The Friends Project
The Friends Project has been a national youth campaign that has been implemented 2007-2010. The Project has been funded by Finland's Slot Machine Association RAY.
The project has aimed to promote an inclusive way of thinking. It has worked to have an impact on lives of people with intellectual disabilities as well as those without.
If the Friends Project should be put in one word that word would be tolerance. The project has campaigned for tolerance especially among young people.
Best Buddies programs unite people with and without intellectual disabilities to equal one-to-one friendships. Best Buddies is a model for voluntary activity and it was established in the United States in 1989. More about Best Buddies International
The Friends Project matched the first Finnish buddy pairs in the autumn 2007.
Because of the principle of equality Best Buddies differs from other similar activities in Finland. Normally support persons are paid subsistence money that makes the relationship between a support person and a supported person unequal.
The popularity of Best Buddies has been remarkable in Finland and the number of buddy pairs has exploded during the Friends Project.
Buddy pairs have been started in 30 different cities around the country. More than 200 people have participated in Best Buddies.
New buddy pairs were not matched after July 2010 because the project was ending.
Picture: Kati Ruotsalainen / The Friends Project
An evaluation of Best Buddies Finland has been carried out in 2010. According to collected experiences and ideas the principle of equality is highly valued. People with intellectual disabilities have got an own friend that comes outside of their family and housing centre and with whom it has been possible to become more independent and active. This equal friend is not guiding or controlling but just spending time with!
The evaluation results are encouraging and buddy pairs have had fun together. Some people have really got a friend. Getting a new friend has also been a significant motive for participation in Best Buddies. People have also got a chance to get to know a person who has an intellectual disability. This might have made intellectual disability a more commonplace to them.
There is a lot to do before social inclusion is achieved in Finland and Best Buddies is a wonderful tool for that work.
Taru Oulasvirta, Project Manager
Tel. +358 207 718 224