Alicia Jensen needs a big sister.
The 12-year-old Langley girl has a little one, but she’s only two and for obvious reasons isn’t quite ready to hang out with her older sibling just yet.
Alicia is among the 12 girls and 24 boys on a waiting list for a ‘Big’ through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley.
For Alicia, it’s been a long wait – as in, nearly three years.
Alicia’s mom, Heidi Dosch, said the second oldest of her four children is introverted and shy, and while she has friends, the distance between them makes it difficult for Alicia to see those girls on a regular basis.
“I’ve been making a couple friends but it’s been hard to get to them because they don’t live close by,” Alicia offered.
Heidi said time is also a challenge.
Her oldest son, 17, has autism and has “a lot of appointments and activities.”
“He’s very high functioning but it took a lot of my time,” Heidi said. “Alicia was feeling a little bit left out because he was going out with workers all the time. Just being a middle child, she was feeling a little bit lonely.”
Heidi spotted an ad for Big Brothers Big Sisters and applied on behalf of her daughter.
Since then, Alicia has been waiting patiently for a ‘Big’ to spend time with; someone, she said, “to take me out places, help me with homework and stuff so I can get ahead in school.”
A ‘Big’ would make an immeasurable difference in her daughter’s life, Heidi said.
“She tends to be more introverted and it’s a little bit more difficult for her to make friends because of that,” Heidi said. “I think a Big Sister would be so helpful in bringing her out of her shell.”
And at the same time, Heidi stressed, it would “show her that she’s important and she’s special.”
Roslyn Henderson, mentoring coordinator with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley, said the current situation, with so many girls waiting for a ‘Big’, is unique.
“We’ve never really had a wait list for girls,” she said.
Henderson believes there are more girls waiting for matches because the awareness of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is building.
“And the partnership we have with the schools in Langley is really building,” Henderson said, “so I think there’s a lot of referrals and communication that’s going on between teachers and principals and families, who are providing us as a suggestion for kids who might be needing (a mentor).”
The process of becoming a ‘Big’ starts with a phone call (604-530-5055) or visiting the Langley BBBSL website.
Potential ‘Bigs’ must be at least 19 years old, fill out an application, and do a brief online orientation introducing them to mentoring. A couple of quick interviews with Big Brothers Big Sisters staff and a bit of training, and a match is ready to made.
There is a very careful background check, as Big Brothers Big Sisters is a child services organization.
“It’s time more on our end, in terms of getting references and things like that,” Henderson said, estimating it takes roughly five hours of a mentor’s time to go through the application process.
“The biggest step is really making that first call and getting the ball rolling,” said Henderson, who noted that the payoff is well worth it.
“We always hear from our volunteers that they got way more out of it than they thought,” Henderson said. “They go into the program thinking they are going to make a difference for someone else and they are going to get a chance to give back, but it’s a friendship for them, too.”
She said becoming a ‘Big’ gives adults a chance to be a kid again.
“It’s a lot of fun. The activities they are doing are the same activities they are doing with their friends. A lot of volunteers say it really gives them a chance to do some of those activities you can only get away with because you’re a kid.”
University students have said it’s a “really nice break from the busyness of school,” Henderson said.
“It gives them a good excuse to take a break from school, a little bit.”
Heidi said, with Alicia, there is a difference between being a mom and being a friend.
“Alicia would probably see a Big Sister as more of a friendship kind of a role,” Heidi said. “There are things that she’d feel more comfortable sharing.”