Big Little Stories

A Mother’s Story

Betsy* is a devoted parent who works full-time even while limited by serious health issues. She moved her two children, Charlie* and Savannah*, to Columbia in 2013 to build a new life away from the children’s abusive father. Not knowing anyone in the community, Betsy grappled to find a support network for her family and was heartbroken seeing her children struggle.

When Betsy wasn’t working, most of her time and energy were devoted to caring for Charlie, a lively little boy with special needs. As a result, Savannah did not have much one-on-one time with her mother. Even though Charlie received much of his mother’s attention, he too was floundering without the presence of a strong male role model. Additionally, Charlie was the one to initially report the abuse his family experienced at the hands of his father so he struggled with extreme guilt and anger.

Betsy knew her children needed more than she alone could give them. She sought out Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri to provide mentors, or Bigs, for Savannah and Charlie.

Savannah is a bright and energetic 10 year-old. When enrolling her daughter in Big Brothers Big Sisters, Betsy hoped she could find a mentor to help Savannah with her self-confidence and making friends at school. Shortly after being enrolled, Savannah was matched with her mentor or Big Sister, Andrea*.

Andrea remembered how difficult it was to figure out who she wanted to be growing up. She wanted to help Savannah accomplish that goal. One of the first things Big Sister Andrea did was sit down with Savannah and encourage her to write out ten good things about herself. They talked about why those things were true and important. Then, Andrea made a card listing those positive qualities for Savannah to keep. Savannah’s card reads: “I am beautiful. I am funny. I am smart. I can do this. I won’t give up.” Savannah carries the card everywhere she goes and reads it on days when she feels down. As time has passed and her relationship with her Big Sister has developed, Savannah’s self-esteem has increased and she is now making friends at school.

Savannah’s younger brother, Charlie is 9 years old. Betsy worried about her son because he found it difficult to connect emotionally with others which made relationships, especially friendships, a challenge. Betsy wanted Charlie to have a one-to-one relationship with a male mentor to whom he felt he could open up and trust. Charlie was matched with Big Brother, Steven*, in July of 2014.

For several months, Charlie was resistant to spending time or having fun with Steven. His Big Brother didn’t give up on him though, and Charlie came to realize that Steven was not going to abandon him and was committed to helping him. Charlie began to trust in Steven and reach out for advice when facing challenges. Both Big Brother and Little Brother say they are very close. Charlie says he can always ask Steven for help when he needs it, whether it is with homework or figuring out how to interact with other people.

Working together with her children’s Bigs, Betsy and the staff of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri developed a plan to address the emotional and academic needs of each child. Now entering their second year of working together, the children are thriving. Betsy, a mother who was once weighed down by the challenges her family faced, is now joyfully optimistic about the futures of both Charlie and Savannah.

*Names have been changed to protect the family’s identity.