Big Buddy Program
In 1989, Queens College launched a pilot project with the goal of creating a model, which would ease the devastating effects of homelessness on children. The problem had reached vast proportions. New York City alone had at least 10,000 homeless children, with more than 700 families living in temporary housing in Queens County. Today the number of homeless children in New York is even greater.
The program Big Buddy, now in its twenty-second year, pairs a college student with a child who is homeless, and together they spend time throughout the academic year participating in a wide variety of mutually chosen educational, cultural and recreational activities. In developing the program we were aware that "at risk" children had a need for an adult mentor, in addition to their parents to provide stability, consistency and support. The QC program addresses both the related affective and cognitive needs of these children, by providing them with a mentor who serves as friend, educational and cultural guide, confidant and role model. While the program is designed primarily to enrich the lives of the children, ancillary goals are to broaden the awareness and sensitivity of the Queens College community to the plight of homelessness in our midst, and to provide the college students, as part of their education, an opportunity to enhance their own growth by working closely and supportively with a child in need.
Each Saturday a child and his or her Big Buddy go off and do something exciting together, either just the two of them or in small groups. In addition, several times throughout the year all the children and their mentors come together for special events: hiking in Harriman State park, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, visiting the Liberty Science Museum, watching a home-run at a Met baseball game, and the highlight, a two day, overnight experience at the Queens College Environmental Center at Caumsett State Park. QC students who serve as mentors in the program are enrolled in an official QC course and receive 3 credits each semester. They are given a small stipend each week to cover carfare expenses, write a detail journal of their work each week, and are supported by two coordinators, both administrators in the New York City school system who are on-site each week and provide the necessary guidance and assistance to the Big Buddies.
How You Can Help
Since its inception the Big Buddy program has had a tremendous impact on the lives of the children involved. All this has occurred because of the dedication and hard work of the Queens College Big Buddies. We are always looking for new mentors to continue this vitally important endeavor. If your are interested and think you have the ability to help children going through a difficult time in their lives, contact Arthur Salz.