Blayne Umansky’s story.
As told by Rachael Alaniz
I moved to Muncie from Indianapolis when I married my husband five years ago. I didn’t know much about Muncie when I came here. As a mother of grown children with a new husband, it takes more work to get involved in a new community.
So I started volunteering as a way to simply get out of the house and meet people. The friendly people and the organizations helped me get involved.
I began my involvement in the community by volunteering at the library and tutoring children in reading.
In time, I became involved in many organizations. I enjoyed volunteering at the Bargain Box, a thrift store that provides financial assistance to a variety of organizations in Muncie and Delaware County. I’m active with the Alpha Center, an organization that provides respite services to those caring for aging family members. My involvement there has become a rewarding job as the marketing director. I also started volunteering as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware County.
I signed up to be a Big Sister five years ago and was matched with Aalyiah. As the mother of boys, the idea of being matched with a thirteen-year-old girl and finally getting to do some girly stuff was exciting.
I was wondering how I would fit into her life and her family life? These are all normal worries for someone involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters and, so, like many relationships between Bigs and their Littles, we started with visits every other week, which eventually grew to weekly outings.
Initially she was shy. We’d get our nails done and go out to eat. A big part of planning our get-togethers was deciding on which foods we would indulge in each week, which became a bit of a running joke between us throughout the years. We shopped, attended shows and other cultural events, and I helped her with her homework . . . everything but math, that is. I was no help in that department.
Over the last five years, the shy girl from a large family grew into an awe-inspiring young lady with a big personality and an impressive academic record. I got to know some of her siblings, too, and was happy to be able to play a small part in their lives. Aalyiah’s family welcomed me at school functions and awards ceremonies, so I could celebrate her many achievements alongside them.
What surprises me most about my time as Aalyiah’s Big Sister is that I really didn’t have to do anything with her or for her to make a difference in her life. I just had to be there and believe in her. I guess that’s all anyone needs in life in order to succeed–the knowledge that someone believes in you. In getting to know Aalyiah, I got to see her change. Watching a shy little girl turn into a beautiful woman with goals and dreams for a future that is now ready to take flight was nothing short of extraordinary.
Aalyiah has aged out of Big Brothers Big Sisters, but we will always be a part of each other’s lives. My experiences with Aalyiah allowed me to see Big Brothers Big Sisters in action on the front lines and has made me even more passionate about helping Muncie’s youth than I was five years ago when I moved here. That passion carried me onto the Big Brothers Big Sisters Board of Directors, and now I have the opportunity to help create change in the community on a broader level.
When I chose to invest in Aalyiah, I chose to invest in her future. You see, Aalyiah is going to be a change-maker. She is currently doing very well as a freshman in college. She wants to be a social worker. Maybe she will come back to Muncie and support the city that invested in her or maybe she will move on to another city, doing Muncie proud by creating change somewhere else. No matter where she goes or what she does, I will always be proud and I will always believe in her.
Rachael Alaniz is excited to be writing for The Facing Project again. She is the stay-at-home mom to Daisy and Aria and wife to Kevin Gatzlaff. Rachael enjoys writing and volunteering in her community.
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About The Facing Project:
The Facing Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that connects people through stories to strengthen communities. The organization’s model to share stories and raise awareness is in cities across the United States focused on topics such as poverty, sex trafficking, mental health, immigration, and more. Facing Project stories are compiled into books and on the web for a community resource, used to inspire art, photography, monologues and—most importantly—community-wide awareness, dialogue, action, and change toward a more understanding and empathetic society.
This story originally appeared in Mentoring in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware County in Muncie, Indiana.