Between COVID-19, political and social unrest and a growing opportunity gap, the need for mentors for Delaware youth is especially high.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware (BBBSDE) is now remote, meaning that mentoring opportunities are more flexible, and kids in parts of the state who previously had little or no access to the program can now be involved. The one-to-one mentoring model has moved out of classrooms and Saturday afternoons at the park to online meeting spaces like Google Meet, Zoom and Twitch.
At the moment, mentors and mentees use their preferred type of digital communication, including social media. The national organization, looking ahead as remote meetings become more of a long-term fixture than a temporary fallback, are working with other agencies to develop online activities for program participants.
“For example, they can watch a concert online or play a game, we’re developing different activities they can use to interact,” said Tom Thunstrom, who took over the role of executive director of BBBSDE in June.
Remote mentoring, while not the preferred “one-to-one, face-to-face” model of BBBSDE, has had a few benefits.
“I think it’s allowed us to be a little more creative with our matches,” said Thunstrom. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be Wilmington to Wilmington or New Castle to New Castle. We can take someone in New Castle County, and, if it makes sense, match them with someone downstate.”
Right now, the waiting list for little brothers and sisters has exceeded 150 in Delaware, a number Thunstrom hopes to see drop as the pandemic wears on.
“I would love to get more mentors that are under 40,” he said.”The ‘college student’ age bracket, Specifically, I would love to get more Black and Hispanic male mentors.”
As a Big Brother or Big Sister, mentors go through a four-hour self-directed online training course and an orientation session; orientations are held weekly.
“If somebody wants to just be present for a child, that’s what we’re looking for,” Thunstrom said. “We’re not asking a Big Brother or Big Sister to be a savior by any stretch. What we are asking is to be a positive adult role model for a child who needs it. They don’t need to impose their judgments or values, but they do need to help a child make good decisions. Part of our training involves that as we onboard, with different scenarios and how to handle things like difficult situations in the home.”
If you’re interested in becoming s BBBSDE remote mentor, fill out the online application.-30-
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