IHC friendship programme has positive impact

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IHC volunteer Sani Sree Kumar (left) and friend Putaau Rouvi at Invercargill's Queens Park recently.

A VOLUNTEER initiative with a difference has more volunteers to “team up” with people with an intellectual disability.

Invercargill IHC volunteer co-ordinator Leon Hartnett said the volunteer friendship programme was unique because it did not ask for volunteers to do more, rather it asked them to simply include a friend with an intellectual disability in what they were already doing.

“It’s about building friendships for those with intellectual disabilities by way of shared interests.”

That may be as simple as including the new friend in a variety of social activities, he said.

“IHC’s volunteer friendship programme is about making a positive change in someone’s life and gaining a new friend in the process.

“It’s about spending time doing what you want to do, when you want to do it, with a person with an intellectual disability.”

The programme had run in Invercargill for 16 months, and in that time hundreds of volunteer hours were contributed to enrich the lives of those with intellectual disabilities, Mr Hartnett said.

“We have friends who meet for coffee, go fishing, swimming, to the gym… the list is endless.”

It could be as simple as IHC volunteer Sani Sree Kumar and friend Putaau Rouvi, who enjoyed visiting parks in Invercargill.

Post Covid-19, IHC had a surge in “incredible volunteers”, meaning there were now more volunteers than people with an intellectual disability who would like a friend, he said.

“The volunteers are police vetted and receive a robust training and support programme.”

As well as matching “friends” with volunteers, IHC was also looking for more volunteers to join its exciting programme, he said.

“If you would like to make a massive difference in someone’s life, please contact me.”

Mr Hartnett said “we want to make certain that everyone in Southland, who wants one, can have a friend. So if you know anyone, or you personally can benefit from having a friend, please contact leon.hartnett@ihc.org.nz or text or phone 021 308 549.”

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