Changing lives one friendship at a time
Welcome to Best Buddies!
The Best Buddies¬†University of Galway¬†Program, in association with Ability West, aims to end the social, physical and economic isolation of people with intellectual disabilities. College students are paired in fun, enriching, one-on-one friendships with individuals who have intellectual disabilties, building meaningful relationships and improving the quality of life of and level of inclusion for a population that is often isolated and excluded. Through participation in the program, young adults with intellectual disabilities are given the opportunity to share interests, activities and experiences that other people their age take for granted, such as going to the cinema or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend.¬†
Our volunteers organise to meet up with their buddies in their own time. However, we also host many events throughout the year with the objective of promoting the social inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in today's society. Such events include table quizzes, games nights, film screenings, discos, parties, and a ball, where all students are invited to come along to meet individuals with intellectual disabilities, and challenge many of the stigmas surrounding what it means to have an intellectual disability.
Unfortunately, the world we live in today discriminates against people with intellectual disabilities. Even though there are approximately 26,484 people with in intellectual disability living in Ireland (Health Research Board, 2011), they are not integrated within our society. Irish laws limit the independence of adults with intellectual disabilities and do not give them the opportunity to reach their full potential.This inequality is due to a misunderstanding of what intellectual disability is and what people with intellectual disabilities are able to achieve. Best Buddies¬†University of Galway¬†is dedicated to challenging these views through campaigning for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities and hosting regular inclusive events. We hope to one day live in a Galway where people without intellectual disabilities are not afraid to talk to or uncomfortable around individuals with intellectual disabilities; where seeing people with and without intellectual disabilities socialising together is not in any way out of the ordinary.
Here are some statements from participants of the Best Buddies Program:
"My sister has special needs and having a combination of friendships with people with special needs and those without means so much to her and to my family. To see her enjoying friendships with others who have special needs teaches her (and us) that she is not isolated by her differences. Seeing her enjoying friendships with people without special needs teaches her (and us) that her differences are celebrated by more than her family and immediate peers. I know a lot of people who are interested in getting to know my sister and her peers but are intimidated by their own lack of experience. Best Buddies gives a relaxed structure to allow both individuals to build a friendship and to broaden their understanding of their relationships to include all abilities. Seeing people's understanding of themselves and others, grow to be move inclusive and accepting is why I love Best Buddies." - Grace Butler, volunteer.
"Getting to meet my buddy every week is always the best part of my week. My buddy is my best friend and they make my life a hundred times better" - Ability West service user.
"Becoming a part of the Best Buddies Program is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Both myself and my buddy Rory have benefited immensely. I gained a new friend who I have shared countless jokes and laughter with. Best Buddies gives Rory the opportunity to be independent. He chooses what we do and where we go. Every week is different. Sometimes we go to Salthill for a walk, other times we play basketball or get hot chocolate together. Meeting each other is something that we both look forward to every week" - Jack Creen, volunteer.
"I like Best Buddies because it gives me the chance to be just like everyone else. I get to go to the cinema, into town and to discos with my best buddy. Sometimes people forget that we are just like everyone else, but not Best Buddies. Everyone at Best Buddies treats me like normal and they always stand up for people with disabilities which I think is amazing." - Ability West service user.
"I joined best buddies two years ago with four other friends. Having done nothing like it before we were a bit apprehensive thinking we might not have enough experience or knowledge to partake. However from the first day we went into the centre in snipe avenue we immediately kicked it off with all of our buddies and became great friends. A highlight for all of us was seeing how all of our buddies reacted each time we visited them, or went over to collect them. The whole experience for me personally has been very rewarding and worthwhile" - Dylan Somers, volunteer.
"I am so happy to do Best Buddies. I have made so many friends and I get to go to so many events that otherwise I would not be able to. It makes me happy to see everyone at the events making friends with one another and having a good time." - Ability West service user.
"My experience with best buddies and the people I've met through this organisation have been incredible. Best buddies promotes friendship without boundaries or limitations and my best buddy has become exactly that, a best friend. My friendship with Niamh has definitely changed the way I look at the world and made me realise the importance of friendship." - Lucy Dockery, volunteer.
To get in contact with us, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org