Big Brothers Big Sisters of Russia is one of our partner organizations in Russia that runs a mentoring program for children. Adult volunteers, “Bigs” are matched with children, “Littles”, in need of a mentor and friend.
Here are some passages from an interview with Olya, a Big Sister, and her Little Sister Zhennya who have participated in the program for almost a year. Olya is 27 years old and works in finance. Zhennya is 16 and lives in an orphanage in Moscow. Olya and Zhennya talk about their experiences of being a Big and a Little.
Olya: I had wanted to be a volunteer for some time, because I wanted to do something useful, to help people. I just didn’t know which program to choose from, and then I read about Big Brothers Big Sisters. When I applied for the program, I imagined that my Little would be a small child, in elementary school. But Big Brothers Big Sisters explained that most children in orphanages are teenagers. I was really worried that they would find me a teenage boy – what would I talk to him about! But they told me that my Little was a 15- year-old girl – Zhennya, who likes to read and draw, and I relaxed.
Zhennya: I wanted a Big Sister because I wanted diversity, something new in life, someone to talk to. I like hanging out with people who are older than me – they are interesting and they know a lot. And I have so many questions about everything! When I thought about my Big Sister I just wanted her to be cool, lively and a good person. Now I think life would be boring without Olya.
Olya: In the beginning I treated Zhennya a little bit like a child but now we are equal, although of course I feel very protective of her. Her opinion is important to me. She is more than 10 years younger than me. I learn a lot from her about young people’s lives. She knows a lot about photography and drawing, she tells me about that. I feel like the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and my relationship with Zhennya is important. I never ask myself, “What am I doing here?” I feel that Zhennya is happy to see me and that she is interested in meeting me, she is waiting for me. We often call and write each other just to share something.
Zhennya: I learnt a lot from Olya. Usually it is hard for me to talk to people and let them know what I am like. You can say she has taught me to be more comfortable with who I am, to be myself. My relationships with other people have improved, with friends, with teachers. I would like to still be friends with Olya after the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has finished (Littles participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters until they are 18 years old). It would be a shame to lose such a good person and a great friend.