The main idea behind the buddy scheme is that you meet with someone who has some form of learning disability and as their buddy your role is to help them enjoy life. On average I would say I meet with my buddy Millie twice a month. Millie has Aspergers Syndrome. At first glance she doesn't appear to have any disability. However, individuals with this type of disability tend to be very socially withdrawn and as a result become isolated. As her buddy I meet with her and take part in a variety of activities so that she feels happy and comfortable to go and have fun with a friend.
The type of things we have done so far are ice skating, swimming, going to the cinema and Chessington World of Adventures. Our next meeting we have planned to meet up just for a gossip and a little retail therapy!
|Millie and I at Chessington about to go on a ride|
What got me so interested in volunteering as a buddy was the thought that many young people with learning disabilities don't get opportunities to socialise and make friends. I wanted to do what I could to help others to build social skills. It's very rewarding knowing that you do make some one's week by planning a day out, and your friendship could provide them with the confidence to go out and make their own friends and prevent them being taken advantage of! Additionally, I study Psychology and this role seemed like a fantastic way to get experience working with people who I am likely to work with in the future and have fun at the same time!
Since I started volunteering as a buddy I've learned a great deal about the types of issues that can arise when working with someone who has a learning disability for example, mood changes. Before being assigned a buddy you undergo training which helps you combat any problems and explains who to contact if you need further assistance. After completing my training I felt very confident and I have yet to experience an issue I couldn't resolve. After making friends with Millie I feel much more open about who I talk to and who I befriend and it has really widened the type of people I have around me and improved my own social skills.
What I enjoy most about volunteering with the Buddy Scheme is that it allows me to take a break from the stresses of uni work and have fun with a great friend. The activities you do are a joint decision so you can have input on what activity you want to do. It's a mutual relationship, you are NOT their carer but an honest friend that will help them understand how typical friendships develop i.e. sometimes you have to compromise! Also, the Buddy Scheme cover your expenses, so excuses- it's a chance to make a friend, learn about them and their disability and have fun for free!
|Millie feeling anxious about getting on the ice!|
Over the past few months that I have been meeting with Millie we have had some great moments - the funniest moment was when we went ice skating at Guildford Spectrum and neither if us mentioned that we hadn't done it in a long time - that was our first mistake! We were a little apprehensive about stepping on to the ice so managed to persuade the staff to let us use a 'Penguin Guide' - this is usually what really small children use. For the whole two hours Millie and I spent the whole time 'skating' with a tiny penguin in front of us....it was rather embarrassing especially as I still managed to fall over...but was such great fun and we made the most of it. We won't be going ice skating again in a hurry!!
|Me putting on my skates|
Most importantly it has helped me see the benefit of volunteering and why it is so important for communities that we have volunteers to help others lead a fulfilling and happy life. For a few hours a month you get fantastic returns and I will continue to volunteer as long as possible.