LIHU‘E — Dennis Brown, the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hawai‘i, was the first Little Brother, now affectionately known as “Little,” when the program expanded across the Pacific Ocean to Hawai‘i in 1963.
“The one constant in our program is that the Big Brothers Big Sisters one-to-one mentoring model works just as well today as it did 50 years ago,” Brown said on the bbbshawaii.org website. “The positive power from each relationship we create and support helps both parties become better individuals and community contributors.”
The critical importance of mentoring relationships is at the heart of the proclamation signed by Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, who joins Gov. David Ige, and the mayors of Honolulu, Maui and the Big Island in announcing September as Big Brothers Big Sisters Month throughout the state.
“Most keiki and families served by Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawai‘i are facing increased anxiety, stress, and are most likely to bear the heaviest burdens of trauma and economic hardship due to the pandemic,” a BBBS Hawai‘i spokesperson said. “By having a mentor involved, mentored keiki are more likely to have a strong social network. Mentoring relationships protect against harmful effects and help young people heal. Big Brothers Big Sisters continues to provide life-changing mentoring services and helps build resilience among keiki.”
During the pandemic, Big Brothers Big Sisters has reoriented its programming to be available both virtually and in limited in-person outings.
“I was rebellious and hard to get to know,” Brown said of his growing up days. “I wasn’t too keen about having a Big Brother. Like most kids who lose their fathers, I was resentful of anyone trying to take his place.”
Brown was matched with Henry Sumida who was described as an exceptional Big Brother who was patient, kind and shared many common interests with the young growing boy.
The match provided Brown with a path to grow through tennis and bowling lessons, building model airplanes together and going to the movies and amusement parks.
“That’s where we would have our conversations,” Brown said. “Henry was such a good listener. I was very withdrawn, angry at the world, and felt that I was a victim of divorce. Here was someone who voluntarily listened to me vent about what I didn’t like. I hated school, but Henry never lectured. He offered me advice and encouragement without being an authority figure. He was more of a friend, which is what I really needed, then.”
During September, BBBS Hawai‘i wants to ignite the power and potential of more keiki and volunteers “because #ItTakesAVillage — the national theme for September — to uplift keiki as they head back to school.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kaua‘i enables life-changing mentoring relationships to ignite the power and promise of youth in our community,” Kawakami said in his proclamation. “By changing the course of young lives, we shape our community’s social and economic future.”
The goal of BBBS Hawai‘i, and more specifically, Kaua‘i, is to recruit more volunteers based on the needs of young people in the community.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.
Source: The Garden Island