Running Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bermuda (BBBS) is not a job, it’s a vocation, and it’s one that Patrina O’Connor-Paynter, 47, was meant to do. “It was aligned,” she says. “I saw it [in the paper] and it was a job for BBBS. Sometimes you’re looking for a change. I went for it, and the rest is history.”

That was fifteen years ago. “At that time in my life, I knew I wanted to do something that was giving back, but I didn’t think I would be here as long as I have been,” she continues. “I think that after the first meeting with some of the children and their mentors, it changed my life.”

BBBS matches children who are primarily from single-parent homes with adult volunteers who act as a mentor and role model to that child. The “job” is an emotional one and O’Connor-Paynter has a large roll of paper towel on her desk which she needs when sharing a story about a former “little’s” achievements. “A mother sent me a message the other day and it was her son graduating from university,” she recalls. “He was one of the children that I saw when I first started. He was my ‘why.’ He was the reason why I think I stayed at BBBS this long. She sent me the picture.” The picture was entitled Graduation Day and the accompanying message read: “You were part of this accomplishment, thank you.”

“Watching him graduate and watching other children graduate or accomplish their goals. Watching families succeed. Watching mothers be able to achieve things they didn’t think they could. That, right there. That means so much to me,” she says. The BBBS programme has 150 children and around 40 to 50 mentors, along with community partners and companies that also provide support. But, she emphasises: “We’re in need.”

In addition to BBBS, the former broadcaster is also a regular emcee and popular host at community events. But no matter what she is doing, she is always trying to give back and make people happy, particularly if they’re having a bad day.

“If I can help make someone’s day a bit better, then I’ve done my part,” she says. “If I’m hosting an event and see someone out there who looks miserable, then it’s like: How can I make them smile? Nine times out of ten, that miserable person is the person I’ll go over and grip their hand and by the end of that show, they’ll be laughing and singing and smiling with me.”

See all of our Bermudians of the Year here