Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona (BBBSAZ) helps children build their futures.
The organization is looking for volunteers to help mentor kids. Brandi Devlin, director of Community Engagement for BBBSAZ and John Paul Adan, a “Big Brother” and program specialist at BBBSAZ discuss the need for adult mentors and how you can become one.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you for joining us. Big Brothers Big Sisters of central Arizona is an organization that helps children build their futures. Currently they are looking for volunteers to help mentor kids, particularly Hispanic males. Joining me to talk about this is Brandi Devlin, director of community engagement at Big Brothers Big Sisters of central Arizona. And John Paul Adan, a big brother and program specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of central Arizona. Thank you both for joining us.

JOSE CARDENAS: Give us a thumbnail sketch of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Arizona.

BRANDI DEVLIN: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona is part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters national network, 100 year organization. We have been in the valley. We just wrapped up our 60th year. Largest, most effective, and oldest organization in the country that focuses on mentoring.

JOSE CARDENAS: And you are part of a national organization. The subject we're talking about tonight is also a problem for organizations across the country, which is you don't have enough male volunteers.

BRANDI DEVLIN: Exactly. We have no problem bringing female volunteers in. Its has been a historic problem nationwide bringing male volunteers in. I think they think there is a large time and financial commitment and there really isn't much of a commitment like that. It is really a commitment to a child.

JOSE CARDENAS: As I understand, the statistics are you have 70/30 in terms of the kids and percentages of Hispanics and vice versa in terms of --

JOHN PAUL ADAN: About 40, 45% of the kids on the wait list are Hispanic. As far as being matched, do you know the number of how much Hispanic kids are matched?

BRANDI DEVLIN: No, we have fewer than 50% of the kids that are matched are Hispanic. A little under 50%.

JOSE CARDENAS: What's the problem? You have done it for years. We will talk about the little brothers you have mentored. Why is it so hard to get males involved?

JOHN PAUL ADAN: I think like Brandi said earlier, they're just afraid of the commitment. It is going to take up all of their time or they will not have the time to commit to a child. When I did it, I was actually working two jobs when I first became a big brother. So, I know that you can make that time. You can include them in your normal everyday activities, and just kind of include them in your life and just be there to hang out with them and spend time with them.

JOSE CARDENAS: Brandi, as I understand it, there are efforts that are being made to educate people about what the commitments are. You have mentoring month coming up in January?

BRANDI DEVLIN: Right, January is mentoring month. We will be out in the community, recruitment events and talking to people in community about the commitment to big brothers.

JOSE CARDENAS: You have a scarcity of male big brothers to begin with. And then it is even worse in terms of Hispanic participation, right?

BRANDI DEVLIN: Yes, correct.

JOSE CARDENAS: So, what are you doing about that?

BRANDI DEVLIN: What we are doing right now, we are doing different recruitment events, we have an event going on this month and we will focus on recruitment events in January and just trying to get the word out. We are eaching out to Bigs in Blue program that reaches out to police officers. We're also reaching out to the firefighting community, fraternities at ASU and some of the other organizations. We're reaching out to male groups. We're also working with sporting teams and different organizations that attract men to try to reach out to their constituents to see if they can help us recruit men.

JOSE CARDENAS: The concern is time commitment from what I understand. What do you tell them about that?

BRANDI DEVLIN: The time commitment is minimal. Basically it comes down to four, five hours a month. And you can give much more time if you would like. We ask you to meet with your little brother or little sister if you are a big sister. We ask you to meet with them two, three times a month for an hour, hour and a half and just do the things that you like to do. If you are the type of person who likes to hike on a Saturday. Go pick up the little brother, little sister, take them hiking with you. If you like to take a cooking class. If you like to go to the movies, just eat pizza. It doesn't take much but it is just spending quality time with a child.

JOSE CARDENAS: We want to talk about real-life experiences that you have had. We will put a picture on the screen of one of them. And this is you and this young man attending a football game. Actually, this is the one with the map. But football games some of the things that they like to do -- tell us about this young man.

JOHN PAUL ADAN: I met him when he was eight years old. At that time I was a lunch buddy big brother. We met at his school for lunch. We hung out for an hour a day or an hour a week during his lunch. Played board games, went outside and played basketball. Hung out at his school. We did that for about a year. And then we transferred to a community-based match, which is where we hanging out in the community. We started going to Phoenix suns basketball games, cardinal games, playing football, and being active outdoors and just you know doing things that we both like to do together.

JOSE CARDENAS: Lunch buddy, is a sub program that you have for --

JOSE CARDENAS: How does that work?

JOHN PAUL ADAN: Right. Lunch buddy program is kind of the same. You meet two to four times a month but at their school. At this point, only 45 minutes to an hour, whatever time that they have for their lunch at school and we try to target people that work near the schools. We have about 12 different schools now in our program that are part of that program, where you can, you know, if you work near there, live near there, you can meet them at school for lunch. You're limited to just hanging out at school with that kind of program.

JOSE CARDENAS: This will be the other program, the picture on the screen is you with a different little brother attending a cardinals game.

JOHN PAUL ADAN: Right. One of the benefits of being a big brother, we have a web site for all of our mentors that they can go on to, called think big. And basically go on there and there is a list of activities that you can do with your little. So, when we get tickets donated from the Cardinals or Diamondbacks or the Phoenix Suns or NASCAR, whatever event that matches into doing, they can usually find something on there. It is usually free, they're donated. We got tickets from someone that donated to the Cardinals game and went to the game and hung out. And I have taken almost all of my little brothers to Diamondbacks games, Cardinals and Suns games. Most of the time it was their first time attending each of those events. So it was nice to be able to introduce them to that.

JOSE CARDENAS: Little brothers grow up, that first picture we had of you, that young man is now aged out of the program.

JOHN PAUL ADAN: He's now like 19 years old, graduated from high school, and he is going to school and working himself.

JOSE CARDENAS: Brandi, tell us about the profile and criterion for a young boy to be part of the program.

BRANDI DEVLIN: So, what we do is we go out and work with schools, parents, and community organizations, other agencies, and identify boys that could benefit from having a male positive role model in their life. Some kids come from single family homes, a parent that has been incarcerated, maybe a situation where they are living with an extended family member, grandparent, aunt, uncle or something like that and they need that positive male role model in their life.

JOSE CARDENAS: And the ideal entry age is 6 to 14?

BRADNDI DEVLIN: We can take them as young as six and they can enter into the program when they are 14, and they age out of the program when they're 18. We hear stories over and over again where they keep in touch for years after they have aged out of the program.

JOSE CARDENAS: Your stories about your relationships with your little brothers are inspiring. Why is it so difficult to get other men involved?

JOHN PAUL ADAN: You know, like I said, I think they just -- they don't realize how easy it is to be a big brother. It is not that much of a time commitment. You know, everybody is busy. We all have jobs, or we're doing things with our lives and our families, but, you know, I think for me once I became a big brother, I knew that was something that I would always be a part of. It has been 11 years now. Whether I'm busy or not, I have managed to squeeze that time into my personal life and just create those relationships and friendships with the kids.

JOSE CARDENAS: The next few months you will be working on getting the message out to prospective big brothers, and again January right?

BRANDI DEVLIN: We have 300 children on the waiting list right now and most of them are boys. Some of the kids will wait up to two years to get a big brother. We want to be able to match them as soon as possible.

JOSE CARDENAS: I wish you both luck for your benefit and actually more importantly the kids. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Brandi Devlin:Director of Community Engagement for BBBSAZ, John Paul Adan:A "Big Brother" and program specialist at BBBSAZ

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