Are you familiar with bird banding? Little Sister Becky wasn’t when she was matched with Big Sister Emily in December 2008.
Although Becky, who is now 17, describes herself as “cautious,” her relationship with Emily has boosted her curiosity and confidence. “Emily has shown me a lot of new things,” said Becky. “When we’re together, we definitely push ourselves to try more interesting activities than we would if we were by ourselves.”
One of these activities is bird banding. Emily volunteers at a local bird banding station, where migratory songbirds and northern saw-whet owls are marked and set free, allowing for their movement, behavior, and growth to be tracked. Millions of wild birds are banded around the world each year, helping conservationists to protect critical bird habitats.
During their visits to the bird banding station, Becky learned how to hold and release birds. “I had never done anything like that before,” said Becky. Although it was a completely new activity for her, through Emily’s support, it quickly became one of Becky’s favorite memories. Part of their mutual interest in this activity can be tied back to the similarity it bears to their relationship.
The birds that Emily and Becky have banded will experience many different environments as they migrate and grow. Just like conservationists have been tracking their journeys, Emily has been looking over Becky and encouraging her along every step of their nearly nine year relationship.
“I knew before I joined Big Sister Association of Greater Boston that the relationship between Big and Little Sisters is unique,” said Emily. “But, being able to experience it for myself has been amazing.”
With the support system of her Big Sister behind her, Becky has spread her wings and found the confidence to pursue her personal passions. She has become quite the songbird herself, and participates in her school’s theater, choir, and a cappella performances. She is also working to fight bullying through involvement in Brookline High School’s Anti-Defamation League.
Similarly, Emily’s life has changed quite a bit since she was first matched with Becky. In 2013, her and her husband welcomed a baby boy into their lives, which also brought him into Becky’s life. “She invites me into her life, especially with her family and son,” said Becky. “I feel like we’re even closer because of that.”
While catching and marking birds is a large part of the bird banding process, they must then be released and allowed to fly along their natural course. This year, Becky will be entering her senior year of high school, and will soon begin gearing up for college.
As Emily and Becky’s “migration patterns” continue to change, this could mean some physical distance for the pair. However, just like the bands they’ve left on migrant birds, the two have made a mark on each other’s lives that they know will keep their relationship strong.
“I’m excited for the coming year,” said Emily. “I can’t wait to see what great things are in store for Becky and for our friendship.”