Local youth are waiting for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Nine-year-old Briannah is patiently waiting for the news that she has a Big Sister. She’s anxious to talk with her new friend about her interest in geology, maybe find unique rocks together in the Skowhegan community where she lives, and is especially excited to share her love for animals. Her mom, a single parent, hopes a one-to-one relationship with a female role model will give her daughter self-confidence, raise her aspirations and set her on the path to success, according to a news release from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine.

Dimitri moved to Readfield with his mom after a house fire displaced their family. At age 14, he admits it can be difficult to make new friends, so he is excited about being matched with a Big Brother. He enjoys hiking, swimming, being outside, helping others and says he looks forward to sharing his life with a friend he can look up to, according to the release.

Briannah and Dimitri are among 25 youth facing adversity in Kennebec and Somerset counties currently waiting to be matched with positive, adult role models to serve as community-based mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine. According to Gwendolyn Hudson, BBBSMM executive director, about 60 percent of those waiting are young boys.

“It is not uncommon that women tend to volunteer to mentor more often than their male counterparts,” Hudson said, citing national BBBS of America statistics, but said the agency hopes to change that trend by finding caring, compassionate males in the community ready to share a little bit of their time to help change the life of a child, according to the release.

In the local school-based programs, Hudson said the balance between male and female high school mentors is more equal, but the need is much greater for male mentors in the community. BBBSMM community-based program model matches children, age 5 to 14 years old, with carefully screened, trained adults who meet independently with their Little for two to five hours each week for at least one year. The agency provides a thorough background check on all volunteers, comprehensive training and continuous, professional match support to ensure relationships are healthy, safe and progressing in a positive direction.

BBBS of Mid-Maine serves more than 700 children in seven counties throughout central, coastal and eastern Maine. According to a recent local youth outcomes survey, almost 90 percent of children in the BBBS of Mid-Maine program reported marked improvements in three measurable outcomes that include academic performance, behavioral assessment and avoidance of risky behaviors.

Renee Igo, community-based program manager for Kennebec Valley, said Littles who have the benefit of at least one year with a BBBSMM mentor do better in school, avoid risky behaviors like stealing or trying drugs and alcohol, and they have better long-term relationships with family and friends, according to the release.

“We’ve had a dramatic increase in the number of Littles waiting to be matched in Kennebec and Somerset counties. Both girls and boys are waiting for mentors in Waterville, Winslow, Oakland, Skowhegan, Augusta and Gardiner communities,” Igo said, sharing that the number of waiting Littles (25) now exceeds the number of children currently matched in the community program (14).

BBBSMM recently started a “Waiting Wednesday” social media post on their Facebook and Instagram platforms, highlighting youth waiting to be match with community mentors.

“Every day a child facing adversity waits for a positive, consistent and caring mentor in their life is a risk to their ability to reach their greatest potential. A few hours a week can change the trajectory of a child’s life,” Igo said according to the release.

Big Brother Richard Behr and his Little Brother, Jaxen Wiegand, have been meeting every week for more than four years. Jaxen, now a teenager, was 9 when they first met, and unsure what it would be like to have a Big Brother. His mother said he had intense anxiety in new situations and as a working parent with other young children at home, she recognized he wasn’t getting the one-on-one time with her that he used to. He was interested in outdoor activities, but didn’t have anyone to go with him. She said she hoped having a mentor would help Jaxen increase his confidence and give him the motivation to try new things.

Today, the match between Richard and Jaxen has brought them together to hike, snowshoe, fish and take on fun building projects together. As a registered Maine Guide, Behr says he enjoys sharing his passion for the outdoors with his Little Brother, including fishing and fly tying. And Jaxen has shared his love for cars and movies with his Big Brother. As Jaxen moves into adolescence, Behr said mentoring has provided the opportunity to continue to encourage him to be active, help him develop his own interests and have serious conversations with Jaxen about the varied issues all young boys encounter as teenagers, using the rapport and trust they’ve built, according to the release.

“It’s a wonderful program for both the Big and Little,” Behr says of his long-term friendship with Jaxen, according to the release. “It’s incredibly rewarding to know that our time together and our interactions are making a difference in his life.”

To learn more about becoming a community-based mentor should contact Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, call 370-1674 or email [email protected].

For more information about how you can change the life of a child through volunteering or supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, visit bbbsmidmaine.org.

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