It all began when people with intellectual disability told us they wanted their own friends: friends who were not part of their own family or paid to spend time with them. At IHC we listened, and that premise became the foundation that IHC Volunteer Friendship Programme is based on: One person with intellectual disability is matched with one volunteer, and both decide together what they want to do out in their communities. — Sue Kobar
IHC is New Zealand’s largest provider of services to people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Its one-to-one, Volunteer Friendship Programme has been very successful. As author Sue Kobar explains in this feature story, IHC’s desire to attract younger volunteers has now expanded the concept of what the friends do together to include opportunities for much shorter, focused, and task-specific volunteering. While maintaining the same one-to-one premise, IHC implemented skill-based volunteering to support a person with intellectual disability as he or she sets out to learn a new skill (like using public transportation, for instance) or to achieve a personal goal (say, attend a Zumba class).
As Kobar explains, these shorter-term assignments are a win-win for all involved. Such opportunities, which allow volunteers to set the time commitment to fit the project, have attracted younger volunteers to IHC who may very well be on the road to long-term volunteering. And along the way, the people supported by IHC learn new life skills.