Best Buddies Don Mills C.I.
Best Buddies Don Mills Collegiate Institute
September 24, 2012
Between 100 - 1,000
Overview:Recently, an alarming statistic revealed that nearly fifteen percent of the world’s population are categorized as “disabled” (World Heath Organization and World Bank, 2011). Sadly, these disabled individuals face daily challenges that pose significant obstacles to their full participation in society. Stephen Hawking has stated that, “we have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.” It is well documented that students with disabilities face many barriers and experience high levels of loneliness. Research shows that friendships have significant benefits on the emotional well-being of adolescents with disabilities. Friendships ease feelings of disempowerment and isolation, and are necessary components of achieving success in school, the community, and the workplace.
With the help of a student executive, a former principal, and an educational assistant, I run a “Best Buddies” club that gives students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and physical handicaps the kind of experiences that we often take for granted. “Best Buddies”, now in its fifth year at Don Mills Collegiate in Toronto, matches students with disabilities (currently about 25) with 60 “peer buddies”.
Involvement in Best Buddies requires that we actively fundraise to supplement program expenses. Our goal is to provide our students with enriched learning opportunities that they would not otherwise have. Students meet weekly to play board games, talk, read, or play sports. A peer buddy enables his or her “buddy” to explore and experience the world in a way that only a friend can, with laughter, sharing, and empathy. The joy and development of these youth demonstrate that these activities greatly enhance their quality of life. They develop a sense of satisfaction knowing that they are participating and contributing to their community, thus promoting a life of independence. This program has brought their life purpose, a sense of belonging, and has given them events to anticipate and enjoy. Rather than loneliness and emotional despair, these students with disabilities feel special as they build genuine friendships with their buddies.
Peer buddies benefit too. They feel they are making a difference. This partnership changes the attitudes of students, teachers and people in the community about the abilities of our students. These peer buddies will be tomorrow’s leaders - making decisions that will shape the future of our communities. They will be the employers who hire a person with a disability, landlords that rent an apartment to a person with a disability, principals and teachers that will ensure full integration in the school system and policy makers that will lobby for the rights of people with disabilities.
The Aviva Community Fund could enrich these students’ lives in countless ways and significantly improve their quality of life. The funds would be used to send students to The International Best Buddies Conference. This conference has inspired thousands to be Best Buddies ambassadors and to affect social change in their communities. The students would also attend live sporting events and cultural events (the theatre, the symphony, museums and art galleries). Studies show that children who participate in social events and arts do better in school. They experience increased community awareness, social skills, and cultural perspectives that help them learn responsibility and become contributing members of our society.
Ultimately, it is our goal to fulfill a life-long dream of visiting Walt Disney World. Disney can offer these students a unique, varied, and rich learning experience. Students will be able to engage with a larger community, explore the foods and cultures of various nations, and enrich their education by visiting another country. They will feel what it would be like to travel to Mars; time travel through the history of the world on Spaceship Earth; and experience technology at Future World. These experiential learning activities will inspire them to expand their learning of geography, science, math, architecture, nature, and more. It will greatly aid in their development and their contribution to society.
By making us the recipients of the Aviva grant, you will make it possible for these Best Buddies students to experience the many educational, social and enriching experiences at the various events noted above. Together we can share their feelings of joy by contributing to these students well-being. Together we can create a future world where able and persons with disabilities are not separated by barriers of ignorance and where together they will build communities of inclusion and well-being. Please help us to make this world a reality.
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