The Big Buddy program is one of the primary agencies hosted by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center. Big Buddy is a mentor program that pairs young mentees between the ages of 5-17 with an adult mentor. Children who become Little Buddies often have behavioral issues, or issues with schooling. Adult mentors can range from young adults to retired elders looking to give back to their community by volunteering to mentor the youth that reside within it. You can apply for the Big Buddy program on our website at www.capefearvolunteercenter.org.
Many of the children that are volunteered to become Little Buddies come from very underprivileged backgrounds and communities. They come from neighborhoods with a great amount of poverty, which breeds a disproportionate amount of crime. Outside of their homes, they have seen little of what the world has to offer them. For much of their youth, they simply see dilapidation and stagnated growth. It would be easy for them to think that such despair is all there is to life, or worse, their future.
These children often come from single parent homes with one overworked, underpaid parent who may not have the time to attend to all of their children’s more non-material needs. Other children who become Little Buddies are raised by their grandparents, who may be too elderly or ill to fully attend to their issues. Other Little Buddies have been referred by social workers and concerned school officials, such as teachers and guidance counselors. These parents and guardians are often the ones to volunteer their children to be Little Buddies. They take the opportunity to have them be paired with a caring, trustworthy mentor who can be there to help guide them and provide responsible, adult companionship.
The benefits of having a Big Buddy enter the lives of these children are many. Many Little Buddies show improvement in school, as their poor performance and disciplinary issues are often a result of boredom and lack of challenge. Spending time with a Big Buddy gives them something to look forward to and makes the drudgery of school more bearable, and Big Buddies often help out with school work and studying. Having a Big Buddy helps students realize their true potential and better demonstrate their intelligence and work ethic.
Little Buddies, as mentioned before, often come from poor communities that have a disproportionate amount of crime. With that crime comes bad influences that could sink their hooks into impressionable youth. Such influences often take hold when children are bored and have little else to do after school or during long vacations. Having a mentor that can engage these youth in fun or constructive activities will undoubtedly be a great way for them to avoid going in a much more destructive direction.
There are a great number of activities that a Big Buddy and Little Buddy can take part in. A surprising number of Little Buddies have never visited one of our two beaches, their first time is often with a Big Buddy. Activities can be for purely fun, such as going to an arcade, or they can be educational, like visiting the local library or it could simply be the two of them hanging out and learning about each other. The idea is to have the Little Buddy take part in things they may not have experienced before, giving them a fresher view of the world around them and the possibilities therein.
The benefits of the Big Buddy and Little Buddy relationship has also been shown to extend to the Big Buddy mentor as well. Big Buddies can be anyone from 18 year old young adults to 72 year old retirees. They are a diverse group of responsible and trustworthy adults who are thoroughly vetted by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center. Spending time with Little Buddies can give them an insight into the underprivileged conditions that the Little Buddies often come from. Other Big Buddies can be adults who grew up under very similar circumstances to the Little Buddy and thus can relate to them and their issues and impart the wisdom they’ve gained from those experiences to a younger generation.
Regardless of age or background, all Big Buddies feel the sense of reward that comes with being a mentor to a child who needs it. The feeling of giving back to one’s community by helping to guide and mentor its most vulnerable and underprivileged onto a better path is immensely rewarding. The bonds that Little Buddies and Big Buddies form throughout their companionship and shared experiences can last a lifetime and lead to one of the most influential relationships in both of their lives.