Having a whole lot of fun with Big Sis

  • Growing in confidence: Jeanne Bean, the director of Saltus Cavendish School, has built up a strong relationship with her “Little Sister” Maegan Costa over the past four years. Ms Bean will today be honoured with the award for Big Sister of the Year, handed out by local charity Big Brothers Big Sisters

    Growing in confidence: Jeanne Bean, the director of Saltus Cavendish School, has built up a strong relationship with her “Little Sister” Maegan Costa over the past four years. Ms Bean will today be honoured with the award for Big Sister of the Year, handed out by local charity Big Brothers Big Sisters

A learning experience ‘for both of us’

Matthew Trott will be named Big Brother of the Year in today’s ceremony at City Hall.

The 30-year-old urban planner is being honoured by Big Brothers Big Sisters for his work with 12-year-old TreJon Jeffries.

Q: Why did you become a mentor?

A: I wanted to do something to empower young people in my neighbourhood really.

I’m from Hamilton Parish. I wasn’t seeing people go out of their way to make big sacrifices to help people, but I feel like it’s our responsibility to do something positive. I was looking for something in particular that I could do and decided to become a Big Brother in November 2012.

What was the relationship initially like?

I first met TreJon Jeffries when he was nine and in primary school. Now he’s at Whitney Institute and is 12 years old. To be honest, our relationship was pretty easy. Big Brothers Big Sisters did a good job pairing us up. In the interview they try to match you with someone that has the same interests as you. My “Little” put down that he likes fishing, cricket and football and I have similar kinds of interests as well.

What’s been your favourite part of the programme?

Well, I don’t have a younger brother so just having that type of relationship has been good.

It’s been a learning experience for both of us. Even though he’s younger than me there are certain things I learn from him — certain technologies and different things to do with my phone and what new movies are out. He talks to me about how things are in school; what things are different from when I was coming up and what things are the same.

Have there been any challenges?

I know that one challenge was that I only see him a few hours a week. I’m not his father and I’m not there all the time so I can’t just swoop in and mould him and change him in the way I think he should be [changed].

My responsibilities as a mentor don’t go that way. You have to know your boundaries and know what positive influence you can have and where that stops.

For instance, a while back I was trying to encourage him to read and told him he could try out any book he wanted. He’s not interested in reading, so that’s been challenging, but every now and then I will try to find something like a magazine that he might be interested in.

How do you feel about being named Big Brother of the Year?

It was a huge surprise. I’m honoured that people want to give me an award. I’m just happy to do it and would have continued hanging out with TreJon regardless, but it’s nice that people want to do this.

It’s a fact: the average mom is neither “perky” nor “enthusiastic” 24/7.

Bills, housework and other responsibilities sometimes take away the fun — and that’s where people like Jeanne Bean step in.

The 52-year-old signed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters four years ago. She’ll be named Big Sister of the Year in a ceremony at City Hall today because of the strong bond she’s developed with her “Little”, Maegan Costa.

“If I have to choose my favourite thing about her I’d say it is her perkiness or enthusiasm,” the 16-year-old said of her “Big”. “Every time I see her she is really perky and ready to conquer the day.

“Most of the time when Jeanne and I hang out, we talk about what type of mood I’m in and see what’s best that day to improve it. We usually go out to breakfast or lunch, depending on the time, and talk; there’s more talking than actually eating going on. We also take pedal bike rides or go for walks.”

Mrs Bean initially planned to become a foster parent but once her three children were out of the way, the Saltus Cavendish school director found she had too many commitments to take on the full-time role.

She decided to become a mentor. “She’s always there for me and is understanding,” the Berkeley Institute student told The Royal Gazette.

“She comforts me when I tell her about issues going on and when I need someone to talk to other than my family. Even with her busy schedule, she always finds time for me.”

Mrs Bean said she was honoured to be recognised.

“I remember our case worker giving me a few profiles to look at and then she pulled out a file and said this young lady has been on the waiting list for a while but we’ve not found her a match,” she said. “As soon as she said that, I said, ‘Well that is the one for me’.

“From the first day I met Meagan we have connected and the relationship has only grown positively since then.

“Even though Maegan often tells me how much she appreciates me, it’s truly an honour to be selected as a result of her gratitude.

“I wish nothing but the best for Maegan as she endeavours to do and give her best in all situations.”

Maegan joined the programme at 12 because she was going through a hard time at school.

She had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and felt few of her classmates wanted to get to know her.

Her mother Lucy Costa said: “I initially involved Maegan with the BBBS programme because I was concerned about her emotional state.

“She had a difficult time making friends, so she tended to keep to herself. Her self-esteem was really poor and this was reflected in her schoolwork and her outlook on life in general.

“As her parent, I was really sad for her. Her dad and I did our best to help her but we felt she needed more.”

Maegan is now more confident than ever and her grades have massively improved.

“She’s been on the honour roll since the beginning of S2 and also has a few good friends she hangs out more with,” Mrs Costa said.

“She also volunteers with the DREAM Girls Club, which mentors young girls on Saturdays.”

She loves that her daughter has someone else to look up to. Whenever there’s an issue Mrs Bean works with the family to come up with the best solution for Maegan.

“What’s so special about Maegan is her big heart and how she sees the good in everyone,” Mrs Bean said. “Now that she’s 16 and riding a motorbike I now feel like a worried mom of a teenager all over again.”

•Matthew Trott will also be recognised during today’s 12.30pm ceremony for his work mentoring 12-year-old TreJon Jeffries. For more information on the mentoring programme, visit Facebook ‘Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bermuda’ or Twitter — @BBBSBDA

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Published Jan 21, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 21, 2016 at 9:04 am)

Having a whole lot of fun with Big Sis

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