I first met Annie* a year and a half ago; she was extremely shy and quiet, and over a pub dinner and a pint she did not say anything at all other than that she liked her food. She struck me as exactly the right fit for Gig Buddies – she wanted to be out and about, socialising and making friends, but had no confidence to do so. It was clear that if she had someone she could connect with, who would meet her at the bus stop and then approach a social situation or pub together, she would feel a lot more comfortable.
Six months later, I finally had a volunteer in Annie’s area who I thought would be a good fit for her. Her name is Lucy and she has volunteered with young people with learning disabilities before; she is very friendly, bubbly and active, and she was very keen to meet Annie.
I arranged a meet up in a pub for the three of us – I think it is fair to say that Annie did not say more than a few words during it, she was so nervous about meeting a new person. The first time the pair met up without me for coffee and cake, the same thing happened. Annie barely spoke and Lucy was a bit worried that they would struggle to bond.
Lucy decided to try doing an activity with Annie, so they went to play minigolf. This really helped Annie to have something else to focus on and feel less nervous – she started to open up, making some jokes and then chatting on the bus journey home as well. The next activity was bowling, and this seemed to be a way of making Annie feel more comfortable.
Over the next few months, Annie even felt confident enough to start trying some new things by herself. She joined a dance class and a pottery class on her own, she also came along to a Gig Buddies social meet up alone when Lucy was on holiday. I noticed a huge change in her that evening; she was smiling more, giving her opinions on topics and overall looking happier.
After a year of being matched up, Annie and Lucy are getting on great. They have been to some theatre shows, a day festival and the cinema. Annie always wants to chat on the bus journey to and from the gig, and they text in between meet ups as well.
I have been amazed by how much Annie has changed in the space of just a year. As a Gig Buddy Project Coordinator, this is the most rewarding aspect of my job – to see two people who would not have crossed paths if it weren’t for Gig Buddies, who get along so well and have affected each other’s lives. Both of them have made a long term friend and this looks set to continue. I would not say that this enormous change in Annie means that she is ‘like a different a person’ now, I would say that through her friendship with Gig Buddy Lucy she has the confidence to show the world the person she truly is.
– Gig Buddies Coordinator, Sophie
*We have changed people’s names.