Durban Pairwa’s face lights up when you ask him to talk about his friend Johan Fokkema.
That’s because it can be tough to find genuine friends if you have an intellectual disability.
Mostly Durban, who lives in Wellsford, rubs shoulders with paid Intellectually Handicapped Children (IHC) staff and housemates with similar disabilities.
Getting outside that small world is far from easy. Fortunately for Durban, he was introduced to Johan who signed up for IHC’s volunteer friendship programme.
“I tell Johan what’s going on in my life. It’s nice to be able to have some time together, one on one,” Durban says.
Johan is also happy to have a friend in Durban. He says ever since his own children grew up and left home, he has been looking for a way to give back to the community.
At first, he considered becoming a mentor to youngsters without a father figure in their lives. But when he learned of the IHC programme, decided to give that a try instead.
Johan had no previous background in dealing with people with an intellectual disability and says things were a little awkward at first.
But they became easier as they got to know each other. Mostly they talk about what each of them has been doing in the previous week.
One of the real thrills for Johan is just how eager Durban is to see him each week. So eager, in fact, that Johan has learned to call just one day before each meeting, lest Durban be in a state of nervous excitement for several days.
Johan says it’s important for anybody considering the friendship programme that they show up when they say they are going to, otherwise the disappointment for the person with the disability can be crushing.
Mostly the friends go out for walks or for coffee or for something to eat. Johan is a former chef and he and Durban both share a keen interest in food.
Occasionally the pair go to the pub, with Johan making sure Durban sticks to just one beer. Soon they hope to do a fishing trip together.
IHC volunteer coordinator for the North Shore and Rodney, Berenice Langson, says it’s been a real joy to match up Durban and Johan as the pair get along so well together.
She says there is a big demand for more volunteers to be part of the programme. There are only three volunteers in the Warkworth and Wellsford area, and the IHC could do with five or six more.
Info: Berenice Langson on 09 529 8780 or text 021 244 0793