Tatyanna and I were matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County in July 2010. I had decided to sign up to volunteer with BBBS for a number of reasons. I was new to the area, and was looking for a way to have a stronger connection to the community. Also, I grew up in a large family and have many nieces and nephews that live out of state, so I was missing having a child in my life that I was close with.
[caption id="attachment_682" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Amber with her mentee Tatyanna and Sen. Knapik at Youth Mentoring Day 2012"][/caption]When I first met Tatyanna, I knew that I had found the perfect little sister. For our first activity, we went bowling. I could tell right away that we had a lot in common and were going to get along really well. We share a love of animals, and have very similar personalities.
Since that initial meeting we have done a lot of activities together. I think that it is really important for people to know where things come from, whether food, clothes, etc. I have tried to pass some of this knowledge on to Tatyanna. We have gone to farmers' markets, and I have worked with Tatyanna in our backyard garden. We have been to local farms to pick blueberries and strawberries. The strawberries were eaten too fast, but we froze the blueberries and this fall we turned them into blueberry jam. Over the last 2 years I have been working on refinishing the attic in my house, and I have enjoyed showing Tatyanna the progress of the work, and have taken her to the hardware store with me to buy lumber. This was especially important to me to share with Tatyanna because I want her to realize that not just boys can do that kind of work, but girls can do it too!
I have found that we do not need to have a set activity to have fun with each other. There have been some weeks when both of our schedules have been so hectic that it worked out that we didn’t have time for a planned activity, so instead I picked up Tatyanna to go run errands with me. We had a blast, and it was easy to fit into both of our schedules. The main thing is that we were able to spend time together.
Tatyanna has become an important part of not only my life, but my family’s life as well. My stepdaughter Cassie, is 17-years-old, and absolutely adores Tatyanna and lights up when she sees her. Cassie and I enjoy going to Tatyanna’s games and cheering her team on, whether they win or not. Tatyanna has a love of music and is learning how to play guitar and piano. My husband is a musician and is excited to help her on the road to playing instruments.
I have found my relationship with Tatyanna more rewarding to me than I personally had thought was possible when I first signed up for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was looking for a way to give back to the community, and to make a difference in a child’s life, and hopefully have some fun in the process. A pleasant surprise has been how much Tatyanna has enriched my life. It’s so rewarding, and such an honor to realize how much I mean to Tatyanna, and how much she has come to mean to me as well. It has been wonderful watching her grow and mature. I really look forward to the time that we are able to spend together, and hope to be in each other’s lives for a long time to come.