Whoosh! Well, that 12-month Big Sister Programme journey flew by alright! Coming fresh off graduation with my little sister Vanesa it feels bittersweet, I’m happy that I made some positive impact on her confidence and aspirations for the future, but sad our journey together is over. It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster ride; wins, losses, laughs, tears, you name it!
If you’re thinking about getting involved in the programme I have two words for you, DO IT! Like I was at the start, maybe you’re trying to figure out how you will make the time and give your all to your little sister? Trust me, you will make it work and you’ll soon realise just how much difference you can make if you step out of your comfort zone, give the time, and focus on the now, to make a positive impact on someone else’s life.
Vanesa and I would regularly talk about why she should put in 100% effort in at school to set herself up for the best start in life, and she is a constant reminder to me of just how important it is to live in the moment and always strive to be the best version of you! The penny eventually dropped that the advice I was giving her, I could probably do with taking on board myself.
For the first few months Vanesa was on report due to various behavioural issues. Bottom line, she is an amazing girl, but sometimes the pressure of being a teenager today and her inability to moderate her emotions showed up negatively, but we spent many sessions discussing her behaviour, her choices and emotions and this helped her navigate the landscape better.
Proud moment alert Vanesa only went and got awarded the ‘Most Improved’ Award at the end of the year, halfway through our journey! This was recognition for all the hard work she put in to improve, we were both so happy when she shared that news. One of our final sessions together Vanesa bounced in so happily, telling me she had just come out of a meeting with her mum and teacher and that she was predicted 7s and 8s in all her GCSE subjects (to those of you used to the A-F classification a 9 is the best result you can get at GCSE nowadays!). An amazing feat and the smile on her face was everything, proud Big Sis right here!!
The hardest part of the journey were those meetings when Vanesa was feeling down, she had had a bad day or week at school and would say things like ‘I can’t be bothered’ and ‘what’s the point’. It would seem like a U-turn since our last meet when she was making great progress and the journey of staying motivated and doing well at school was 2 steps forward, 3 steps back at times.
One day she was very emotional and began crying in a session as she shared with me worries that she had, I did the best I could to reassure her and cheer her up, but I honestly felt powerless, and I worried about her for those weeks until our next session. I did flag my worries with the girls out loud team and school and always felt I had their full support. On these days I’d really question what value I was adding as imposter syndrome popped up.
In our final session when I asked if Vanesa had found value in the programme she said yes, ‘in our meetings I feel like I can open up, be honest without getting in trouble. We talk about everything’. As if that isn’t enough, I’ve learned so much about myself, I’m a better listener, I’ve learned to live in the moment and met an amazing peer group of inspirational women.
If you are thinking about being a Big Sister do not hesitate. Do it so you can make a real difference to a young girl’s path, do it so they know how many amazing strong female role models and supporters they have out there! Impart a bit of your wisdom and be that cheerleader every teenage girl needs so they find the drive and confidence to go after whatever they want to in life.
Emma – Big Sister