2 Gig Buddy friends at the theatre turning around and smiling at the camera, behind and below them is the stage which is bathed in white light

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded £50,000 over 2 years from WCVA Volunteering Wales grant to recruit, train, support and improve the experience of volunteers for Gig Buddies Cymru in North Wales.

Gig Buddies Cymru is an innovative befriending scheme that tackles loneliness and social isolation by matching adults with and without a learning disability who shares the same interests. Gig Buddy pairs then attend social activities together. Launched in Cardiff by Learning Disability Wales in 2018, the project expanded to North Wales in 2020 and continues to be in great demand.

The project is focussing on the counties of Gwynedd, Denbighshire and Wrexham. In these areas we are now able to spend more time recruiting new volunteers to become a Gig Buddy. This includes training, induction, support and development. It is improving the existing volunteers experience through support and development. This includes Gig Buddy volunteers and our volunteers who have a learning disability.

The project is from October 2022 until September 2024.

After an unsuccessful recruitment round in Autumn 2022, we were delighted to have John Butterly start with us in April 2023 as Volunteer Coordinator. John works closely with Sian Lloyd-Davies, our North Wales project coordinator, and the wider Gig Buddies team across Wales. Learning Disability Wales supports and manages the project.

Across all six counties in North Wales we have over 40 participants, 22 volunteers and 14 Gig Buddy pairs. We also have a waiting list of people wanting to join the project.

Improving the volunteer experience with Gig Buddies Cymru

The WCVA Volunteering Grant has had a significant and positive effect on our project so far:

  • The grant is helping the project to find more volunteers for people who are waiting for a Gig Buddy.
  • John and Sian have been getting to know our participants and volunteers and have held mini socials in several counties as a ‘get to know you’ event.
  • Our admin and comms coordinator, Danielle, has been able to completely overhaul our volunteer training and materials.
  • We have been networking in the community and attending events to find new Gig Buddy volunteers, including the hugely popular Focus Festival, in Wrexham; Philfest, on Ynwys Mon; and Flintshire/Denbighshire Agricultural show.
  • We have redesigned and produced brand new leaflets and posters to attract potential volunteers. Take a look at the new leaflet below, or download a copy here (PDF).
  • Victoria Waller, our fabulous social media volunteer, has been busy travelling around her local communities in North Wales and asking public-facing business to display our new leaflet and poster. We have started to have interest already from people who have seen.
  • John and Sian have been busy connecting to businesses, working closely with local authorities, particularly social services well-being officers.
  • In Volunteer’s week we thanked all our volunteers both through social media and sending them a personal handwritten thank you card.

We are able to do more regular support sessions for both participants and volunteers, as well as regular feedback from volunteers through one-to-ones, interviews (video), support sessions and surveys.

John is smiling and has glasses, with close cropped hair, a colourful striped cardigan with a white shirt underneath

Introducing John, Volunteer Coordinator

“As Volunteer Coordinator I’ll be finding new volunteers in North Wales and then supporting them on their exciting new journey with their Gig Buddy. I’ve had so much help and support from Danielle, Kai, Karen, Kylie and Sian already – they’ve made me feel very welcome on the Gig Buddies Cymru team and I’m going to learn such a lot from them.

“My previous job was with WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action) where I was Performance Officer, managing a caseload of voluntary organisations across Wales who were delivering large scale, EU-funded projects. Before that I headed up the charity Gingerbread in North Wales to support single parents and their children. (Fact: Gingerbread was founded in 1918 – with a different name – to support over 5 million women whose partners had lost their lives in World War One. Despite rumours, I wasn’t one of the founders of Gingerbread.)

“Now aged 66 I have 6 children and 7 grandchildren, so my hobbies are doing nothing and staring into space as much as possible. I walk our family dog Stan every day with my wonderful wife Babs. She often thinks I’m not listening to her as we walk, but of course I’m just practising my hobbies…”

Imagine if you had to leave every night out at 9pm? This is reality for many people with learning disabilities Volunteer as a Gig Buddy - Make a new friend - Go to gigs and social activities together Gig Buddies Cymru tackles loneliness through friendship and fun Email: gigbuddies@ldw.org.uk Phone: 029 2068 1160 Web: gigbuddies.cymru