Another recent casualty of reduced federal and state funding for social services is the on-site rural support for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. While Anchorage, Fairbanks, Mat-Su and Juneau will still have full-time local coordinators, Homer, Haines, Hoonah and Sitka will lose theirs.
Haines has had a highly successful program for nearly 15 years, and the community has contributed to the funds necessary to keep it going. But we can’t do it alone. The bonds forged between the adults and the youth have been invaluable to helping students make healthier choices and for people of all ages showing appreciation for each other.
Now more than ever, we need young people to know they have a voice and that we adults care about their safety and their future. Haines can develop a divisive climate at times, but we come together for kids. By bridging families through Big Brothers Big Sisters, we put our commonalities in the front seats.
Larger cities have multiple organizations that help support youth in ways similar to Big Brothers, Big Sisters, whereas smaller towns have fewer resources. The demographics of Haines lend themselves so well to matching adults with some free time to young people who need extra support, and there are lots of activities to pursue that develop life skills.
It would be wonderful if the bigger towns of Alaska could share resources and become the Big Brothers or Big Sisters that we “littles” really need at times like this.