Husniyah, a Columbia resident, was first introduced to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia in 2008, when her daughter decided she wanted a big sister. She saw the positive impact this relationship continues to have on her daughter and believed that her son could benefit from a role model as well. When Halim was old enough, she offered him the opportunity to be matched with a “big brother.”
On January 1, 2015, Halim and Mark met for the first time as “Big” and “Little.” As they played video games at Halim’s home the pair got to know each other. They discovered that they both like to wear the same brand of sneakers. In addition, they both love social studies and shared it was their favorite subject in school. From that day forward, their relationship has grown more and more meaningful.
The Big Brothers Big Sisters program began more than 100 years ago as a way to keep youth out of courtrooms and prisons by providing them with adult role models. Currently, it is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the world, with operations in all fifty states and in twelve other countries. The program requires that Bigs spend between 4 and 6 hours every month with their Little for a minimum of one year.
The pairs are matched through an extensive process. A case manager helps to put the pairs together according to their interests, how they handle things, and their ages. Then throughout their time together, case managers work with pairs to ensure child safety and provide support. Mark and Halim enjoy working with Kayla, their case manager.
As a young professional who wanted to get more involved in the community, Mark came across Big Brothers Big Sisters and decided that it would be a great way to give back. He has had many male role models in his life, and wanted to give the same support to a child. Mark truly enjoys his time with Halim.
“This experience reminds me of the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated,” he shared.
Each week Mark receives an email with ideas for free or low-cost activities they can do with their Littles. Mark affectionately calls the activities they do together as – “guy things.” He has introduced Halim to so many activities that he had never done before. They have gone rock climbing, hiking, and kayaking. They have also visited museums and attended a USC basketball game. Mark is involved at his church, and he has taken Halim to see where he spends so much of his time.
Mark always makes a point to emphasize both education and fun when planning outings with Halim. He recently took Halim to the State Capitol to visit the center of South Carolina’s government and to teach him about our legislative process.
Mark has also been there for Halim when things got rough. Tragically last October, the destructive flooding in Columbia impacted Halim and his Mom. They had to move out of their home and were displaced for a week until they could move into the apartment where they currently live. Mark was extremely concerned about them and made sure they were all right. He even offered to help them move their furniture. Luckily, they were able to save most of their important belongings. During this difficult time Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia and the pair’s caseworker, Kayla, reached out to the family and offered their support as well.
After the floods, Mark took Halim to Buffalo Wild Wings for a birthday celebration. He knew Halim could use some cheering up because the first wave of heavy rain came on Halim’s birthday. The guys enjoyed eating wings and watching sports together. This time together made all the difference for Halim. Husniyah considers Mark to be a member of their family. “He understands Halim. And I know if I need to call him he will be there,” she shared.
Big Brothers Big Sisters provides a supportive community for both Bigs and Littles. It holds events such as Bowl For Kids’ Sake, The Big Little Run and holiday parties for Big and Little pairs to mingle with others. In addition, they hold socials just for Bigs as a way for them to meet and exchange ideas on spending time with their Littles. “They do a great job of including everyone,” Mark shared. “It is easy for each of us to get caught up in our busy lives. The Big Brothers Big Sisters program is the perfect way to slow down and spend quality time with Halim and hopefully make a huge impact on his life.”
For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia, visit www.bbbsgc.org or call 803-691-5700.