs a support
system, someone to ask questions,” says
Courtney. She recalls having a great basketball coach when she was younger.
Although not a formal mentor, her coach was a kind, well-rounded person she
looked up to for guidance. But Courtney had a solid family support system
growing up -- a privilege children like Hailey lack.
Courtney appreciates that
the opportunity to be a Big Sister allowed her to get an insight into families
who have to make tough decisions on a daily basis given their limited
resources, experiences, and socioeconomic status. Which is why Courtney highly recommends
and encourages adults of all ages to get involved. She says “it’s a great way
to explore your community and impact someone outside your circle.” Volunteering
for almost three years now, Courtney believes “the longer period brings a
longer term impact.”
The many stories of Bigs
and Littles like Courtney and Hailey gives me the strength, courage, and
compassion to continue my work. Courtney recently started supporting our agency
financially in addition to being a Big, and is maximizing the impact of her
financial giving with matching gifts from her employer, LinkedIn. We are so
grateful for people like her, who are constantly striving to empower and
strengthen our future generation. I believe, together, we have the power to
help disadvantaged children in the Bay Area realize their potential. It’s all
Big when you are changing the world one Little at a time!
Ammarah Maqsood is Director of
Individual Giving at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area. You can contact
her with a ‘Big story’ and/or make a donation to provide children facing
adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported 1-to-1
relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. email@example.com | 415-503-4037