Grassroots project builds lasting friendships

Volunteers matched with developmentally challenged young adults with the goal of creating long-lasting relationships

DJ Souls and Matti Jeffreys who first met at a music festival in Courtenay

DJ Souls and Matti Jeffreys who first met at a music festival in Courtenay

A local grassroots initiative is helping young adults with developmental challenges to forge lasting friendships.

The Friendship Project does so through social gatherings, workshops, learning sessions and community-building events.

A program dubbed Friendship Circles matches volunteers in the Comox Valley with young adults from the project, providing an opportunity to enter communities they might not have otherwise connected to.

“Once people get to meet some of our participants, they build those relationships and friendships, and they usually stay on,” project facilitator Bobby Boyd said. “Then we, as facilitators, step out of the picture, or come in when needed. They become their own advocates and get involved in the community, which is essentially what we’re trying to do — integrate into the community.”

The project has partnered with various businesses and organizations such as L’Arche Comox Valley and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Last year, it hosted a sexuality series that spawned interest from like-minded organizations in Gold River, Campbell River and other communities. Presenters, Boyd notes, had never before addressed this type of audience.

“It’s a population that isn’t getting that information, providing that language,” he said.

Community garden plot

The project has hosted potlucks at its community garden plot at Sixth and Harmston. Last month, it hosted a Hawaiian-themed dance at the Courtenay Legion, which helped send participants to a Community Living B.C. conference.

It has also been asked to make buttons for a wedding this summer.

“It opens the doors to things,” Boyd said.

Volunteer-based

The project uses volunteers, as opposed to people in paid positions.

“If we’re successful and we get natural friendships … then we step out of the picture and that relationship continues on — that’s the dream,” Boyd said. “Because it’s not fair for a young adult that has nothing but paid staff involved with them. We want some natural friendships, the ones that have no strings attached.”

The project, however, does not want to detract from paid support workers in other programs.

“We’re just trying to add another piece to it,” Boyd said.

Mutual interests matched

Friendship matches are based on mutual interests and lifestyles. Volunteers connect with their new friend once a week by phone or email, and arrange to meet once a month for dinner, coffee, a movie or recreational activity.

The project offers summer drop-ins on Mondays from 3 to 5:30 p.m., July 14 to Aug. 24, at the LINC at 300 Old Island Hwy.

For more information visit friendshipproject.weebly.com, or call Bobby Boyd at 250-898-9422.

 

 

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

 

 

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