In this interview I would like to bring you an experience of one of my photo models: Hanna – Liis. We met in August 2015 at Tartu Dome Church ruins, next to the supreme court. I remember it very clearly because that was the only season when I used my favorite camera Nikon F5. During the setup of the photo shoot we had a conversation, about her experience of volunteering in a program called “Big brother, Big sister”.
Tell me who you are, what do you do, what are your hobbies and passion?
My name is Hanna – Liis and I am 26 years old. I am currently working at the Police and Border Guard, where I am in the southern prefecture Tartu Police Department Prevention and Procedures Department operational group as a junior investigator. I also have duties at the University of Tartu, where I am studying to get my Master’s Degree in IT Law. When stress and tension begins to overwhelm me, I sit quietly at home and watch my favorite TV show while crocheting at the same time – toys in “amigur” style. Other hobbies I have is modeling, tennis and snowboarding, but at the moment I don’t have time for those.
You mentioned the big brothers big sister at that time. How did you hear about it and why did you join?
I joined the project “Big brother, Big sister” at the university. I don’t recall the year, but my acquaintance shared information about it on Facebook. I felt at that moment, that something is missing from my life and I have to offer some act of goodness. The project has many children, who are being bullied and don’t have friends, or have been neglected by people around them. Often they are left out and nobody has time for them. Since I was also bullied at a younger age, I myself would have had great joy over having somebody who would have listened me and helped me. Even for a moment, to get out of the negativity. So through this program I found that I could support someone who really needs it.
How was application process like to become big sister?
If I remember correctly, the first thing was the information seminar for everybody who had interest for the project. We were told what to expect and which things we should consider. Each volunteer had to explain why they want to join and submit a letter of motivation. Once suitable volunteers were selected, we all received forms, and based on that we chose the younger brother or sister. When a man chose a friend on the form, he could only choose among boys, but woman had the opportunity to choose between boys and girls.
What are the most important qualities for a person who is suitable to be a big brother or a big sister?
In my opinion, the volunteer should have great empathy. Since we are older and we see the world as it is, it may happen that we don’t understand the problems of our younger friends. We must understand that a younger friend comes from another environment, and their troubles are very important no matter how insignificant they may seem to us. Today, all of us have very fast pace of life, but for a younger brother or sister, being with a new friend may be the highlight of the week. If you have promised to be an big sister or a brother, then you need to create a relationship of trust. One of the necessary bases is finding time and keeping the promises. A little friend needs help from someone who brings sun to their day and throws away thr rain clouds that have been bothered them for a long time.
How long have you been involved in this project?
It was somewhere 5 years ago. Today I’m still in the volunteers rows, but unfortunately I haven’t contributed for three years. I was big sister for one boy who was 6 years old and the youngest child of the project. This boy was special in many ways. He lived in an orphanage, where nobody didn’t care or pay attention to what he needed. He had several mental disorders, which made it difficult to understand his mindset. I was a big sister to this young boy for over a period of more than 1,5 years until my life changed and I was no longer able to help out. I had to admit that I must first handle my own issues and I will not be able to deal with two lives. As a result, I had to put an end to the existing relationship with him and focus on myself. After that, I haven’t had a younger sister or brother, and today I have no time to step back in this path.
How popular is this project in Estonia?
When I joined the project, I had not met too many people who were aware of this project. Today, when new people took over the project, I think awareness has risen. Today is better defined for whom we are and why. There are also lots of events where people are raised awareness and through it, the project involves more volunteers. I hope that the popularity will rise with years more and more!
Talk about your personal experiences with this project?
My experience with the project was versatile. I committed myself to be there for someone. But at the same time, I didn’t understand how heavy will be the burden that fell on me. In fact, I didn’t have previous experience or education in which I would have understood the mindset of children with mental disorders. Because of my own ignorance and inexperience, it often happened that I didn’t know how to deal with the behavior and mood of my younger brother in the public room. I was supposed to be his great role model, big sister. My greatest joy was the moments when I went to visited him. He was waiting for me in the window and shouted when he saw me, that his friend had come. This emotion was so sincere and he always ran to me and gave me a big hug he was so proud that I was his friend. Such situations made my heart very warm. Since my younger brother was 6-7 years old at the time of our communication, most of the meetings were held on a playground.
What have you learned from this experience since you spent time with your little brother?
I learned from this experience that even thought I was bullied, I have been very lucky in life. I have a mother and a father who find time for me. Yes, they may not always understand my concerns, but I can rely on them. Unfortunately, everybody does not always have the confidence to trust anyone. I consider the project to be important because everyone needs a friend to suport him. Sometimes one good friend can change someone’s life forever!
What advice would you give to a person who is considering starting volunteering in this program?
My recommendation is to think hard about why you want to join the project. If you decide to be a role model and emotional support for someone, you need to commit to it. Their expectations are to have you as part of their life. As a friend who is not someone you forget and leave when life is fast. I am glad that this project exists and I am so thankful for the people that are doing this kind of difficult, but thankful awarding work. I would have needed this kind of friend when I was young. Reason why I introduced “Big brother, Big sister” -project to you, is a secret hope to inspire your dear reader to become inspired by it and to take part of this or similar programs.
Madis –Siim Kull