Now in its eighth year, the Bnos One-on-One Big Sister Little Sister Program has positively impacted girls nationwide. The highly acclaimed program, operated by Agudath Israel of America is sponsored by The Center for Jewish Family Life. Founded in 2009, its mission is to build greater resiliency in young adolescents by providing them with a role model and mentor, by offering emotional support and encouragement. Eleventh and twelfth grade big sisters meet with their sixth- or seventh-grade little sisters once a week for fun activities.
During these eight years, the program has influenced girls in Atlanta, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Denver, Edison, Far Rockaway, Five Towns, Queens, Lakewood, Miami Monsey and Toronto.
The weekly meetings between the Big Sister and Little Sister, provide opportunities for recreation, craft making, games, study, or just a good schmooze. The Big Sisters help build self-esteem and confidence in their younger counterparts, providing a space for the ‘tweens to discuss personal issues while feeling understood and safe. Many of the relationships that begin in the program develop into lifelong friendships.
Some stories that illustrate the personal impact that Bnos One-on-One has on its participants:
Rivky was a sixth grader in a Bais Yaakov who was not academically inclined and having behavioral issues. The parents were advised to consult with a social worker. After a full year, the school was not going to readmit her. She joined the program, and after three short months as a “Little Sister”, the principal called her big sister, asking about the magical effect she had had on her. Rivky had become a different girl!
Two years later, Rivky is in 9th grade and called to see if she is old enough to be a big sister. She said, “Bnos One-on-One changed my life. Now it is time to give back what I owe.”
One parent called Chanie, her daughter Leah’s big sister and begged her to go out Sunday instead of Tuesday. When the big sister asked why, the parent replied, “My daughter is getting married and Leah will not pick out a gown without you.”
An only girl in a family of boys, Rena looked forward to getting together with her big sister every week. Her big sister concentrated on activities she would enjoy and taught Rena hair styling. As Rena said, “My big sister is a sister that I never had.”
Bnos One-on-One chapters run events periodically throughout the year, cementing the relationships of the girls: a launch event at the beginning of the year and celebrations around holidays like Chanukah and Purim. The year-end events included ice skating, rowing, picnics and barbecues and banquets. The program is highly praised by educators, parents and the participants themselves.
The happy faces of the participants are testimony to the effectiveness of the program. “Sixth graders are at a crossroads in their lives,” says Chana Baila Hass, Director of Bnos Agudath Israel. “They are no longer kids but are not quite adults yet either. We hope that this program continues to help the girls navigate this important stage of life.
“We express our appreciation to all the Big Sisters who have given of their time selflessly., and to all of the 100 high schools and elementary schools who participate. Hatzlacha to all the Little Sisters as they enter another exciting phase of their lives.”
To learn more about this exciting program or to bring it to your city or community, email [email protected].