We are constantly amazed at the impact being made by our partner agencies. This week, we are inspired by Ryan and Matthew and the bond they have through Big Brothers Big Sisters:

Matthew* lives with his mother, Lisa*, and two younger brothers, and his father is frequently incarcerated. Lisa works and the annual household income is less than $19,000. Matthew was 11 years old when he first met his Big, Ryan, an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas. A physical somewhat rough boy, Matthew loved being outside, enjoying anything to do with hunting, fishing or sports. Matthew felt his father’s absence strongly, and according to his mother, seemed to feel that he needed to be the man of the house. Matthew tended to fight a good deal with his younger brother, and challenged his mother’s rules on occasion. Lisa felt that he would benefit from the guidance that an encouraging male could provide. Lisa also hoped a Big could help Matthew develop higher self esteem and respect for others.

Matthew was matched with Ryan in October 2013. When the two first started meeting, their activities revolved around sports, with Ryan teaching Michael the basics of a couple of different games. They meet regularly every two weeks, and many of their visits continue to center around the physical types of activities they both enjoy such as fishing, kayaking, hiking, Frisbee golf and roller blading. Ryan encourages Matthew to be open to new social situations and has introduced him to his roommates. Reluctant at first to meet new people, Matthew has begun to enjoy the socialization and “that made me feel like I want to be around more people.” Ryan reports that Matthew has a much better relationship with his own peers than he did two years ago, and a better ability to express his feelings.

Ryan and Matthew spend a great deal of time talking about Matthew’s schooling and grades, and Matthew is grateful for the academic tips that Ryan gives on writing and other topics. Matthew explained that Ryan has made him realize “that school is important and more than just torture!” and Ryan feels that Matthew does have a much better attitude towards school. Ryan added that one of the most rewarding moments he has experienced from the mentoring relationship is the pride that Matthew showed when he got a 100% on a test in a class where he had been struggling. The two spend time talking about the challenges in Matthew’s life, and how to best handle an issue. Ryan reports that he has sees greater self confidence in Matthew as well as an improved sense of future.

Ryan is repeatedly surprised by how Matthew remembers every little thing that he says. Matthew is now 13 and Ryan can’t believe the growth and maturation he has seen in Matthew over the past two years, and he feels that their relationship has blossomed into a good friendship. Matthew concurs, reporting on the Strength of Relationship (SOR) survey that he feels close to Ryan and that whenever he has a problem, he feels he can talk to Ryan about it.

*The names of these individuals have been altered to protect their privacy.