Friendships are fundamental to our existence in that they provide security, emotional and psychological support, a good quality of life and happiness. For many people with a disability, friendship does not come easy. Loneliness and isolation are the most difficult challenges they face.
Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN), based in British Columbia, has been working with families and their relatives since 1989. PLAN builds social networks for people with disabilities. When a family joins, a facilitator is hired to recruit other people in order to build a network of friends for the person with the disability. In order to create an individually based program, the facilitator spends time getting to know the person, the parents and their values and interests, and the services available in the community. These friendships and social networks are not for a month or two, but for keeps.
Not just anybody can become a network member. The facilitators look for someone who shows a genuine interest in the person as an individual and will invest the time necessary to get better acquainted. Exactly how the network functions depends on the needs and interests of the relative and the family. Some groups focus on social outings, while others focus on routine activities. Regardless of the activity, the network of friends gives the family security and peace of mind that their son or daughter is in good hands.
When a network leaves town or finds it otherwise impossible to continue, or when a facilitator has to move on, the change is accommodated without compromising the person’s stability and comfort. There will always be a supportive, caring circle of friends in place throughout the person’s life.
For more information about PLAN, visit their website at www.plan.ca. If you are interested in creating a circle of friends for your loved one with a disability, please contact Lifetime Networks at (514)-620-4380.