Founded more than 100 years ago in 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has aided hundreds of thousands of youth in reaching their goals and living up to their fullest potential. The organization’s official mission statement boasts their dedication to providing, “children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported 1-to-1 relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”
Branding themselves as “defenders of potential,” Big Brothers Big Sisters works with parents and volunteers to pair children in need with a mentor from the community. This mentor, or metaphorical big brother/big sister, serves as a role model in things such as self-confidence, building relationships, goal setting, decision making, and academic success.
One such defender of potential is Blugold Malachi Dornfeld. Dornfeld, a sophomore environmental public health major at UW-Eau Claire, is completing his service-learning project at Big Brothers Big Sisters in Eau Claire.
Dornfeld was first introduced to Big Brothers Big Sisters as a freshman, when he participated in UW Meets EC, an annual event in which students are led on a tour of downtown Eau Claire, where they have the opportunity to meet and connect with more than 40 local businesses along the route.
Dornfeld and some friends scored some t-shirts from Big Brothers Big Sisters as they made their way along the tour; this, Dornfeld said, is the moment he knew he wanted to become a big brother with the organization. He called their Eau Claire office, was invited for an interview, and the rest is history.
Every other week, Dornfeld meets with his “little” to play games, do homework, and talk about anything under the sun. He noted that some of their favorite activities to do together include playing sports at the gym or hanging out in the music room.
“It’s really cool to watch a kid grow,” Dornfeld reflected; “When I first met him, he was having some trouble in school and also some issues with discipline...but now he is doing really well in school and it has really opened my eyes to the idea that people change and we always need to keep an open mind.”
Growing up as the youngest of 4 siblings, Dornfeld never had the true experience of being a big brother until his time spent with his “little” at Big Brothers Big Sisters; an anecdote that makes his service project all the more meaningful.
When asked what his all-time favorite moment with his “little” has been thus far, Dornfeld spoke of how amazing it felt to realize how proud his “little” was to have him as a big brother.
“When we first started hanging out, we would walk by all of his friends and he would just have this big smile on his face and when his friends would ask ‘who is that guy?’ he’d shout, ‘that’s my big brother!’...and it was in that moment that I realized what an impact I was making, just by spending as little as an hour a week with him,” Malachi noted.
Dornfeld’s bond with his “little” is such that, upon completing all required 30 service-learning hours at Big Brothers Big Sisters, he has gone above and beyond and still continues to spend time with his “little.”
As Nelson Mandela once said, “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.”