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April 2001

Leisure buddies - A fun and different way to make new friends

By Helen Calandro,
Gawith Villa Manager of Volunteers.

Colin (front) and Leisure Buddy Daryl enjoy the delights of fishing - 35292 Bytes


Adults with an intellectual disability are making new friends and trying different leisure activities under a new project being run by Melbourne based community organisation Gawith Villa. Launched in October 1998, the scheme is giving people the opportunity to develop real friendships and get more involved in their local community.

These friendships are being developed with a volunteer. Gawith Villa client Leeanne has been seeing her buddy Marcelle, aged 22, for nearly two years. Leeanne and Marcelle meet up on Tuesdays. "We go for coffees or walks. Other days we go to the pub to listen to the jukebox and play snooker," said Marcelle. "It’s great spending time with Leeanne. She’s really welcoming and happy. Leeanne really loves her life and how many people do you meet like that?"


"Being a volunteer is a fantastic opportunity. It gives me a wider perspective of life and it’s fun." Apart from making a new friend, Marcelle said that she’s also learned a lot about intellectual disability. "I think a lot of people are scared of people who have a disability. By getting to know someone you realise there’s nothing to be scared about. There’s a whole other world out there."

Good friends: Margaret (front) and her buddy Andrea - 26810 Bytes

Finding a buddie

According to Gawith Villa manager of volunteers Helen Calandro, the Leisure Buddies Project is getting the match right between clients and volunteers. “Already many of our volunteers are heading towards their second year as a buddy. The friendships they’re developing are great.”

Gawith Villa currently has 70 clients. Out of these, 15 people are still waiting for a Leisure Buddy volunteer. "It can be quite difficult explaining to people that we haven’t found the right person for them yet. But we keep looking. We know that there is good match for every client. We just have to find the right person," said Helen.

Bill (left) and volunteer Matthew meet weekly for biking,tennis, basketball or badminton - 27272 Bytes

Shared interests

No particular qualifications or experience is needed to be a Gawith Villa volunteer. All you need is an hour a week to spare. Volunteers are then carefully matched with their buddy. "We take into account where they both live, their shared interests and common goals," added Helen.


Similar projects

Helen is hoping to make contact with similar projects around the world. If you know of a suitable project or would like more information please call Helen Calandro at Gawith Villa on Melbourne (03) 8508 6706 or email her at

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