Friends Forever: Lifetime Networks
Friends come first for Victoria's Lifetime Networks
You & Me BC
July 3rd, 2022
Victoria's Lifetime Networks helps persons with intellectual disabilities build friendships and support networks that will last a lifetime.
We talked with executive director Wendy-Sue Andrew about Lifetime's beginnings, the importance of friends, and the exciting new project that will help create a new model for friendship.
Tell us what Lifetime Networks is about
Wendy-Sue: Lifetime Networks was founded in 1998 by 5 families concerned about what would happen to their adult children when they passed away. I also have a child with a disability, so this is something that's close to me.
Our programs are all about friendships and connections. If someone doesn't have friends - and by friends I don't mean paid supports - they're missing something big in their life.
Friends Kristy and Annie pose for a selfie, Rose and Liz go biking, and the guys hang out
So people come to us for help in making friends. Then we hire facilitators who are there to assist with finding, developing, and maintaining friendships.
Ideally each friend network has at least 4 friends, and the person at the centre's connected to the others by interests and lifestyles.
So they might be able to go swimming with one friend, golfing with another, and dog walking with another. We even have a Dungeons and Dragons group that get together!
How do the friendships evolve?
Wendy-Sue: Issues can arise in any friendship. If that happens, we have a facilitator to help out. It's very reciprocal, and the networks are there for a lifetime, so it creates a support system that will be there even when their parents pass on.
Networks change with age - when someone's younger it's often just about friends and shared interests, but when you get a bit older you need someone in your network to help you with practicing for interviews, driving to places, moving out, and so on.
Natalya with her friendship network; friends Carolyn and Melissa enjoy a meal together
Tell us about the new Circle of Friends program
Wendy-Sue: It's a project in which people ask for help in finding friends, and a friendship coordinator works with them to understand what friendship is to them, and the challenges involved, like how to set up an outing with a friend or how to communicate with them.
The friendship coordinator can go on the first couple meetups until both friends are comfortable. Based on these experiences, we want to create a replicable model that can be used to help people with diverse abilities develop and maintain their friendships.
Participants will be tracking what's working, what needs to change, and these learnings will be used to develop the model that others can draw upon.
A group of Lifetime Network friends with Santa's sleigh
Why are paid supports not friendships?
Wendy-Sue: Paid people are paid people. It's a one-sided relationship where one person provides a service for the other.
But a friendship's reciprocal - we do things for each other. It's not about providing a service, it's about friendship.
How can people support Lifetime Networks?
Wendy-Sue: We're always looking for people interested in being a network friend, and it's a lot of fun! You get to meet amazing people and do a lot of fun activities, like painting at the beach or going to the movies.
Anything to add?
Wendy-Sue: It's just such a loving thing to recognize the potential of friendships and to connect people. It's something we can all do for each other.
To get in touch with Spencer van Vloten, editor of You & Me BC, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org