A growing number of young males are waiting for role models to step forward, according to Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

Speaking to the Hamilton Rotary Club yesterday Patrina O’Connor, better known as Power Girl on Power 95, said the charity has seen a rise in young males entering the programme.

“Right now, we have more than 100 unattached ‘littles.’ Particularity we have seen an influx of young males in the programme,” Mrs O’Connor said.

“Most of our sister organisations overseas are faced with the same problem lack of male mentors and overwhelming amount of boys in the programme.

“The current circumstances we are faced with now in Bermuda definitely does not help. I think families really want to see their young men succeed and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that they do, which is why most choose to enrol their children into our programme among other things.”

Mrs O’Connor said that right now there are around 120 big brothers and sisters enrolled in the programme, but more volunteers are needed, both as mentors and to help out with events attended by littles, including those that have not been matched.

While the bulk of children involved in the programme are in single parent households, Mrs O’Connor said some children have both parents but still need positive role models. She attributed part of the increasing demand for the programme on the economy, noting that parents and grandparents struggling to earn a living while raising a child.

She told the audience at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club that when she was younger neighbourhoods played a greater role in the raising of a child, with neighbours all looking out for one another. However that trend, she said, seems to have become less common.

“I remember when I was young I was doing something I shouldn’t and someone who lived in the area came over and reprimanded me for it,” she said. “After she embarrassed me in front of my friends, she said she was going to tell my mother.

“Because I knew she was looking out for me I wanted to stay on the straight and narrow. Now there are a lot of people who don’t want to get involved, saying ‘That’s not my child.’”

Mrs O’Connor explained that applicants who pass a screening process are matched with children who share similar interests, and are asked to initially spend three hours a week with their little so that a lasting bond can be formed.

“When you’re staring a relationship with someone, you can’t just say ‘OK, I’ll see you again in five weeks,’” she said.

“We are not asking for perfect people. What we ask is that you incorporate your little brother into your life. If you like to golf, take him golfing. If you go to football games, take him to football games. They need someone they can trust.

“What happens is after a while, [big brothers and sisters] get so invested into this relationship with this young person they end up loving and wanting to spend more time with that person. They think, ‘Well I’m going jet-skiing this weekend, I wonder if my little wants to come?’”

Mrs O’Connor said that in the last year around 20 ‘littles’ had aged out of the programme by turning 18, but she believes that each one is still in steady contact with their big brother or sister because of the bond created over the years. That bond, she said, helps young people overcome life challenges, improves self esteem and confidence.

Statistically, youth matched with a big brother or sister are 52 percent more likely to stay in school, 46 percent less likely to use drugs and 32 percent less likely to engage in acts of violence.

“We have noted that this programme has led to improvements in not just the child, but their family and their community,” she said. “It’s like a domino effect.

“This is what we need in Bermuda, and we are asking you to help build a better Bermuda.”

 – Article by The Royal Gazette