North Antrim represented at ‘Making Life Better’ seminar

REPRESENTATIVES from Compass Advocacy Network (CAN) in Ballymoney and politicians from north Antrim including MLA Mervyn Storey, Ballymoney Mayor Ian Stevenson and Moyle councillors Joan Baird and Sharon McKillop have attended the CAN Shadow Council ‘Making Life Better’ seminar at Stormont.

The event was used to launch Best Buddies Northern Ireland.

The ‘Making Life Better’ seminar was held on Tuesday 24th April in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings and celebrated the work of the Shadow Council Project (as part of CAN).

The Shadow Council Project is putting into practice Compass Advocacy Network’s vision of helping people with learning disability to be confident, speak up for themselves and play an active role in their local communities.

The Shadow Council Project is funded for 5 years by Big Lottery Fund – Reaching Communities (Northern Ireland).

Shadow Councillors and Shadow Council Delegates work with a wide range of organisations to ‘Make Life Better’ for people with learning disabilities.

CAN took the opportunity at this event to launch Best Buddies Northern Ireland. Their Shadow Councillors introduced Brooke Switzer, Senior Director of International Programs who officially launched the Best Buddies Northern Ireland programme.

Actor Verne Troyer, better known as ‘Mini-Me’ who famously helped out the Ballymoney CAN after a break-in, spoke via pre-recorded video, about his role as a buddy in the international programme.

Regarding the Best Buddies programme, when people with disabilities are unable to attain or maintain a job, it is most often due to an absence of social skills, rather than an inability to perform the work required, a spokesperson said.

Best Buddies® offers participants socialization and leadership opportunities, as well as job coaching, thereby providing the necessary tools for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to become more independent and more included in the community.

Best Buddies Middle Schools matches students with IDD with other middle school students and creates one-to-one friendships between them. In today’s middle schools, students with IDD often enter the same building and walk the same hallways as their peers, but are frequently left out of social activities.

Best Buddies High Schools matches students with IDD with other high school students and creates one-to-one friendships between them. By introducing Best Buddies to public and private high schools, they are crossing the invisible line that too often separates those with disabilities from those without.

Best Buddies Colleges matches people with IDD with college students and creates one-to-one friendships between them. The spokeperson added: “In the past, individuals with IDD have not had the opportunity to have friends outside of their own, often isolated, environment.

“Best Buddies Citizens pairs people with IDD in one-to-one friendships with other individuals in the corporate and civic communities. Without love, support and friends, our lives would be empty – a life people with IDD have been forced to live throughout history. Volunteers are changing this by simply sharing their time with new friends.

“Best Buddies Jobs is a supported employment program that helps people with IDD secure competitive, paying jobs. The program targets job sites, competitively places individuals, and promotes ongoing support and training. This enables people with IDD to work as respected individuals alongside others in the community. “Best Buddies Ambassadors educates and empowers people with IDD to be leaders and public speakers in their schools, communities and workplaces. Best Buddies Ambassadors is the next step for the Disability Rights Movement – teaching people with IDD the skills they need to successfully self-advocate. Best Buddies Ambassadors prepares people with IDD to become active agents of change.”