SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC NEWS) — Local organization Big Brothers Big Sisters has been striving to change the lives of children in the Syracuse community since 1968. But this year, the mentorship program run by Peace Incorporated had to take a short break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organization would normally have 55-65 pairings within their community-based programs, and about 125 pairings within their school-based programs. But, the number of pairings has substantially decreased during the pandemic due to the limitations of person-to-person contact in the early months of the pandemic. The organization was unable to meet with prospective mentors in person, which meant new children in the organization could not get paired with a mentor.
After a near six-month slump, director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, John Bruzdzinski, said it was time to get back into the swing of things, even if they had to do things the way they weren’t used.
“They need a role model. They need someone they can talk to,” said Bruzdzinski.
Oscar Vergara is one of these role models for 14-year-old Josiah Meychene. These two have been together for seven years. The pandemic stopped them from being able to see each other as often as usual and they couldn’t do their regular fun activities like going to the fair.
Despite this, Meychene still found a way to look bright side.
“It’s a little upsetting that we can’t hang out as much, but I can still talk to him whenever I need to. We do still get to see each other,” he said.
Meychene also said he is thankful for the role that Vergara has had in his life.
“Well, I have a very fun time. He’s helped me get out of the house more. He’s been a pretty good influence on me, I’d say that much,” he said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters plans to keep impacting the lives of the youth in the Syracuse community in any way they can. They’ve started doing things like meeting virtually through Zoom and FaceTime. Big Brothers Big Sisters has even thought about taking virtual tours of the San Diego Zoo.
Bruzdzinski said it’s important that these pairings are able to have some communication, even during these unprecedented times.
“With that big, that might be the one person in their lives that they can open up to and be free to speak with,” he said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is always looking for volunteers. The requirements to be a Big include being 18 or older and being willing to devote six hours a month to your little.
For more information on how you can get involved, click here.