Raised in a conflicted home, Big Sister Cathy knew that she wanted to be the kind of parent she never had. She remembers as a young teen wishing that she could share and confide in someone she could trust. “I lived in a world of surviving, not thriving,” Cathy said. Big Sister Cathy had two children and upon their departure to college she knew she had room in her life to be part of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Cathy was matched with 12-year-old Christiana in late 2009. Christiana was a reserved girl with a traumatic early childhood history who lived with her adoptive mother. Christiana’s mother had her hands full with her disabled son and knew that this attention was at Christiana’s expense.
In their first meeting, Big Sister Cathy and Little Sister Christiana went to dinner and a movie. As their meeting ended, they immediately made plans for the following week to meet again and quickly began seeing each other four to five hours every other week. Their get-togethers involved cooking, baking, shopping, watching movies, miniature golf, jigsaw puzzles, craft projects and bowling. As they spent time together, Cathy often inserted guidance, shared wisdom and discussed coping skills with her Little Sister. Christiana started opening up more to Cathy, and she confided in her about the challenges she faced.
In her freshman year of high school, Little Sister Christiana was moved to an alternative school because she was having issues fitting in. Christiana ran away from home and had many disagreements with her mother. As a consequence of these actions, Christiana was placed in a juvenile facility.
Knowing the importance of their meetings, Cathy kept up with their meetings every other week, no matter what. Even the 90-minute drives didn’t stop Cathy from maintaining her commitment to Christiana.
“Through all of this, we stayed constant with our meeting schedule. I knew that she needed a friend that would listen to her and provide encouragement,” said Big Sister Cathy. “I always pointed out her good traits; knowing not to judge her harshly.”
Cathy always found ways to boost Christiana’s self-esteem and sought to help Christiana understand the value of her voice and belief in herself. By encouraging Christiana to use her critical skills, Cathy is teaching her Little Sister the importance of working on problems herself while understanding the results of her decisions. When situations get too complicated, Cathy provides Christiana a sounding board and Christiana knows what they talk about will be kept confidential.
Since returning home, Cathy and Christiana’s mom have seen a change in Christiana. Christiana is making a lot of good decisions and having stronger communication with her mom. Little Sister Christiana has been through many ups and downs in her 17 years, but Cathy has remained a constant and consistently a positive force in her life these past five years.