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Aaron Janklow - Best Buddies Volunteer​

Students from the University of Edinburgh participate in a programme called Best Buddies, a volunteering initiative that works alongside ENABLE Scotland’s Edinburgh Branch. 

The Best Buddies support the activities of the Branch and members who have a learning disability. They plan group outings and activities, to help at branch events and in some cases provide one-to-one friendship. The Branch offers support to the group and the relationship between Best Buddies and the Edinburgh Branch is invaluable. 

Aaron Janklow, from New Jersey in the USA, is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and has lived in Edinburgh for three years. He began volunteering with Best Buddies not long after he arrived in Scotland.

“A group of students from the University of Edinburgh and I come to the Branch’s Thursday club and sometimes to their disco on a Saturday evening. It’s really a chance to spend time with friends.  We hang out, have a good time and share what’s going on in our lives. It’s a really important part of my week. I look forward to seeing and checking in with everyone at the Branch – volunteers and members alike.”

When talking about what motivated him to get involved with Best Buddies Aaron said, “I’ve always had an awareness in my heart of people who have learning disabilities and when I saw an advertisement at a student fair I decided I would go along and do it. And I’m really glad I did. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it and I feel my presence is valued. They always make me feel like they are happy I’m here. 

“The volunteers that we have are fantastic but we can always use more. They are mostly undergraduates and are really great people. I’d encourage anyone who’s interested to get in touch with ENABLE Scotland and come along to try it. Even if you aren’t from the University you can still get involved directly through the branch. 

“Anyone can be a volunteer and learn to do it well. You just need to be nice and open to friendships. It can be intimidating coming to a place where you don’t know anyone but our hope is that everyone feels welcome, enjoys being here and that they know their contribution is valued. So please do it! You won’t be disappointed and hopefully it’ll become the best few hours of your week.”

Aaron is also a one-to-one buddy to John Booker, from Edinburgh. John said, “The Best Buddies come to the Edinburgh Branch to help adults who have learning disabilities. We do arts and crafts, play bingo and board games, hang around and talk about how our week has been. It’s a great place to make new friends.

“Best Buddies are fantastic to work with. I was asked to be an ENABLE representative so I go along to committee meetings to talk to the Best Buddies and help plan what activities we will do. Sometimes I do the DJing at our Saturday night discos which is a lot of fun.

“I have also just started doing one-to-one buddying with Aaron. We meet up on a Thursday before we come to the club. We go for dinner and I really enjoy it.

“We need more volunteers to keep the branch going. If the clubs close down I would be lost, so please come and volunteer… and I’ll even train you up to be a DJ!”

Find out more about volunteering with ENABLE Scotland​ here.​

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