No fewer than 30 IHC Volunteers were The Car Company Community Champions Award winners this past month. Asked to nominate just one volunteer, Jane Peoples, Volunteer Co-ordinator for IHC Nelson Marlborough was stumped. Each of her One-to-One Friendship Programme Volunteers is a unique match to their friend with an intellectual disability. She decided to choose them as a group and share the spoils.
Volunteer Nelson celebrated with the IHC team over coffee and a large goofy cake, read Jane’s nomination to them, gave them a certificate recognising their contribution, an international volunteer pin, a recyclable coffee cup and coffee voucher, plus a $50 supermarket voucher for them to share.
“Our volunteers meet their friends out and about. These friendships are priceless and worth celebrating,” says Jane.
“They are matched based on a shared interest, something that will link the pair together and from there real, genuine friendships blossom.”
At the time of nomination in June, the programme had only been running in Nelson for little over a year. It had 19 volunteers matched up and heading off out into the community with their new friends doing all sorts of everything! Baking, cycling, reading, gardening, walking dogs, knitting, walking the beach, exploring, dancing… By October, only four months on, the volunteer group has grown to 30 volunteers matched to 30 clients!
This is quite an amazing feat. “IHC is a very progressive organisation”, says Jane Solly who volunteers with them. “They change and adapt very well according to the changing needs of their clients.”
The volunteers attending the recognition celebration with Volunteer Nelson told us about some of the activities they share with their clients. “We sometimes go out for a coffee and muffin or take trips to Keiteriteri,” said one lady. Another said how she and her client like to knit and craft together and sometimes pop down to the pub for a drink and singalong. So, why is this programme so important?
“One-to-one friendships foster inclusion and acceptance, opening up a whole new world for people with intellectual disabilities,” says Jane Peoples.
“Sometimes the volunteer’s friend has no one but support staff to spend their days with. Sometimes they only ever hang out with family. It is so important to have a friend – someone to help you get out there and do your thing with. This building up of friendships helps to reduce loneliness and isolation in our community and positively impacts the lives of the people we support.”
“Thank you for this opportunity to acknowledge our volunteers in the Nelson region,” says Jane.