My Experience as a Big Sister

Janet Barclay and her not-so-little Little Sister

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As a matched Big Sister for many years, I once answered a few questions from someone who was interested in becoming a Big Sister. In case you’re also considering this volunteer role, I’m republishing their questions and my updated answers.

Do you have any personal insight on this? Anything about your experience (as either a Big or Little Sister) that might be useful?

The process to become a Big Sister is very extensive and takes several months. After attending an information session, I had to complete a very detailed and very personal questionnaire and supply three references and a medical form. They will also do a criminal reference check on you and everyone in your household. I think it took nearly nine months between the time of my initial contact and the time I was finally matched with my Little Sister. I understood the reason for all of these precautions – after all, you’re going to be spending time with a child – but it felt fairly intrusive and it was definitely stressful waiting to find out whether I was approved.

They ask for a minimum time commitment – it was quite a while ago now, so my memory’s a little fuzzy, but I think they asked you to commit to spending four to six hours a week with your Little Sister for at least six months (it might have been 18 months). I knew lots of Big Sisters who didn’t see their Little Sisters every week, but I think it’s important, especially at the beginning, so you can form a relationship.

What sort of stuff would you do with a Little Sister, besides going to a movie and getting food or going shopping?

Those were definitely frequent activities for us! We also participated in a number of activities that were offered by the organization, including Christmas and Halloween parties, Bingo night, crafts nights, and field trips. One of the highlights was the day we went up in a small airplane and my Little Sister got to take a turn at the controls.

girl flying a plane

Sometimes she just came over to my house and we worked on crafts or played on the computer, which was still somewhat of a novelty at that time. We also went bowling, roller skating, and swimming, and once we went to a dollhouse show (we were working on a dollhouse at the time). I even brought her with me to family gatherings and family events put on by my employer. I usually covered any expenses, but the organization suggested that you could cost share with the parent(s) on occasion. We often received free tickets to events such as movies, ice shows, magic shows and the circus, which were sponsored by local businesses. (This is why, when I was contacted by the Lions Club to purchase tickets to a laser show, to be donated to children’s charities, I was happy to do so.)

My Little Sister was even one of the bridesmaids at my wedding!

The types of things you do will of course be determined by what you and your Little Sister enjoy, and they try to match you with someone with whom they think you will be compatible.

Do you have to have a car to be a Big Sister?

No, but it certainly makes life easier!

Other things to think about

One thing they don’t really tell you when you sign up is that once they have you as a volunteer, they will be asking you to support the organization in other ways as well, such as fundraising, representing them at mall displays, and being a Match Monitor. Of course, it is voluntary, but I think it’s important that you be aware of it, and that you be prepared to state how much time you are willing to commit, and what you are and are not willing to do.

All in all, although I occasionally found it difficult to make time to see my Little Sister or to think of fun activities for us, it was a fantastic experience in my life. It gave me a reason to get out of the house (a challenge for many introverts), female companionship when I lived in a house full of males, and the reward of knowing I was making a difference in someone’s life.

I accepted her invitation to join Facebook in 2007, even though I’d never heard of it and didn’t think I’d ever actually use the site. Little did I imagine that it would become an important part of my business and personal life! Not only that, it’s allowed us to remain in regular contact even though we’ve only seen each other a few times in recent years. It’s crazy to think she’s now older than I was when we met, and that the oldest of her three boys is older than she was then.

To learn more about becoming a Big Sister or Big Brother, visit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, or Big Brothers Big Sisters International.

Casual Photo of Janet Barclay

Janet Barclay

I eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, cooking, watching movies, drinking tea, and spending time with my family.

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