A volunteer befriending scheme is celebrating after it received just over £106,000 in funding to launch in Croydon, following the programmes’s pilot last year.
Gig Buddies matches adults with learning disabilities and autism with a volunteer who share the same interests to combat social isolation and take part in social activities together.
Gig Buddies Croydon welcomed the funding with a launch event at BoxPark Croydon, with performances from Club Soda DJs, to bring together old and new buddies and the public to build a community of like-minded people.
Since being awarded funding from The National Lottery Community Fund in March, the project has attracted around 20 new volunteers and beneficiaries waiting to be paired up.
The buddies are matched together based on their interests and organise social outings together, which can be anything from heavy metal gigs to musicals or cinema trips to walks in the park.
As the only Gig Buddies project in London, the project will now hold monthly socials in Croydon for the group to enjoy the local nightlife and to meet new people.
The project aims to combat social isolation and loneliness faced by many people with learning difficulties and enable them to access practical support to go out in the evenings.
Jan Keane, whose daughter Holly has been matched with volunteers through the project said: “Gig Buddies gives her an opportunity to meet and mix with young people of her age and enables her to go to venues and pubs without her parents, but in a safe, supportive way.
“This is particularly valuable to my daughter who is an only child and therefore does not have the opportunity to go to concerts and venues with siblings.
The project has given her confidence to go out in the evenings and enabled her to do age-appropriate activities.”
Club Soda in Croydon has been running since 2009 and took on Gig Buddies as a pilot programme last year, following its success across the UK through other organisations.
Rosie, Gig Buddies Croydon volunteer, says: “Being a part of Gig Buddies Croydon has been such a positive experience for me.
“The socials have been varied and fun and a great chance to meet new people, see a few bands, play some board games and even watch a cabaret.”