Match Feature: Meet Karen and Rosela!
Mentoring a child has many benefits, including providing youth with the mental, emotional, and academic support they need to reach their fullest potential. Mentoring relationships between Bigs and Littles also help foster greater respect, understanding and celebration of each other’s differences. At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts, we do our best to match adult volunteers with youth in our programs based on shared interests, geography, and personality.
This past Hispanic Heritage Month, we heard from one incredible match how their shared culture has helped build trust between them and brought them closer together. Meet Rosela and her Big Sister Karen.
Three years ago, when Rosela, then 7-years-old lost her father, she was shy and had a difficult time expressing her feelings as she was grieving. It wasn’t until she met her Big Sister, Karen, who had recently experienced her own loss that she found her confidence and sense of peace. The duo’s trauma bond blossomed into a familial relationship that helped them each navigate challenges associated with the pandemic. Now, as their mentoring journey continues, they begin a new school year together. Karen, 29, is a bilingual-Spanish speech-language pathologist in the Boston Public School system, where Rosela attends.
“When I first met Rosela, she was quiet and talked very little, but following a couple of outings, she slowly began to open up about the loss of her father by asking various questions about death and its meaning,” says Rodriguez, whose cousin’s experience with her own Big Sister inspired her to become one. “Being able to provide a safe and comfortable, yet fun, one-to-one space for her to process her emotions and go through the grieving process enabled Rosela to break out of her shell. Today, she is happy, outgoing, and considerate of others. It’s been incredible to see her growth.”
Karen who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia when she was 7, credits being able to speak Spanish with her Little Sister, whose family hails from the Dominican Republic, for helping to build trust between them. Although their cultures vary – for example they each celebrate Christmas a little differently – they understand each other in a way that others don’t. Since being matched, the duo has explored marine life in Boston, gone roller blading and bowling, dined out and everything in between. They joke Rosela is Karen’s mini-me.
“Having Karen in my daughter’s life has been a lovely experience that has helped me so much as a single mom,” says Marisela, Rosela’s mother. “Even though we have a family, having someone so devoted to your child is helpful. Bigs reach out constantly and care so much about their Littles in a different way than family members do. Karen has helped my daughter know she isn’t alone and is someone to have fun with outside of our home. I 100 percent recommend this program to other families and hope more Bigs like Karen get involved.”
The pandemic changed the way kids live, learn and play, disproportionately impacting Hispanic and Latinx households. Currently, more than 200 mentees, referred to as Little Brothers and Little Sisters, who have a Spanish language preference are enrolled in the agency’s one-to-one youth mentoring programs. However, there still are dozens of prospective Littles waiting to be matched with a Spanish speaking Big. To meet the increased demand from families, the nonprofit is seeking more Spanish-speaking volunteers to serve as caring adult mentors for children across the region.
New Littles and Bigs are being enrolled virtually. Are you interested in learning more about how you can enroll your child or become a volunteer mentor for our programs? Visit: www.emassbigs.org.