Travel Buddies is a new, free service offered by Richmond AID, a charity of and for disabled people in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. The aim of this scheme is to foster independence amongst young people with disabilities and additional needs through supporting them to develop the skills and confidence to use public transport and access local activities.
Although still in its infancy Richmond Travel Buddies has already made great strides forward, positively changing the lives of a young people in the Borough.
One success story is that of Michael (15) and his Travel Buddy, Luissana (18):
Michael is a cheerful and highly inquisitive young man who is fascinated by history. He has an Autistic Spectrum Condition. Prior to joining Richmond Travel Buddies Michael had only travelled on public transport with his parents. Michael and his mother were enthusiastic about Michael gaining more independence and learning to use public transport.
Richmond Travel Buddies matched Michael with Luissana, a volunteer who had recently completed her International Baccalaureate and wanted to use her summer to learn more about disability and to help people in her local community.
Michael and Luissana soon started their sessions; socialising, visiting book shops and going for lunch in Twickenham. During these sessions Luissana introduced Michael to bus timetables, Electronic Bus stop display, on-board displays and aspects of public transport etiquette. Michael was encouraged to make key travel decisions on his own.
Luissana monitored Michael’s progress and after just four sessions, Michael and his Mother, Luissana and Richmond Travel Buddies agreed that they were ready to try a more complex journey. Luissana now shadows Michael on a bus journey from Whitton to Kingston during which Michael makes all travel decisions entirely independently.
Michael’s mother has shown great enthusiasm for the scheme: ” The Richmond Buddy Scheme gave me, as a parent, real peace of mind (knowing that my son was being shown basic life skills, such as travelling on public transport), and at the same time, gave my son a real sense of self-sufficiency. He was allowed to show absolute independence, whilst being supervised by his marvellous Buddy. ”
Michael’s Buddy, Luissana, also feels that she has learned a great deal through her involvement with Richmond Buddies: “Volunteering with Richmond Aid has been an eye opener for me, personally, and I believe I have gained new social skills and also new friends. Michael is an enthusiastic dedicated boy that I have the pleasure of knowing and if it wasn’t for his determination, the amazing progress he has achieved would not have happened. In these sessions it is not only him that leaves satisfied but also me, truly showing what a positive impact this experience has left on me.”
If you have a disability or additional need, are aged 14-25 and would like a Travel Buddy then please get in touch. This is a great way to get independence, make new friends and try new things in your local community.
Please contact Aman Ahluwalia (Travel Buddy Coordinator) on 020 8831 6024 or via email on A.Ahluwalia@richmondaid.org.uk.