NEW YORK - Even in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City continues to serve the 5,000 children who participate in its programs. The organization is keeping the "bigs" (mentors) and "littles" (mentees) together even while they are physically apart.
"It's another family outside of school, outside of home," Vanessa, a little, told FOX 5 NY. The high school senior joined the youth mentoring organization three years ago and matched with her big, Janet Lee.
"Before COVID-19, we would meet every other week and we would work for about two hours at a time," Lee said. "We would get food with the rest of the group and we would have basically a syllabus that we follow throughout the school year."
Once the pandemic hit, though, things changed.
"We very quickly pivoted. We knew that we had to be agile, we had to be nimble and that mentoring was made for this moment," CEO Alicia Guevera said.
She said that mentoring couldn't stop. Nearly 70% of the littles live in communities that have been most affected by COVID-19.
"At least 85% of our littles are young people who live in low-income households," Guevera said. "Many have parents and guardians who are essential workers and couldn't be in the household."
Shortly after the pandemic hit New York, all of the programs went virtual. Bigs and littles started connecting over FaceTime, TikTok, and other platforms such as Zoom.
Vanessa said that not being able to see her big in person has been tough but the pandemic has made their relationship stronger.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City is always looking for mentors, especially now more than ever. To learn about the program, see www.bigsnyc.org.
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