In an email interview, Amy Ollove ’21, Norma Stobbe ’20 and Theresa Weis ’20, the coordinators of Brandeis Buddies, explain that Brandeis Buddies is a social and recreational program that partners with Opportunities for Inclusion, and the Waltham branch of the Arc, an organization that aids adults with developmental disabilities. The three coordinators state that the goal of the program is “to bring Brandeis students together with the participants of our program and to create an environment where friendships are made based on equal partnership.” Many Sodexo employees participate in the program, which allows volunteers to connect with these individuals in and out of the club. The coordinators also highlight how they desire to aid people with disabilities in an attempt to challenge stereotypes and break barriers.
The Brandeis Buddies programs contain a craft, snack and activity. Other clubs are usually invited to the program. Adagio, athletic teams and a capella groups have previously participated in Brandeis Buddies and lead activities. There is also an end of the year off-campus trip for volunteers and participants. With their activities, the Brandeis Buddies hopes to create long lasting relationships between individuals and allow for long-term growth.
For the past two years, Brandeis Buddies has held an event called “Story Time: Things You Should Know.” This event allows individuals to discuss living with a disability and any challenges they have overcome in the format of an open-mic. In previous years, there have been many instances in which individuals have talked about their stories at this event. Specifically, Professor Steven Gulley (SOC) discussed a story by Irv Zola, an individual who lead the disability rights movement through a platform of sharing stories. At this event, individuals shared anything from poems, speeches, dances and songs. The coordinators illustrate that “[a]fter the event, several people approached us saying that this event made an impact on them and they wished there was more events like this. Overall, it was a success!”
Brandeis Buddies was previously only an on-campus program that met five times in the semester, which made it more flexible and easier for a variety of people to attend. In the last year, a second program that connects the Opportunities for Inclusion site allowed the Brandeis Buddies to reach more people. Individuals involved in Brandeis Buddies visit their participants.
For the next semester, the club plans to make the “Story Time: Things You Should Know” event bigger and better than last year. The club wants to make the event more inclusive, so that anyone may participate. The club aims to make their outreach as impactful as possible. Brandeis Buddies was awarded with the Community Service Award by Opportunities for Inclusion.
Ollove shared the student body’s passion for social justice was one of the reasons she chose Brandeis. She herself has a disability, and she believed that at Brandeis, she could work towards advocating for herself and other individuals who have disabilities but may not have the resources or ability to speak out. She explains that “humor is a great way to connect with people, whether they are disabled or not. Laughter allows us to break down walls, forget whatever challenges we are dealing with and to focus on having a good time. And that is the whole point of Brandeis Buddies’ programs—to have fun with one another.” The whole point of Brandeis Buddies is to have fun with each other because it allows individuals to be distracted from the social stereotypes that have been created. Laughter allows individuals to enjoy themselves and stay in the moment.