I Will Be There For You: A Buddy Program for Young Adults of all Abilities

Beginning this summer, the Edlavitch DCJCC’s Inclusion & Disabilities program is partnering with EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the EDCJCC, on a new initiative, Buddy Up. We asked Stacey Herman, Director of Inclusion & Disability Programming, Stacy Miller, Director of EntryPointDC, and some of the young adults of our community with and without disabilities to tell us more about this unique initiative.

What is the Buddy Up program and why should young adults in the community get involved?

The Buddy Up program strives to create friendships between young adults with and without disabilities. We are looking for young adults who want to build peer relationships with young adults with disabilities and there are two ways to get involved, drop-in buddy or year-long buddy.

As a drop-in buddy you can sign up to attend our social programs such as cooking, bowling, and game night when your schedule allows. In the fall, consistent Sunday programming will be offered. On the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month we will offer a Zumba class in partnership with the organization KEEN and will need drop-in buddies to pair off with those with disabilities during the class. Once a month there will be Vocational Clubs that include painting, jewelry making, and taking care of the environment.

A year-long buddy will focus on building one-on-one relationships within a larger peer group and will be required to attend 1-2 social programs a month and correspond with individuals on a regular basis. Buddies will interact with attendees by socializing, making conversations, and generally being a warm and welcoming face at events. Training will be provided for individuals who will be working with the young adults with disabilities and those that would like to participate in the Buddy Up program.

The program is a great opportunity to spend your free time getting to know someone you may not have ever had the chance to meet and help those with disabilities gain important social and vocational skills.

Why is EntryPointDC partnering on this program?

EntryPointDC embraces inclusion and welcomes and encourages young adults of all abilities to attend our programs. Sometimes young adults with disabilities will attend Jewish young professional events in the community and not know how to initiate conversations with event attendees or possess the social skills to keep conversations going. Young adults without disabilities sometimes may be unsure how to approach someone with a disability.  By partnering on this program we hope to build more friendships, offer more lower barrier and consistent volunteering opportunities in the community, and embody the value of tikkun olam by helping our constituents and community gain new skills, empathy, and a better understanding of each other’s perspectives.

Matt Jaffe and Daniel Legum met each other at a Jewish young professional event in the community and are considering being paired together with one of our young adults looking for a buddy.

How did you two meet?  Why do you want to be part of the buddy program?

Daniel:  We met at a 2239 happy hour at Science Club in Dupont in 2013. We want to be a part of the buddy program in order to help other people with disabilities feel like a part of the Jewish community in DC.

What do you think is important for people to know about someone who has disabilities?

Matt: People with disabilities want to fit in with the group and don’t want to be spoken to differently on account of having a disability. They also like to participate in as many activities with everyone else as possible.

Gregory Shaw and Rachel Goldschmidt have been attending some of the social programs offered through the Inclusion and Disabilities program at the EDCJCC.

Why do you want a buddy and how can they help you?

Rachel:  I think having a buddy will make it easier for me to be ingrained into the larger group. I would like my buddy to be someone who can make introductions and help get me into the conversation.  It would be great if we could go out for coffee, tea or a meal, or go for a walk outside the programs!

Gregory:  It can sometimes be difficult for me to be with a peer group. A buddy would help people understand me and what I want to express when I interact with my peers.

Ready to make new friends and empower your peers? The Buddy Up Program currently has a waitlist of 8 young adults of varying capabilities looking for long-term buddies. We welcome individuals of all religious backgrounds. Applications are now open for year-long buddies; we ask a commitment to the program for 6 months to a year wherein you will attend 1-2 social programs a month and correspond regularly with your buddy. Year-long buddy applications are due Friday, July 21. If you would like to drop-in and help at any of our upcoming social programs when your schedule allows, register on our sign-up genius.  If you are looking for a buddy, sign-up here.  Questions? Visit our Inclusion & Disabilities page or email Stacey Herman, Director of Inclusion & Disability Programming.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.
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