<p>KAPOLEI, Hawaii - Family and friends crowded around a picnic table as Raymond Saragosa blew out the nine glowing candles atop his Indiana Jones birthday cake here, Aug. 10.</p><p>Capt. Jason Noble of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Cavalry Regiment, stood in the background and smiled.</p><p>"I haven\'t seen him in a month," said Noble. "He's been on the Big Island visiting family.</p><p>"I've missed him," Noble said just before greeting the birthday boy.</p><p>The reunion was heartfelt as hugs passed between the two and smiles shone brightly from both faces.</p><p>"Raymond's a great kid," said Noble. "Being a Big Brother is so easy, more people should get involved."</p><p>The community-based mentoring program Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu offers volunteer mentors the opportunity to meet with a child, one-on-one, for a few hours each month to engage in activities such as outdoor recreation, watching movies or just lounging on the beach.</p><p>"We do a lot of fun stuff together," said Saragosa. "We both like sports." </p><p>"Jason gives him the attention he needs," said Saragosa's mother, Mia Beaudet. "This is something just for him, and his overall attitude and confidence has improved (since starting the program)." </p><p>A few miles down the road, Capt. Jeremy Cervantes, U.S. Army Pacific, and his Little Brother Brian Wright sat under a palm tree at Ko Olina. Cervantes tuned a child-size guitar as Wright looked through a book.</p><p>"I got him this guitar for his birthday last month," said Cervantes. "Today I'm going to show him how to play it." </p><p>The soft-spoken child shyly placed the guitar in his hands and listened attentively as Cervantes explained the parts of the instrument.</p><p>"Touch each string separately," said Cervantes. "Do you notice a difference between them'"</p><p>The 9-year-old Wright nodded his head and ran his fingers down each string.</p><p>Although the pair has only known each other for a little more than a month, the bond between them seemed effortless, as if they were lifelong friends.</p><p>Cervantes became a Big Brother earlier this year after returning from his second deployment.</p><p>"Being a Big Brother was something I have always wanted to do," said Cervantes. "I have been aware of the program for years and the idea of helping to mentor and mold a younger person in a less fortunate position always appealed to me."</p><p>As the guitar lesson continued, Wright plucked each string as instructed by his Big Brother. A smile crept across his face as he heard the sound.</p><p> "There is a lot of patriotism in Hawaii, especially amongst children, so it's always warming to hear how they feel about what Soldiers do and have done for the global war on terrorism," said Cervantes. "During deployments I have seen children from different countries and how their lifestyles differ so much from those of American children. I make it a point to portray their lives through pictures and stories so they can get an idea of how hard life can be elsewhere."</p><p><b>Military ohana</b></p><p>The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu is to help children become responsible adults by matching them in professionally supported relationships with volunteer mentors who create a positive, lasting impact simply by sharing their friendship, guidance and support.
Volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, but in Hawaii about 40 percent of the Big Brothers are military and represent every branch of the armed forces, according to Karen Poggi, match support specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu.</p><p>"We value our partnership with the military and are always hoping to strengthen it," said Poggi. "We find that the responsibility required to be a military member often translates into being a quality Big (Brother or Sister)."</p><p>Poggi said the 8th Military Police Brigade was especially supportive of their matches, recalling a recent "Day in the Life of a Soldier" at Schofield Barracks, where little brothers and sisters got a taste of Army life.</p><p>"All of the participants came away with a better understanding and appreciation for our troops," said Poggi.</p><p>Big Brother Big Sisters of Hawaii offers two volunteer opportunities, community-based and school-based. The community-based mentoring program offers volunteer mentors the opportunity to meet with a child a few hours each month, while the school-based mentoring program offers volunteer mentors the opportunity to meet with a child at an elementary school or community site for about an hour each week during the school year.</p><p>School-based volunteers meet alongside other "Bigs" and "Littles" and play games, tutor or just talk with the child with whom they are matched. Big Brothers and Big Sisters are always needed in both programs.</p><p>"The opportunity to take a younger person and teach them morals, coping skills, confidence and self-esteem in an environment where they normally wouldn't have found these things is an endless sense of fulfillment," said Cervantes. "There are no monetary rewards or awards that are earned or given, just the satisfaction of knowing you may have changed a person's life for the better."</p><p>Noble agreed.</p><p>"This is my way of giving back to the community," he said. "It's rewarding for everyone involved."</p><p>"He feels like a big brother," said Saragosa. "But he's my friend, too."</p>

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