Hispanic Heritage Month Match Feature: Octavio and Julian
¡Feliz Mes de la Herencia Hispana! With so many Latino Littles, families, and Bigs participating in our programs, we wanted to celebrate with Hispanic Mentoring themed blogs throughout the month. For our first installment we spoke with Octavio Guerra—a Big Brother with BBBSMB for the past two years—and Janet—his Little Brother’s mother—to discuss their experience in our program, the importance of mentoring in Latino communities, and some of the challenges Latino children and families face. Enjoy!
Octavio, Big Brother
Let’s start from the beginning. When and how did you first get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters?
I have a very busy schedule, but I also like to give back to my community, so when I heard an advertisement for Big Brothers Big Sisters I decided to look into it and realized that it fit perfectly into my busy life.
Can you describe the first time you met your Little.
Well, I can’t deny that I was a bit nervous and trying to give my best impression, but I soon realized that my little and his family were very nice and loving people that made me feel comfortable and at home.
How would you describe your relationship with your Little?
Amazing. We are always looking forward to hanging out again. We talk, laugh, discuss some of his concerns, eat, run, joke, etc. He has taught me how to be a child again; and I have given him a friendship.
Has being a Big taught you anything? About yourself? About others?
Yes, definitely. Among many things, I have learned how to awake the little child that lives within me. More important than that, is the big and positive impact that a bit of my time can make on the life of my Little.
Do you have a favorite experience or memory with your Little?
Ha ha, we went to a fancy gala party; he took a piece of steak to eat it to only realize that it was black mushrooms. Of course he loves steak and hates mushrooms.
Is there a specific memory you have when you realized you were making an impact in your Little’s life?
One day we went to an amusement park where he wanted to get on a ride, but he was scared to do it. We talked about it, I explained to him how important it was to learn to overcome our fears, and how good he would feel after doing it. At the same time, I told him that I was going to be with him from beginning to end. I remember the scared look on his face before getting on the ride and his sense of pride after overcoming it.
If you could describe your Little in one word, what would it be and why?
Love. Although he is only ten years old, he never stops talking about how much he loves his family, the things that he will do when he grows up to help them, and how his family makes him happy.
Where do you see this friendship heading in the future? Is there anything you hope to instill in your Little?
Well, our friendship grows stronger and stronger and I can only picture him as an extension of my family with whom I wish to grow older with.
What advice would you give other Latino adults who may be hesitant to volunteer as a Big?
This is the best way to volunteer and make an impact in the lives of others and you can have fun at the same time. You won’t feel like a volunteer, instead you’ll be looking forward to hanging out with your new friend who will do as much for you as you do for him. A Little is a friend that will give you the most sincere friendship that you will ever have.
How has your Hispanic heritage/culture shaped you to become the person that you are today?
I grew up in a simple family that didn’t have money, but was full of love, moral values, a sense of family, and strong beliefs to help each other and our community.
There was always someone who needed help living in my parent’s house; especially children who did not have parents. Many of them call my mother “mom” and refer to me as their “brother”.
I believe that Latino families are very affectionate, expressive, and care for each other, and that it shaped me into who I am. I am a simple person that finds something positive even in the worse circumstances. Someone that tries to enjoy life to the fullest.
Growing up in a Latino community/household, what did you see or experience that could have been different if positive role models had a bigger presence?
I believe that Latino families have a tendency to be very conformist and that we often do not realize the capabilities we have as persons and as a community. Positive role models could help us empower and reach for higher goals.
What are some challenges that Latino families or children face? And how could we work on catering to this need as an agency?
Many children of Latino families live here with only one parent because their other parent lives in their country of origin; or because the new immigration policies are sending their parents back.
As a strong and well know institution you can make a clear statement in support of immigration policies that are inclusive and that put children wellbeing over any other policies.
You can also design especial advertisement that targets Latino families to enroll their children in BBBS, and of course more Latino volunteers.
What are some challenges that Latino families or children face?
We have so many challenges, but one small solution is as simple as pronouncing our names correctly. People also often assume that being Latino means you are either Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Dominican. I wish we could teach others that Latinos are from more than just those three countries.
Why did you initially sign your son up for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program?
I signed Julian up because he was going through a hard time not having a male figure in his life.
If you could describe your son’s Big in one word what would it be?
One word; fabextraexcellinspirawesome. Octavio is more than just an awesome Big, he is 10 words in one!
What are some changes you’ve seen in your son since being matched?
My son is more confident and he is opening up more with his Big and me.
How important is the role of Match Support to be able to speak Spanish as well? Also, how important has it been to have a Big Brother that speaks Spanish and has a similar background to your son?
I love that my Match Support speaks Spanish, because she understands the challenges and struggles we have being Latinos. Having a Latino Big is amazing because even though our cultures are similar, we still love to learn about each other’s traditions and culture. Julian loves Baliadas—a breakfast meal from Honduras—now!
We have a hard time finding Spanish speaking mentors/Latino Bigs in the Boston community. Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure why that is. I wish more Latinos/as would volunteer to be Bigs, because It’s an amazing opportunity to teach and learn.