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Programme salutes inspiring ‘Bigs’

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Michael Dunkley, the Premier, and Senator Jeffrey Baron attend the Big Brother Big Sisters awards ceremony (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Bermuda’s mentoring family was recognised at a special Thank Your Mentor ceremony yesterday afternoon.

Put on by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bermuda, the event celebrated all those who dedicate their time to making a difference with the island’s youth.

But, it also highlighted the need for more mentors to come on board.

“As most of you know, January is mentoring month and today is Thank Your Mentor Day,” BBBS managing director Patrina O’Connor-Paynter said.

“We wanted to ensure that we took the time out to acknowledge our ‘Bigs’, or mentors, who are an important part of the Bermuda community.”

Ms O’Connor-Paynter also thanked all those working behind the scenes on behalf of BBBS, as well as other mentoring organisations in Bermuda including YouthNet and the Mirrors Programme.

Speaking on behalf of the “Littles” in the BBBS programme, Nadir Young thanked “all our ‘Bigs’ for being there for us”.

“Please know that you are making a big difference in our lives just by being there,” he said. “We want you to know that you are truly appreciated.”

But, he also encouraged more men and women to sign up to the programme, noting that there are about 70 children waiting to be matched.

According to BBBS president Othneal Haynes, about 65 of these are boys, some of whom have been waiting on a Big Brother for more than three years.

He said that although the charity tries its best, it is “very difficult” to get Bermudian males to come out and dedicate at least three hours a week to helping a young man.

“Most of these men come from single-parent homes and they need that male figure,” Mr Haynes added.

For “Little” Vincent Darrell, this is exactly why he is looking for a Big Brother.

“Many boys today do not know what it is to be a man because they do not have a man in their lives,” he told the audience at City Hall.

“Sadly, children will go to bed tonight without saying goodnight to their father because he just isn’t there.

“This is why I would like to have a Big Brother because I would like to have a male role model in my life. I think having a ‘Big Brother’ would be a positive and inspiring thing to me.

“Another reason I would like to have a ‘Big Brother’ is so I can have somebody to spend time with and have male time with.”

According to Big Brother Kyle James, every one has the potential to become a mentor, although not everyone should. “As ‘Bigs’ we have a responsibility; we have a huge responsibility. So, I won’t stand up here and say everyone should be a mentor because not everyone should, but we all have the potential.

“We all have the ability. But, this is a responsibility and it’s a welcome responsibility that all of the ‘Bigs’ here today have accepted.”

Senator Jeffrey Baron, who spent 8½ years as a Big Brother and described the programme as “truly revolutionary”, also encouraged all of Bermuda to invest in mentoring programmes.

Thanking those who had mentored and supported him, the Minister of National Security added: “I’m only here because someone, when I was a child, believed in me and they stood up for me.”

Mr Baron also commended all those involved in mentoring, while highlighting Alanah Bacon and Dominique Simons, who were officially announced as Big Sister and Big Brother of the Year.

Both Mr Simons and Ms Bacon took the opportunity to encourage others to follow in their footsteps and get involved with the programme.

Mr Simons said: “If anyone has the ability and time to give back to the community within this programme, I sincerely encourage you to do so. It’s something that we desperately need in our community.”

And, Ms Bacon added: “I understand life gets busy, but I encourage anyone who has a few hours a week to spare to join the mentoring programme.

“I know you won’t regret it. I know I haven’t. I know my friends who are ‘Bigs’ don’t regret it either.”

For more information on BBBS or how to volunteer, visit www.bbbs.bm

Dominique Simons receives the Big Brother of the Year award (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Alanah Bacon and Dominique Simons take home the Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year awards (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Alanah Bacon receives the Big Sister of the Year award (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)