IHC Dunedin - “Friendship isn’t one big thing, it is a million little things”- Gill Marshall

A selfie of Grace and Dani.

IHC New Zealand advocates for the rights, inclusion and welfare of all people with intellectual disabilities and supports them to live satisfying lives in the community. They have 320 volunteers across New Zealand, 28 in Dunedin.

IHC volunteers are matched 1:1 with adults with an intellectual disability to develop a friendship while supporting them in doing the things that they enjoy in the community. It’s all about having fun; the volunteer and their friend choose activities they both enjoy whether that’s going to a movie, the library, a museum, exercising or learning a new skill.

Adults with an intellectual disability often say that most people in their lives are paid to be there or are family members. Most activities that they take part in are planned and in a group. Spending quality 1:1 time with the IHC volunteer and developing a genuine friendship bond by sharing experiences improves their quality of life by boosting confidence, self-worth, independence and a sense of achievement.

Developing a genuine friendship can take time, patience and commitment. Our Volunteer team provides wraparound support to ensure successful matches by working alongside friends, their family and support staff and a local IHC Volunteer Coordinator who trains and supports them to fulfil their role. The qualities we look for in a volunteer are empathy, reliability, honesty and integrity. Most of all they need to be kind. Our Volunteers are passionate about making a difference not just to their friend but also to the community. This year IHC volunteers have taken their friends to support the Highlanders, visited the museum, theatre, cinema, mini golf, budo, library, collected shells for shell art and even to see the container ships unload.

“It has been a privilege getting to know and work with the Dunedin Volunteers. They demonstrate qualities and a commitment that make the IHC Friendship Volunteer Programme in Dunedin a successful, professional and respected programme. Friendship isn’t one big thing, it is a million little things, that our volunteers do to make their friends smile – a volunteer dressing in all-pink because that is her friend’s favourite colour; another singing classic Disney songs over and over because her friend loves them; another showing some photos of China so that her friend knows more about where she comes from. These are priceless and only require a little thought, kindness, and time,” says Gill Marshall, Dunedin IHC Volunteer Coordinator.

The IHC Volunteer Friendship Programme works because volunteers and friends are matched based on shared interests, hobbies and goals. They are matched by their personalities, values and their geographic location, meaning both people and communities are brought together. A huge thanks to IHC volunteers who help to break down stereotypes and barriers around intellectual disability that still exist. They advocate for their friends and, by their very presence out and about, are making the Dunedin community more inclusive and welcoming, truly weaving people together!

Written by Gill Marshall, IHC Dunedin

Would you or someone you know be perfect for this role? Read more about it here.