Facilitating friendships and leadership opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities

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The Best Buddies program, founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, aims to foster inclusiveness and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by creating opportunities for friendships and leadership development in their communities. Best Buddies has established chapters across the world, in elementary schools, high schools, universities and colleges. Volunteers are matched with students with intellectual disabilities who share similar interests, and the pairs connect with each other weekly, and get together twice a month. A student volunteer, assisted by a person with an intellectual disability (“Buddy Advocate”), manages each chapter, and organizes a group activity that all buddy pairs attend, four times a year.

The Best Buddies activities help promote a sense of belonging to the community, offering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities opportunities to feel included, develop long-lasting friendships, and build the social skills needed for healthy development. Volunteers are given the opportunity to contribute to the community, and can help to reduce stigma, and promote understanding of the diversity of people within their communities.