Last Thursday I was pleased to join more than 100 people at the St Erme Community Centre, to help launch Mencap’s new Treat Me Well campaign.
During the event I learned about Mencap’s “Best Buddies Cornwall” scheme, which aims to facilitate meaningful friendships, peer support groups, social networks and promote fun activities between young people with and without a learning disability.
Times and activities are decided by the pairs and groups of people with and without a learning disability. Young people involved are expected to spend at least 3 or 4 hours a month doing something in their pairs or as a group, for example going shopping, to the beach, for a walk, to the cinema, playing or watching football – the list is endless and up to the young people involved. The young people can do this as a pair, in a group or as part of a much larger group.
The scheme aims to form friendships which will enable participants with a learning disability to get involved in social and community fun activities, i.e. go to clubs, concerts, activity groups, football matches, the cinema, play X-box with a friend, go shopping, go to the beach, go swimming, do all the things that other young people do, but which they may have never been able to do before. Moreover, the person with a learning disability will be learning new life skills such as how to travel on public transport, using and dealing with money, interacting and behaving in social and community settings. The activities will enhance and promote their own, along with the ‘friends’ own, self-esteem, confidence and well-being, whilst also enabling young people with a learning disability to become more independent, less isolated and vulnerable.
The initiative will also raise awareness and reduce stigma of learning disabilities in the younger generation, those involved, friends and family and throughout local communities as a whole. Mencap Best Buddies may also enhance the employability of both the person with and without a learning disability via participation, skills attained and links and activities undertaken by collaborating organisations. The project is open to everyone in Cornwall.
Those wishing to get involved should contact Susan Hodgson on: Susan.Hodgson@mencap.org.uk.