Monthly Archives: August 2012
What initially interested you in Big Sister?
I know—from my teaching, volunteering, and being an auntie—the difference that a supportive one-to-one relationship can make on a child, and how much the mentor benefits, too. I loved the Big For a Day program; it’s such a creative and intelligent idea, and it was perfect for me because I’m in Boston for less than one year. Currently, I live in London but was born here in Cambridge. I left the US when I was 4 and have wanted to come back to live, work, and explore here for years. I chose 2012 in order to help re-elect President Obama. I left my job, rented out my apartment, and have been in Boston since January. I’m renting a room on Beacon Street and I absolutely love it here.
What has been the most interesting Big Sister activity that you have done so far?
I’ve only been able to take part in one Big For a Day event, which was in May at Roxbury Community College. I was impressed by the organization, coordination, range of activities, and the great atmosphere. We participated in the Zumba and Healthy Eating sessions and made a delicious sundae with yoghurt, nuts, and fruit. My Little Sister also made a fun book for children in hospital. I loved how thorough she was when making the book; she wanted it to look great and be professional. It was fascinating to have a glimpse of my Little Sister’s life and to spend a few hours with her. She was friendly, cheerful, and confident. She was also quick and bright, and able to navigate the MBTA. She told me she has ADHD and she talked a lot—asking questions, commenting on the world around her, chatting about her likes and dislikes and her upcoming birthday. She was engaging and exhausting.
I also really enjoyed the Big Sister Reads book club discussion of All Souls at the Big Sister office. I appreciated the mix of views, ages, and experiences in the room—people who’d lived in various parts of Boston, some with close connections to the story and the places in the book. I liked the way we covered specific aspects of the book and also universal themes of poverty, race, family, community, and choices.
How would you describe your experience of volunteering as a Big Sister for a day?
It was a mix of exciting, fascinating, and moving. I saw a Little Sister who looked sad and wondered whether the whole experience might compound her troubled feelings. I was moved by how some Big Sisters supported their shy or reluctant Little Sisters. Mostly, I was impressed by how it all appeared to work, and how self-possessed most Little Sisters were. Overall, it was very rewarding!
Did you have any mentors or role models when you were growing up?
My beloved mother was my role model for the way she lived, her values, and how she cared for people. She treated everyone as if they were important, and she was thoughtful, caring, and wise. She was encouraging and able to give us unconditional love—she was the sort of person you just felt better for having spent time with. She was very principled about equal access to good education and she was humane in response to world events. The only time I saw her cry was when Martin Luther King was murdered—I was 10 and it had the most profound and long-lasting effect on me. When I was 14, she and my dad fostered a child from Uganda who was in need of a temporary home. My mother was always baking cakes for people, sending notes, and checking in on people who were going through hard times. She was also a youth worker in her 20s in a poor part of London and the children loved her. My dad was a role model for me as well. He inspired me with his energy and was an example of the value of hard work and how rewarding it is to do a job well, with all your heart, taking responsibility and seeing things through with generosity.
What would you say to a woman who is thinking of becoming a Big Sister or a Big For a Day?
I would suggest she talk to a few women who are experienced Big Sisters and really think about all aspects of the role – the many great positives and the potential difficulties in the case of being a long term Big Sister.
Before the 2012 Olympic games began in London this July, they were already being labeled as the “Women’s Games.” A historic mark was made when we learned that for the first time, not only would women be participating in all 26 sports, but that every country entered was sending female athletes. However, even with all of these positive changes, a debate has been brewing. Are these games really the Women’s Games or have we still not made big enough steps to call it our year?
“The progress at London was a major boost for gender equality, with equality and neutrality two of the most important Games values.” says International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.
Female athletes train hard for the Olympics. They go to win and this year has been no different. Breaking 38 world records so far, they have proven themselves time and again. We saw amazing displays of skill and endurance from competitors such as Kayla Harrison who captured the first ever USA women’s gold in judo, Missy Franklin who won 4 gold medals and a bronze while breaking 2 world records in swimming, and Gabby Douglas who took home 2 gold medals and became the first African American woman to win gold in gymnastics. It’s not surprising that USA’s women are taking home so much gold, this was also the first time we sent more female athletes to the games than men.
“The 2012 Olympics have been hailed as the ‘Women’s Games’ for including women in all sports and from all national teams with campaigners hoping this will lead to more role models in sport and increase female participation in physical activity.” writes Megan Gibson for Time.
It’s easy to see why these were dubbed the Women’s Games, the successes of the women are obvious. However, in our celebration have we been overlooking the backwards steps for true athlete gender equality? The fact that women have only 132 events in the games and men have 162, giving men 30 more chances to win gold, the negative comments and derogatory remarks; these are not indications of equal standards. Some view these games as a “statistical victory for female participation, but not real progress” – Jen Floyd Engel for Fox Sports.
Negative comments and remarks about weight, looks, sexual orientation, and ethnicity are being flung around the arena and have left female athletes wounded and feeling defensive. More attention has been paid to the neatness of Gabby Douglas’ hair than her historical accomplishment. The women’s beach volleyball team was described as “glistening wet otters” in their bathing suits by London Mayor Boris Johnson. Japanese female soccer players and the women’s Australian basketball team flew to the games in economy seats while their male counterparts flew business class with claims being they “don’t need as much leg room” when in fact 12 of the women were taller than the shortest male athlete.
Zoe Smith, a British weightlifter was attacked on Twitter by people saying she looked like a “lesbian” and a “bloke.” She won several fans by defending herself saying “We don’t lift weights in order to look hot.” It’s hard to classify this as our year when there are several glaring steps backward for gender equality in sports. We shouldn’t allow this behavior to continue with little to no consequence. It makes you wonder if it’s really about the sports at all.
So the questions beg to be asked – have we made enough progress to truly call this the Women’s Games? Or should we stand up and say it will be our year when we see true athlete gender equality?
Formerly of Fidelity Investments, David devotes his time and resources to a number of charitable organizations with a focus on providing opportunities for low-income youth. In addition to his work on Big Sister’s Board of Directors, he is also on the Council with New England Historic Genealogical Society and is a Lifetime Member of the Francis Ouimet Society and Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants. Recently, David co-chaired the Boston Center for Youth and Families Gala, ran the Boston Marathon benefiting the Women’s Lunch Place, and participated in the Rodman Ride in support of Big Sister. He currently serves on the 2012 House Committee for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. David and his wife, Holly McGrath, help direct the charitable efforts of the Highland Street Foundation – a private family foundation committed to addressing the needs and concerns of children and families in Massachusetts and California, specifically in the areas of education, housing, mentoring, health care, environment, and the arts. To date, the foundation has contributed more than $125 million to non-profit organizations.
When asked what interested him in Big Sister; he said: “I believe a positive mentoring relationship can have the biggest impact on someone’s life. As a Boston resident, I was well aware of Big Sister’s outstanding reputation for serving girls. I was overwhelmingly impressed with CEO Deb Re, the hardworking and dedicated team, and a board truly committed to serving youth in need. I recently attended the Big Brother Big Sister National Conference in California and had the opportunity to hear from fellow mentoring programs. Although each was very inspiring, Big Sister Association of Greater Boston well exceeded cities two or three times our size in making matches – serving nearly 3,000 girls. it is an honor to be part of such a dynamic, creative, and compassionate organization.”
Mentoring is clearly important to David, who was fortunate to have had many role models in his own life. “My parents continue to be strong guiding influences and my three sisters are an invaluable support system,” said David. “I am able to look back at various relationships with teachers, coaches, and friends and see how their support, interest, and guidance have enhanced my life. Everyone needs (and deserves) encouragement and this is exactly what Big Sister provides.”
David, who is very active within Boston’s philanthropic community, believes that everyone should give back in whatever way they can. “I feel that it is a right and a responsibility, and can be in the form of volunteering your time, talents, or resources,” he said. “Big Sister’s ongoing success is due to its ability to engage supporters in all size, shape, and form. Collectively, this support provides a solid foundation which garners impressive results, generates continued awareness and enthusiasm, and ensures long-term sustainability.”
Little Sister Blasmiry and her Big Sister Evelyn Reyes, who are both residents of Jamaica Plain, recently met with Big Sister Association CEO Deborah Re to present her with a $25 donation. This contribution represented the profits from Blasmiry’s entrepreneurial initiative, the lemonade stand that she and her Big Sister Evelyn operated as part of Lemonade Day on May 5. Lemonade Day is a national program which teaches children how to own and operate their own business. By taking part in this event, Little Sisters like Blasmiry develop leadership and problem solving skills, and learn how to set and achieve goals. They also gain experience in economics as they learn about supply and demand, credit and debt, gross and net income, and return on investment. Blasmiry took out a micro loan to finance her business, and spent hours studying and planning in order to make the Pink and Yellow Lemonade Stand a success. She also handed out flyers advertising her stand, introduced herself to every customer, offered promotions such as a free cookie with a lemonade purchase, and provided bilingual service for both English and Spanish speaking buyers.
Ten-year-old Blasmiry has been matched with her Big Sister Evelyn for just over one year, during which time they have gotten to know each other well. Some of their favorite activities have included attending a Celtics game with courtside seats, which was Blasmiry’s first time visiting TD Garden, and going to see The Nutcracker at The Strand Theater, where Blasmiry had her picture taken with Santa Claus. When asked what activity she has enjoyed the most, Blasmiry said that she loved “drinking tea with my favorite cookies,” and visiting her Big Sister at her workplace, State Street. Evelyn enjoys taking her Little Sister to different restaurants, such as Spike’s Junkyard Dogs, Dogwood Café, and even to an Indian restaurant. Evelyn was surprised that Blasmiry liked the Indian food, which she had never eaten before. “She tells me just to at least try it,” Blasmiry said, “and I end up loving it!”
Blasmiry, who wants to be a teacher when she grows up, chose to donate her Lemonade Day profits to Big Sister Association in order to help another girl like herself have as much fun with a Big Sister of her own. If you would like to donate to Big Sister, please visit our website.