Thanks to a lack of male volunteers in Bermuda, Coreen Dawson’s 12-year-old son had to wait almost three years to find a match in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Bermuda charity, but she believes it was all worth it.
It was so worth it, that in December, her son Taj Dawson-DeRosa nominated his Big Brother, Neal Churchill, for the charity’s annual Big Brother of the Year award.
Today, on worldwide Thank Your Mentor Day, Ms Dawson urged other Bermudians to become involved with the programme so other little boys don’t have to wait so long.
“We all know it takes a whole village to raise a child,” said Ms Dawson. “With today’s society if we could just save one young person from looking to the streets for love it would all be worth it.
“This is a positive way to help a child out. It not only helps a child out, it helps the whole family. Neal has been a godsend to us.”
Mr Churchill and Taj were matched a year and eight months ago.
“Mr Churchill is originally from Surrey, England and works at the Bank of Butterfield in the private banking department. He was inspired to join because a friend was a mentor. He also thought it would be a great way to connect with a Bermudian family.
“I didn’t really realise the impact I was having until Taj read his letter during the Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year event,” said Mr Churchill. “The biggest thing is that there is not enough men doing what I am doing.
“There is a big waiting list for these little guys. I am just one of many that are already doing this and there is a lot more than can be done. There are many more children that need to be matched.”
Ms Dawson signed her son up for the programme because she was looking for a positive male role model for her son. Taj’s father is not in his life.
“We went on the waiting list several years ago and he wasn’t matched for two-and-a-half years,” said Ms Dawson. “They just didn’t have enough males volunteering for the programme.”
She didn’t want Taj to miss out, so she took him to the various functions that the charity offers, such as kite days and fun days.
Ms Dawson was so impressed with how well the programme worked she became more and more involved.
“Being from a Bermudian family, I knew how to make kites, so we went to kite day and I made kites with the children,” she said. “A lot of the ‘Bigs’ are expatriates and don’t know how to do things like that.
“I believe in the programme. It has a lot of benefits for the children. When Taj was matched a year and eight months ago, it was a perfect match. It was well worth waiting for.
“Taj does a lot of stuff with his ‘Big’ that he probably would never have had the opportunity to do with just having me and his sister there.”
She said her son was very shy, and Mr Churchill has helped to bring him out of his shell.
Taj now has a lot more confidence and is trying out for different athletic teams, and is involved in soccer. Mr Churchill helps Taj with his homework, and has even helped him to clean and organise his room.
“There are things that boys don’t feel comfortable talking to a female parent about,” said Ms Dawson. “They want to talk to a guy about it.
“Neal encourages Taj in whatever he wants to do, no matter how big or small it is. Sometimes he suggests that Taj rethink his idea a bit.
“He doesn’t make his decision for him but he gives him the guidance that is needed to make the decision.”