Here (Kate) one of our current Big Sisters shares her views on the journey so far and sends a message to her Little Sister whilst in lockdown…
When you sign up to be a Big Sister with Girls Out Loud, you commit to spending a year getting to know, and supporting, a teenage girl who is at a pivotal stage in her life and education. Much of what we do is centred on building confidence – and being a role model – to show our Little Sister the value of education, and to encourage her to believe in herself at a time when no one else is doing so.
I first met my Little Sister in November 2019. It feels like an age ago now, but I was still getting to know her, slowly building her trust and climbing the wall that she had built around herself, when Lockdown hit. My Little Sister has oodles of confidence, or so it first seemed, but over the course of our meetings she had slowly opened up to me and I had started to understand that she also faces many challenges. Challenges that I never faced growing up and, frankly, challenges that I didn’t know existed until I started to understand the reality of being a teenager in a tough school, in a tough town in Britain in 2020. To say that the process of going into her school once a month was eye-opening is an understatement; there is no way that my 13 year old self would have lasted in there for more than 5 minutes.
At our last session, I had done a personality quiz with her and a ‘Future Careers’ game. She and I were both delighted when she was shown to be the right personality type for a lawyer – there is clearly some magic in the matching process undertaken by the Girls Out Loud team! The fact was though, she had no idea where to start, and she wasn’t sure if her (incredible, but overworked) teachers, who seemed to have put her into a very different category, could be persuaded. She wasn’t sure what her family or friends would say, or if she would ever be able to concentrate for long enough to get the work done that would be needed. Homework seemed to be tough for her; I got the feeling that there wasn’t always the time or space to get things done.
Cue, of course, Lockdown. My Little Sister is only 13 so I cannot contact her, and I have no idea how she is doing. Her school seemed already to be stretched to breaking point; and I have no idea how they will be managing remote learning for children who don’t have access to the internet or computers. I suspect the school is concentrating on how it can feed and protect vulnerable children and, understandably, they have no time to help us get in touch.
So, Big Sisters are left to wait, and to worry. To read about the huge increase in domestic violence and to hope and pray that none of our Little Sisters are in danger. To think of all the things we would like to say. For me it’s: please do your school work, please stay at home and be safe, and please remember that the people you meet online aren’t always who they say they are. I am hoping that she remembers the workshop we did together on this very subject and if I think positive my thoughts may somehow get through to her.
Being a Big Sister has been an incredibly rewarding process for me so far. It has opened my eyes to the huge inequalities that exist in our society, and it has made me feel like there is hope that we can do something to change it. For any of you reading this, worrying about the state of our nation post-Lockdown, and wondering what you can do to help, please think about how you might support Girls Out Loud. Please consider signing up and becoming a Big Sister. I can guarantee that it is an experience that will change you, challenge you, and reward you in equal measures.
Kate Dodd from Pinsent Mason is currently a Big Sister at a Manchester school, to apply to become a Big Sister click here: https://girlsoutloud.org.uk/volunteer-as-a-role-model/