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September 27th, 2013

Big Brothers Big Sisters: building community through mentorship

By KIND Editor

Acts of kindness, both big and small, can have a long-lasting ripple effect. In the case of John Liu, a financial professional living in New York City, the kindness shown to him by strangers as a child continues to inspire him to volunteer his time as an adult. His story is a great example of how one family’s acts of kindness have continued to ripple out, touching the lives of others. John is an executive member of the Asian Mentoring Committee, a division of Big Brothers Big Sisters in New York and has been mentoring the same “Little,” the term used for mentees, for the last three years.

When Liu immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 5, a Catholic family was paired up to help acclimate the Lius to their new home—inviting them over for holidays and introducing them to American culture. Inspired by their kindness, John got involved in a broad range of volunteer activity as a teenager and adult—teaching assistant, serving in a soup kitchen. “I had good mentoring influences growing up and so I wanted to help others,” John explained.

In 2010 John looked to connect with a volunteer organization in New York City and he was impressed by the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Sharing his reasons for getting involved: “It’s been around for over 100 years and the program is professional, organized and well-structured so a person can really have an impact.” After going through training with other Bigs—program mentors—to learn how to establish a relationship, share experiences and flag common pitfalls, Liu was matched with 10-year-old Ian.

When John and Ian were first paired up, Ian struggled with controlling his emotions, getting so angry he would act out and struggle to speak. Over the course of their relationship, John has coached Ian to reflect on his actions, encouraged him to play ball and run, and introduced him to cultural institutions in the city. Liu related proudly that Ian recently shared a newfound excitement for the future, telling him, “I’m really looking forward to doing things.” Over the past three years Ian has matured into an active and more confident teenager.

For those who might be interested in volunteering, John has some advice. “Littles come in all flavors and sizes and the challenges each faces are unique—you are not a superman that will solve everything in a week. Develop a relationship, understand what is important and fun for the Little and most importantly, grow together.”

Check out the Big Brothers Big Sisters website to learn more about opportunities to make a difference in the lives of young people in your community.

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