The Best Buddies Way


            I glance around at the smiling faces illuminating all sides of the table. Someone brings up the TV show Friends, and we are greeted with a chorus of, “Oh, I love that show!” It feels so natural, sitting here in Mandarin with classmates and new friends. We’re all ravenous (not to mention really eager to take a brief break from the hectic summative mode), and we start discussing the contents of our plates. Where is a better place to talk of culinary delights than during lunchtime at a buffet?

            It was the perfect grand finale to a vibrant year for the NT chapter of Best Buddies.

            What is a Best Buddies “chapter”? Best Buddies Canada is, they maintain, “ a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing our communities through one-to-one friendships between individuals with intellectual disabilities and other students.” How that’s translated in a high-school context is, well, a club where students (of various needs) get together once or twice a month and do fun stuff together. Serious members are matched one-on-one with a student with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. These peer buddies call their buddies at least once every two weeks (or maintain e-mail contact, whichever they prefer). They also get together with their buddies outside of school at least once a month. You might worry about making this commitment. Wouldn’t it be awkward to find common ground, or at least find anything to talk about? Not at all.

            There is more of a natural inclination to “just be yourself” when you are encouraged to become friends with a group of people. The buddies especially are so excited to spend time with you. The energy that radiates in room 208 during a Best Buddies meeting is obvious the moment you step through the door. You feel calm, and happy. A typical meeting is characterized by lots of joking and laughter. Sometimes there are structured games and activities, like the infamous dodgeball games in the upper gym. Sometimes we watch movies, complete with hot buttered popcorn and other sweets. We have holiday parties (anticipate gingerbread houses, present exchanges, valentines and candy hearts!) and, of course, the end-of- year Mandarin rendez-vouz!

            Best Buddies is a thriving club at NT, and ALL students are encouraged to check it out.

            Keep your ears open for upcoming Hot Air announcements!