Duo cher­ish friend­ship

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

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

Free­mans Bay res­i­dent 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 Wil­liams syn­drome, says she felt 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 now 54 matches across Auck­land. Th­ese new friends do ev­ery­thing from shop­ping, hav­ing cof­fee, go­ing to con­certs and help­ing each other gain 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 mi­grat­ing from Eng­land.

She de­cided to look into vol­un­teer­ing while set­ting up her new busi­ness when she came across 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 peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties can miss out on the qual­ity of life that one-on-one friend­ships bring.

‘‘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 oneon-one it’s a great chance for peo­ple to have a re­ally good friend­ship.’’

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

Photo: JESS LEE

Firm friends: Aimee Bishop and Susan Sherie are friends who met through IHC’s Vol­un­teer One-toOne Friend­ship Pro­gramme.

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