PHOENIX - Devin Del Palacio is the director of community outreach for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Arizona. Now more than ever, what he is doing from behind his desk is making a huge difference on the other side of his computer screen.
"Currently, we have over 105 little brothers on our waitlist -- some of them have been on the waitlist for two to three years -- and now with the pandemic, it is more difficult," he said. "Folks are not sure if they can come out and meet in person and so we have really had to pivot and utilize technology to help us meet the needs of our children because the need doesn't go away."
Palacio says children are still in need of social interaction and mentorship, especially since they have been isolated from school and friends for several months.
"You don't have to be perfect. What we are looking for is someone to be a friend to a child in need and yes, there are certain requirements -- we do a background check -- we want to make sure that everyone is safe," he said. "The utmost important aspect of mentoring is safety, so we have an interview process, we have an application process, but the good news is it's all virtual."
Palacio himself has gone virtual, not just for his job -- he's a big brother too.
"I met him just as this pandemic was hitting its peak and so we have had a hybrid relationship," he said. "We meet virtual sometimes, we meet in person outside in the park where we will shoot some hoops, of course, we still wear a mask and follow CDC guidelines."
The mission of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Arizona is to create relationships that offer support and help. All youth achieve their full potential and this big brother says it can all still be done even in the midst of a pandemic.
"For me, what makes a great big brother is just being there, being present, just listen -- being a great listener," he said. "Don't walk into this thinking you're here to be a savior. These kids come to us whole. They just need a friend."
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Arizona