According to the Government of Canada (2017 Canadian Survey on Disability), more than 6 million Canadians – almost 16% of the population in this country – are living with some form of a disability that affects their level of freedom, independence or quality of life. Of that number, over 200,000 are children and youth. Statistics Canada goes on to define a person with disabilities as having difficulty with daily activities and reduced participation in activities due to physical or mental health issues that last six months or longer. As of 2017, 18% or 210,000 Calgarians aged 15 years and older reported having a disability (Statistics Canada, 2019).
Families with individuals who have a disability are estimated to experience a higher economic cost which can lead to social exclusion and isolation. Between Friends heavily subsidizes every program, to make them affordable for all families, and offers fee assistance to ensure there are no financial barriers to participation.
Between Friends is unique in that it is the only agency in Calgary solely dedicated to providing social, recreation and development opportunities for people with disabilities. Everyone is welcome to participate in our programs, regardless of ability, age, gender, race, gender identity, religion or culture. We have more than 85 different disabilities amongst our participants and over 40% of our participants are on the Autism Spectrum.
We provide unique opportunities for individuals with disabilities to have positive social interactions with peers who may or may not have a disability. These shared interactions and experiences often become the foundation of understanding and lasting friendships.
Participation in community based programs offers people with disabilities the opportunity to strengthen their social network, and increase their sense of belonging and community. Individuals with disabilities who are unable to participate in their communities experience social isolation and lower satisfaction with life (Law & King 2000). Our programs give people with disabilities the opportunity to experience all the fun activities they may not otherwise be able to try and make lasting friendships. They feel included, happy and safe. With the recent events related to COVID-19, we hope that our society better understands the effects of isolation and exclusion. For most, this will be a relatively short-term issue. For people with disabilities, isolation and exclusion are everyday occurrences.
Opening a World of Opportunities!
For six long years Constantin was confined to a world of his own thoughts, but could never share them. Living with a disability that impeded his speech made him feel sad, lonely and isolated. He had the words and so much to offer, but just couldn’t share his thoughts as easily as others.
“[All] I felt was: I can’t speak; I can’t hang out with friends, because that involves talking; I can’t have friends really; I can’t fit in; I am always the slowest in my class; I can’t go to summer camp like my brother or sister; instead I see therapists and study for school; kids pity me.”
He had tried other summer camps, yet never felt like he could belong. He felt judged by the other kids for how he spoke. He was disheartened by coming in last in everything. When he found Between Friends Camp Bonaventure, it completely changed Constantin’s life:
“I couldn’t believe it. Wow! Nobody looked at me weird, they just took me as I was: Constantin. Yes, I have problems, but who cares? Let’s have fun together. They connected with me; we all had a blast! I realized that there are other kids with issues and IT IS OK. No therapy could teach me that, I needed to FEEL it. And I made friends and talked as never before.”
Now 14 years old, his journey with Between Friends led him to our Between Friends I.C.A.N! services (Inclusive Community Activities with No Barriers) where he, along with the support of one of our Recreation Inclusion Facilitators (RIF), volunteers weekly with Youth Central.
“With my volunteering I learned the biggest lesson of my life: I CAN do things, make a difference, and people are actually grateful that I am there. I don’t see myself anymore as that poor kid with a disability but I have something very special, a ‘ME-ABILITY.’ I can help as much as possible and that makes our community a better place.”
Through Between Friends I.C.A.N! services we have seen Constantin grow more ambitious and confident. His passion for the community and desire to give back are truly inspiring:
“The Between Friends I.C.A.N! service has empowered [Constantin] to the point where he has plans for his future: what career he wants, and what college he would like to go to. He is realizing his true potential and he now lives without the limitation of a disability. I am so proud of him. His success fills my heart with joy.” – Recreation Inclusion Facilitator (RIF)
Between Friends offers activities for children, youth and adults from Calgary and the surrounding areas. Annually, over 800 individuals participate in approximately 130 programs in the following program areas:
GIVE TO THESE PROGRAMS AND MAKE AN IMPACT:
Participation in community based programs offers people with disabilities the opportunity to strengthen their social network, and increase their sense of belonging and community.
Individuals with disabilities who are unable to participate in their communities experience social isolation and lower satisfaction with life (Law & King 2000). Our programs give people
with disabilities the opportunity to experience all the fun activities they may not otherwise be able to try and make lasting friendships. They feel included, happy and safe. With the recent
events related to COVID-19, we hope that our society better understands the effects of isolation and exclusion. For most, this will be a relatively short-term issue. For people with
disabilities, isolation and exclusion are everyday occurrences. Give the to the following programs and initiatives to help people with disabilities connect, grow and belong.
Your investment in Adventurers will enable participants to:
W.E.S.O.A.R! Programs (Weekend & Evening Social Opportunities, Activities & Recreation) are social and recreational group activities geared towards people with disabilities of all ages. Participants are grouped based on their age, and activities are planned to ﬁt their interests. The activities can be either indoor, outdoor or online and include: bowling, swimming, dancing, music therapy, movie nights, and much more. Between Friends W.E.S.O.A.R! programs operate year-round in four sessions: winter, spring, summer, and fall.
All of our programs have between 10-12 participants. We believe in the positive benefits of social connection, especially during this time of physical distancing. We focus on social interactions, while providing a safe and accepting environment.
Community Training: $17,000
Your investment in community training helps businesses and organizations receive training about disabilities in the workplace.
Your donation will ensure that educational workshops are run through-out the year.
Leadership Development: $30,000
Your investment in the Leadership Development will enable the next generation of knowledgeable, skilled youth to:
Your investment in Inclusion will enable those who take part to
Legacy Giving: Plan a gift. Ensure future generations of Between Friends participants have a place to belong, through a bequest, gift of insurance, securities or other planned gift. https://betweenfriends.ab.ca/legacy-giving/
Volunteer: We are looking for board members or committee members in the areas of fund development, communications, finance and governance. There are many opportunities to volunteer through our weekly evening and weekend programs, or for our summer camps. https://betweenfriends.ab.ca/volunteer/