With the school year set to begin in a couple of weeks, most clubs and organizations have planned their activities and events for the coming year and the University of Saskatchewan Best Buddies, who launched their first disability awareness campaign March 2016, is no exception.
Best Buddies, an international, dynamic and growing organization founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, strengthens friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, also referred to as IDDs, by pairing volunteers with a buddy for a one year commitment.
According to the group’s website, Best Buddies has branches reaching across six continents and continues to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with IDDs.
Max Liu, a second-year arts and science student and co-president of Best Buddies’ U of S chapter, shares the group’s plans for this school year.
“Best Buddies is going to have many fun activities this year. We will hold our annual fall dinner fundraiser sometime in November and try to do another big fundraising campaign in the spring … This year, we are also going to try and partner with other groups like the Saskatchewan Polytechnic to do events and look into potentially starting Best Buddies programs in high schools or elementary schools across Saskatoon,” Liu said in an email to the Sheaf.
Best Buddies will also continue to host events like Spread the Word to End the Word, a campaign that helps raise awareness about how the derogatory word “retard(ed)” affects people with intellectual disabilities. They will so be attending Saskatoon Blades’ games, inviting University of Regina’s chapter over for a day and holding their evening get togethers, which include dancing, socializing and Zumba.
Aside from their events throughout the year, the Best Buddies U of S chapter will be present on orientation day, Sept. 2. In order to sign up for Best Buddies, students can visit their booth, send an email to them or send them a message through Facebook. Students can also join any chapter nationwide by registering online with Best Buddies Canada at the beginning of every school year.
Liu shares how volunteering for Best Buddies is open to any student and how it does not require a considerable amount of time.
“Volunteering with Best Buddies is very easy, fun and not time consuming at all, which is perfect for any student. We ask that members plan outings with their newly paired friend at least twice every month, but most of our amazing volunteers do so much more frequently! It can be anything from going to a movie, lunch, walks, etc. Members are also encouraged to maintain regular contact with their pairing in order to foster a genuine one-to-one friendship,” Liu said.
Liu adds, however, that working with Best Buddies is more than just volunteering.
“There’s a bit of a misconception, I would say, that Best Buddies is like a mentorship or it’s like kind of looking after people with intellectual disabilities,” Liu said. “But the real goal is to develop one-to-one friendships, and I really want to emphasize that although it is volunteer work, … [it] is literally like hanging out with your best friend every other day or every now and then and it’s literally just having as much fun as you can and making new friends.”
The club values friendships between people and believes that camaraderie contributes to the development of individuals. As stated in the U of S Best Buddies Facebook page, the organization is grounded in the belief that for all individuals with intellectual disabilities, friendship allows them to integrate more fully into their communities.
This year, Best Buddies hopes to see more volunteers and Liu assures students that the year will be enjoyable and worthwhile.
“Do not be shy to reach out to our group if you have any questions or concerns! It is the most fun you will have volunteering throughout the school year. You will meet lots of amazing people, and it will help create a positive environment for many people in the community.”
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor