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Buddy system works at IHC

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013
Volunteer Programme
FIRM FRIENDS: Aimee Bishop and Susan Sherie are friends who met through IHC’s Volunteer One-to-One Friendship Programme.

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It was more than just a mutual love of music that struck a chord between two new friends.

Aimee Bishop and Susan Sherie were both looking to meet new people after finding themselves in unfamiliar towns when they discovered IHC's friendship matching programme.

Ms Sherie, who has the rare Williams syndrome, says she felt lonely and isolated after moving from Manukau to Te Atatu.

"I wanted to have a buddy, I never really had one before and I thought: I don't want to live in this pocket, I don't want to stay home and be lonely and bored and depressed - that's not me."

She was paired up with Ms Bishop in July through IHC's Volunteer One-to-One Friendship Programme, which matches a volunteer with someone with an intellectual disability.

There are currently 54 matches across Auckland.

These new friends do everything from shopping, having coffee, going to concerts and helping each other gain more confidence.

Ms Bishop and Ms Sherie meet up about once a week.

"I used to have a bit of a problem with trust but my trusting mechanism about able-bodied people has changed," Ms Sherie says.

"People can be so judgmental. People often look at the damn disability first before looking at the ability." It's important that a person with a disability is able to make the decision about where they want to go and what they want to do, Ms Sherie says.

"You want to go somewhere new and different. You don't want to be at a stalemate, that doesn't help you."

Ms Bishop was looking to meet new people after having recently moved to Auckland from England.

She decided to look into volunteering while setting up her new business when she stumbled upon the programme.

"Once we met there was no going back," she says.

"We get on really well, we have really similar interests."

Ms Bishop gets just as much out of the friendship as Ms Sherie does.

"Maybe some people would find the idea of it a little bit intimidating but it's a good opportunity to broaden your horizons a little bit. It breaks down barriers."

IHC volunteer coordinator David Lew says a lot of people with disabilities can miss out on the quality of life born out of one-on-one friendships.

"In the past, people with disabilities would go out and do a big group activity, but what we find is when people are in large groups like that they are not approached by other people. When it's one-on-one it's a great chance for people to have a really good friendship."

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IHC is celebrating International Volunteer Day tomorrow with an event at New Lynn's Tannery Cafe.

Go to ihc.org.nz or phone 0800 442 442 for information.

TOUGH ISSUE

Williams syndrome is a rare genetic disorder characterised by medical problems including developmental delays and learning disabilities alongside highly social personalities and an affinity for music.

It affects one in 10,000 people worldwide.

- Central Leader

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