Big Sisters’ one-on-one guidance inspires Asian American girls

By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly

Big Sister Louisa Chu

Louisa Chu, 27, is considered to be a caring adult. Her previous experience in helping senior citizens and her current job as a pharmacist for two different hospitals demonstrates her interest in making an impact in other people’s lives.

In her spare time, she continues to change lives by being the mentor of an adolescent female. She learned about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound (BBBSPS) at one of its dinner auctions. She filled out an application in 2008.

The local organization, now in its 53rd year, matches volunteer adults with children in its mentoring programs. Its mission is “to provide a mentor for every child who needs or wants one.”

BBBSPS serves 2,500 children in King, Pierce, Jefferson, Kitsap, and Clallam counties. The program states that about 240,000 youth in Washington could benefit from a mentor, but fewer than 30,000 have one.

“I thought it might be interesting to join once I was done with school and would have more free time,” said Chu, a Chinese American. “I just thought it might be fun to have a Little Sister to go shopping with and go watch movies with.”

Chu said, “As a Big (short for Big Sister), you get to choose [who] you want as far as ethnicity, religion, or you [can] have no preference.”

After a thorough background check, providing reference letters, an intense interview, agreeing to a minimum one-year commitment, and waiting nearly a year, she was finally matched up with a Little Sister along with a match coordinator who closely monitors the pair to provide any needed support.

Anu Erdembileg, 13, emigrated from Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, with her mother, Bebe Tserenjav, in November 2008. “Both of us had culture shock when we moved here, and she wasn’t talking too much,” said Tserenjav.

Little Sister Anu Erdembileg (left) and her mom, Bebe Tserenjav (Photos by James Tabafunda/NWAW)

Tserenjav learned about Big Sisters through a friend and hoped her daughter would benefit from having a mentor.

A few months later, Erdembileg met her Big Sister, and the two met a few times a month. She said, “We started talking about what we like and how old we are. I think we talked for an hour and a half because we talked a lot.”

“She was shy when we first met,” Chu confirmed. “During the second or third time, I met up with her, and her mom cooked some Mongolian food for me. We’re trying to get to know each other’s culture.”

Tserenjav added, “When she met Louisa, she said ‘Thank you, mom.’ Right now, they both like each other, and they have a good time.”

Chu admits that being a mentor has had a positive effect on her life and adds, “The more I’m in the program, the more I feel like she’s teaching me things, too, about life. As adults, the older we get, the more we forget about the little things in life. It makes you realize that life is not all about work.”

For Erdembileg, having Chu as her role model means learning valuable lessons such as baking chocolate chip cookies. “It was nice, and I did make it at home again,” she said. “I did enjoy cooking the cookies, so I wonder what I’m going to cook next at Louisa’s.”

Chu pointed out, “The most important thing [about being a mentor] is that it’s fun. It’s like meeting a friend who is younger than you. For me, personally, I wanted to meet someone where I can possibly inspire them to become more than what they thought they could be.”

She plans to continue being Erdembileg’s Big “until she turns 16,” which is the maximum age for adolescents in the Little Sisters program.

“It’s nice to have a mentor that can show them that, you know what, you can do and be whatever you want to be and show them that there are opportunities out there,” she said. “I think it does make an impact on a Little to see that there’s a world out there, that they’re not stuck.” Since their first meeting, the duo has enjoyed one-on-one activities such as visiting Uwajimaya in Seattle’s International District.

“I want to spend more time with her maybe during the summer and do more stuff,” said Erdembileg. ♦

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, go to www.bbbsps.org.

James Tabafunda can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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