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‘She is discovering her voice’

Girl’s self-confidence blooms with the attention of Big Family

Little Sister Aniya, who recently turned 10, is a quiet, soft-spoken girl who dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Her Big Sister Shelby says Aniya is very intelligent and could very well make the dream come true.

Shelby, who already has a bachelor’s degree, had returned to school to become a physical therapy assistant and was about to begin a time-intensive clinical rotation.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to give her the amount of attention she deserves,” Shelby says. “But I didn’t want to end the friendship.”

A concerned Shelby started brainstorming solutions with her mom, Karin. Because Karin and Aniya had met and liked one another, the mother/daughter duo wondered if Karin could become a Big Sister to Aniya along with Shelby. When Shelby proposed the idea to Big Brothers Big Sisters, she found that the solution she was describing – a Big Family – was already available. Soon thereafter, Shelby, Karin and Aniya officially became a Big Family.

Now the three spend time together and Shelby is assured that, even if she is too busy to see Aniya for a while, her mom can make sure Aniya is getting the attention she deserves.

Shelby and Karin are focusing on encouraging their quiet friend to express herself by speaking up at home and school. “We’re encouraging her to speak her mind,” Karin says. “We’re trying to bring her out of her shell.”

It’s working, Karin says. “She is discovering her voice.” Aniya agrees and says she is more confident and is more outspoken at home with her siblings and at school.

In addition to encouraging Aniya to express herself, Shelby and Karin aim to expand Aniya’s view of the world around her. “I like to think we are giving her a different perspective on life,” Karin says.

The Big Sisters like to introduce Aniya to new experiences and mix in some life lessons along the way. For example, Shelby and Karin took her to the farmer’s market where they gave Aniya $5 to spend so she could buy what she wanted while learning to budget the money with her Big Sisters’ guidance.

Shelby, who doesn’t have any siblings, says being a Big Sister has been a wonderful experience and she is grateful that her match with Aniya could go on despite her busy schedule. Being a Big Sister “has taught me to think of someone else,” Shelby says. Shelby does have advice for anyone thinking about becoming a Big: “Just do it! You won’t regret it.”