The mission of Best Buddies International is to enhance the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.
Founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, Best Buddies has grown from one original chapter to more than 1,300 middle school, high school, and college campuses in each of the 50 United States and in 33 additional countries. Best Buddies volunteers annually contribute services to the community that equate to more than $70 million USD.
There are six divisions of Best Buddies programs: middle schools, high schools, colleges, citizens, jobs, and e-Buddies. The state of Arizona has Best Buddies high school, college, and e-Buddies programs. The Best Buddies college chapter at the University of Arizona is the only program in the Tucson area.
Best Buddies is the only unified, international program of its kind. Our organization is based on a different approach to community service. While picking up trash in a park or donating food or time to a food bank helps the well-being of a community as a whole, Best Buddies provides resources and empowerment to the individual. Many individuals with intellectual disabilities have limited exposure to what many of us would consider ordinary experiences. Through the formation of genuine friendships, individuals with intellectual disabilities learn valuable life skills which better enable them to contribute to our community.
For example, by going to the movie theatre, a Buddy observes:
- Social skills, such as waiting in line, thanking the cashier for your tickets, and being quiet during the movie. Many social skills are learned by watching others, but many individuals with intellectual disabilities may not have the resources to go on outings for fun.
- Economic skills, such as paying for a ticket, counting change, and deciding which size drink is the best value. Deciding how you want to spend your money builds autonomy and makes working more empowering. Many individual with intellectual disabilities do not have the opportunity to make such decisions.
- Age-appropriate skills, such as what movies, clothing, and music other people in an age group enjoy, both through the film and by observing other individuals at the movie theatre. Many individuals with intellectual disabilities do not have the opportunity to interact with peers of their age in school or at work, and spend much of their time in group homes or with their parents. Even a trip to the movies can be an eye-opening and teachable moment.
Best Buddies makes a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals with intellectual disabilities while having a lot of fun! Our Buddy matches are made based on compatibility and shared interests, and do not carry the same sense of obligation as more traditional community service. Our goal is to change lives one friendship at a time.
NEED FOR PROGRAM
There are 7.5 million people with intellectual disabilities in the U.S. who have traditionally been segregated from the rest of society. Many negative stereotypes of individuals with intellectual disabilities persist only because many people have had little or no exposure to individuals with disabilities. By demonstrating that individuals with disabilities can be productive members of our communities and great friends, Best Buddies helps to end this segregation.
Even though Best Buddies has advanced tremendously in our short existence, many areas of the country and many regions of the world still lack programs to help people with intellectual disabilities become part of mainstream society. Our goal is to continue expanding nationwide and at the local community level, while more broadly engaging the global community through our programs.
HOW TO JOIN
Best Buddies matches one volunteer college student, a College Buddy, with one volunteer with intellectual disabilities, a Community Buddy. Best Buddies only matches female College Buddies with female Community Buddies, and male College Buddies with male Community Buddies. Because we aim for high-quality matches that foster genuine friendships through compatibility and shared interests, not every qualified candidate may be matched. However, we also have non-matched members, called Associate Buddies, who attend meetings and events but are not in a one-to-one friendship. We highly encourage all who are interested in Best Buddies to participate as an Associate Buddy if they are unable to to matched for any reason.
To become a College Buddy, you must be a full-time student at the University of Arizona in good academic standing. The match stands for a full academic year, so students traveling abroad for a semester are not eligible. After submitting your member application and $10 activity and t-shirt fee at our Intellectual Disabilities Training session, you will be contacted for an interview. Qualified students will then be placed in one-to-one matches with Community Buddies based on compatibility and shared interests.
To become a Community Buddy, you must contact a club officer and submit your membership application and $10 membership and t-shirt fee at our first event. Community Buddies will be matched with College Buddies based on compatibility and shared interests.
To become an Associate Buddy, you need only submit an application and the $10 activity and t-shirt fee. No interview is required.
Once a Buddy Match has been made, the College Buddy and Community Buddy have a responsibility to each other. The matches must touch base at least once a week via telephone, email, or another means. In addition, the Buddy match is required to have two one-to-one events per month. It is highly recommended that one of these events is the monthly chapter event. These events will be tracked in our monthly Friendship Updates. Here is an example of a Buddy Match that fulfills these criteria:
Week 1 - Talked to Buddy on phone for 20 minutes, chatted about school and planned upcoming trip to movies.
Week 2 - Called to confirm movie outing. Meet at the movies on Thursday.
Week 3 - Sent Buddy an email to see if they wanted to go to the zoo with the rest of the Best Buddies chapter.
Week 4 - Attended chapter outing to the zoo on Saturday. Talked to Buddy on phone later that week.
We estimate that being a matched College Buddy or Community Buddy should only take up 5-10 hours a month. However, unlike other clubs, the commitment made in Best Buddies is to a person, so failure to meet these criteria can have very harmful consequences. The officers are here to help our Buddies maintain fun and healthy matches throughout the school year.
The University of Arizona chapter of Best Buddies is one of three college chapters in Arizona, along with Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University. We are the only Best Buddies chapter in the Tucson area. Our state headquarters are located in Phoenix.
Last year, we had almost 20 active Buddy matches. Our events included an ice cream social in Himmel Park, the SANDS Buddy Walk, a trip to the Tucson Botanical Gardens, the Winterhaven Festival of Lights, a movie day, a Diamondbacks spring training game, and Buddy Bowling. In July 2007, our chapter was presented with an Outstanding Chapter Award by the founder of Best Buddies, Anthony K. Shriver. We hope to keep up our great track record during the 2007-2008 school year!