“I cant wait to get home and tell mum I had the best night of my life” said an East Sussex participant after a clubbing social!
From experimental music nights to candle lit acoustic sessions, and ghost walks to cinema trips. You name it, we’ve done it as a social!
Why our socials have become so important for us
Although the projects primary focus has always been to be match adults with a learning disability to a volunteer based on mutual interests, there are undoubtedly parts of the project that have changed to accommodate the growing number of participants on the project. With over 125+ people waiting to be matched to a volunteer and nearly 100 matched pairs to supported the Gig Buddies team have had to become creative in ways to still engage Gig Buddy participants and volunteers. Mediums such as the bi-monthly newsletters, surveys, social media engagement, the Storm and Thunder group and the Wild Rainbows group have all helped to engage as many people are possible.
Managing demand and waiting lists
A natural redirection, in engaging participants and volunteers, has also appeared in the form of socials. As the number waitlist participants grows and pairs needing support increases, socials have become incredibly important in making sure participants have the opportunity to engage in social activities. They have risen from one 1 month to approximately 5 a month, in the last two years.
Socials are now engaging and creating the opportunity for socialising for an additional 40+ people a month who would otherwise not be meeting up with other Gig Buddies. This is particularly true for a Bognor launch social in West Sussex that allowed for 35 new people to make contact with the project that hadn’t before!
Using socials to create connections
A member of the Gig Buddies staff team will always be present at a social and this means that they are able to support participants with transport to and from the event. This also helps the staff team get to know participants and therefore, create better matches. Priority is usually given to new participants, people who haven’t been matched or those who are unable to travel independently. This is in the hope that through engaging people early on in socials they will then learn the skills necessary to attend independently.
Creating more independence
Socials are not only creating the space for socialising but they are also providing opportunities for participants to practise and learn new skills, which are important for accessing a social life. Skills such as handling money, learning new transport routes, buying tickets and meeting new people. Many participants who used to need support from the staff team to travel to a social are now able to travel independently and in some circumstances are now ‘peer supporting’ others to the socials.
Growing the Gig Buddies community
Gig Buddy staff also really encourage matched pairs to attend socials, especially as their first outing together. This is because it helps them, both, make new friends on the project and it also means the participant is left with a bigger social circle if the pair stop buddying.
If you would like to join in with the fun at a social then please keep an eye out for the next newsletter with the socials listings or follow us on social media; Facebook and Twitter or just email us.