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Appeal urges people to share their lives

MEDIA RELEASE

12 February 2008


IHC annual appeal urges people to share their lives and form a friendship

Encouraging people to share everyday activities with those with an intellectual disability is at the heart of this year's IHC annual appeal.

Funds raised in this year's appeal, which runs from 17-23 February, will go to support IHC's volunteer programme. IHC is looking to increase the number of volunteers from 650 to 3000 over the next five years.

IHC Chief Executive Ralph Jones says that for many people with intellectual disabilities it is very hard to make friends.

"People with intellectual disabilities want the same things as others in the community. They want a job, they want money, they want to be part of a family, and they want to have friends.

"Yet they are consistently poorer, less able to get involved in community activities and their health outcomes are worse than other groups in society," says Mr Jones.

"People who volunteer for IHC make a big contribution to the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. It helps ensure that people with disabilities can lead fulfilling lives in the community."

Mr Jones says that most people think that volunteers are free.

"IHC knows exactly what a volunteer costs. We started our programme from a values base which means we must recruit train and support our volunteers to a set of high standards. This means that there is a cost. A volunteer hour costs the organisation $7.40."

National Manager of Volunteering Karen Roberts says that the aim of the programme is friendship.

"We want people to spend time together and enjoy doing things together."

"We have 30 coordinators across the country who are paid to recruit, train and support people who want to have a friend who has an intellectual disability. We match people with similar interests, ensure everyone is safe and we support them to develop a true friendship through sharing interests and activities.

IHC's volunteer programme is world-leading, and its goal is to put friendship into the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

Currently 374 people give 2958 hours per month to IHC's volunteer programme. A further 240 volunteers serve on branch committees.

Ms Roberts says that virtually anyone is suitable to be a volunteer for IHC.

"We ask people to look at their lives. Most people are busy but there are things in their day that that they can include someone else in. It might be going to the gym, walking their dogs, meeting a friend for coffee, taking the children to the park, anything and everything."

Ms Roberts says that volunteers are needed in all areas around New Zealand.

Mr Jones says the money raised by the appeal is distributed throughout New Zealand to support people with intellectual disabilities to live in the community.

Supported by an advertising campaign in the lead-up to the appeal, IHC is asking people to use the IHC envelopes that are being distributed to many households, call 0900 44 900 to make an automatic $20 cash donation, or text a $3 donation to 2446.

ENDS

Anyone who is interested in volunteering can contact IHC on 0800 442 442 and they will be referred to the nearest coordinator who will meet with them and explain the programme.


IHC annual appeal - 17-23 February 2008

Media information

When people suggest say they are too busy to become a volunteer, it is precisely what IHC wants to hear as it approaches its annual week-long appeal which begins this Sunday (17 February).

For a person with an intellectual disability, being able to do and share in some of the everyday things most of us take for granted makes a monumental difference to their lives.

IHC’s national manager of volunteering, Karen Roberts, said that while some people go scuba diving or parachuting, many people with disabilities do things with their “buddy” such as going shopping or to the cinema, having a coffee, going to the gym or walking their dogs.

Karen said it is impossible to quantify what such activities mean to someone who might live in a group environment with others who have intellectual disabilities.

“They tell us that their buddy is just for them and the opportunity to make friends makes a huge difference to their lives.

“It also shows how easy it is for communities to contribute and make a real difference.”

IHC currently has around 650 volunteers across New Zealand and its successful one-to-one buddy scheme is now in its fourth year. IHC is aiming to increase the number of volunteers to 3000 during the next three years.

The organisation provides excellent training and support for volunteers, but volunteering, and the buddy scheme in particular, is among the many initiatives not covered by any Government funding. At a cost of $7.40 to support every volunteer hour, the annual appeal is seen as vital.

Volunteers are given two hours orientation training before they start and then asked to attend at least one four hour training module per year which focuses on values, attitudes and understanding disability.

Potential match-ups between people with an intellectual disability and their volunteer buddy are based on people’s personality, their mutual interests or a desire to do new things together.

There are 30 IHC co-ordinators across the country who are paid to recruit, train and support volunteers. They ensure everyone is safe and supported so that both parties get the most out of the friendship.

Karen says a volunteer may initially only be able to offer an hour or two per week, but the arrangement is reviewed regularly to ensure both parties are happy with the way the friendship is developing.

Reviewing a buddy arrangement provides an opportunity to assess progress and perhaps consider additional activities. However, many are more than happy to continue with a coffee or trip to the movies, which Karen stresses, is “perfectly fine”.

IHC’s volunteering programme is regarded as a world leader and Karen is often invited to speak to groups and organisations around the world who want to learn from IHC’s experiences.
“I think attitudes to people with intellectual disabilities have got better without us really banging a drum about it. We now want people with intellectual disabilities to participate in their community.

“Community is not a place, it’s an experience, a way of being,” Karen explained.

While there are around 5000 people receiving support through IDEA Services (IHC’s service delivery arm) there are around 35,000-40,000 people with an intellectual disability in New Zealand.

Apart from the volunteer programme, the IHC annual appeal also provides much needed funds to support communication and community awareness programmes, advocacy for inclusive education and rights to work and income, as well as the IHC’s highly regarded library.

More volunteers are needed by IHC in all areas of New Zealand and if you are interested in getting involved, further information is available by calling 0800 442 442.

Supported by an advertising campaign in the lead-up to the appeal, IHC is asking people to use the IHC envelopes that are being distributed to many households, call 0900 44 900 to make an automatic $20 cash donation, or text a $3 donation to 2446.

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