The start of summer means the end of another successful year for Bnos One on One, an ongoing project of Bnos Agudath Israel of America that matches high school seniors with middle schoolers in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Bnos One on One has paired more than 1,000 girls together since its inception in 2009, imbuing the “little sisters” with an increased sense of self-esteem and reinforcing the positivity of their Yiddishkeit while also providing the “big sisters” with vital skills for the leadership roles they will soon play in their own communities. Over this past year alone, the more than 200 big and little sister pairs that were matched up in Brooklyn, Denver, Far Rockaway, Lakewood and Monsey enjoyed close friendships and a variety of activities including Chanukah and Purim celebrations, carnivals, ice cream parties and appreciation events.
How does Bnos One on One impact lives? Malky, a Brooklyn big sister, and Mrs. Reich* the mother of a Lakewood sixth grade little sister, shared their thoughts on their experiences over the past year.
Bnos: Why did you/your daughter sign up for Bnos One on One?
Malky: The program was recommended to me as a positive way to utilize my free time, while also giving back to the community.
Mrs. Reich: My daughter has learning challenges in school and a needy brother at home. We knew she needed the extra love and attention that she would get by having a relationship with an older girl.
Bnos: What do you think your little sister/your daughter’s big sister gained most out of your relationship?
Malky: It was so clear to see how my little sister developed over the year. As time went by we forged a warm relationship and enjoyed spending time together, discussing how our day had gone and how things were in our lives. It was easy to see how she literally bloomed because of the extra attention.
Mrs. Reich: My daughter’s big sister was the oldest of the large family and I think she got a lot out of being able to give of herself to someone outside her family. Becoming attuned to the joy of giving is an important skill to cultivate and it was wonderful to see how much she enjoyed making my daughter feel special and valued.
Bnos: What did you/your daughter’s big sister gain most out of your relationship?
Malky: In addition to the personal growth I achieved by making extra time for chesed in my life, I gained a valuable friend and feel privileged to have become an honorary member of her family.
Mrs. Reich: My daughter’s big sister was a positive role model and the way she focused on my daughter and her needs made her feel extremely important. My daughter got a big boost from having that extra sense of support and love, and my husband and I both saw a real difference in her because of her participation in the program.
Bnos: What do you love most about your little sister/daughter’s big sister?
Malky: My little sister is a really sweet girl. Despite the difference in our ages, I found her to be really great company and I enjoyed spending time with her.
Mrs. Reich: My daughter’s big sister is such a warm, happy positive person. She is an amazing young lady and a wonderful role model for my daughter.
Bnos: What was your favorite activity that you/your daughter shared with your/her sister this year?
Malky: We enjoyed so many great times together that it is hard to pick just one. We went out for ice cream twice, did some great arts and crafts projects and played basketball together in her backyard.
Mrs. Reich: There were a few times that my daughter went with her big sister for pizza and ice cream, and while she enjoyed those outings, there is no question that her favorite activity was going to her big sister’s house to do an arts and crafts project. She made an adorable wooden plaque that she painted by herself and she felt so good when she brought it home and hung it up in her room.
Seeing both big and little sisters flourishing as they reap the rewards of Bnos One on One is extremely rewarding, said Mrs. Chana Baila Hass, national director of Bnos.
“Bnos One on One is a win-win situation where everyone benefits, with the little sister gaining by having a mashpiah in her life and the big sister gains by giving,” said Mrs. Hass. “This successful program is another way that Bnos Agudath Israel lives up to its motto of giving girls the ability to thrive in a non-academic environment, a necessary component of their growth and development during their formative years.”
*Names changed in the interests of privacy