Best Buddies Concordia: Building special bonds

Club aims to create friendships between volunteers and students with disabilities

Graphic Panos Michalakopoulos

Best Buddies Concordia is a club which pairs up student volunteers with individuals who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDDs). 

Unbeknownst to many, it is a relatively small Concordia Student Union (CSU) club which aims to build meaningful relationships and provide undergraduate students an opportunity to get involved in the community. 

Lisa Potter, who has an intellectual disability, is one of many such individuals who are part of Best Buddies. “I learnt how to communicate and get along with friends,” she recalled. 

Founded in 2000, Best Buddies Concordia is a chapter of Best Buddies Canada, a nationally registered charity which has chapters in various high schools and universities, including McGill University and Bishop’s University. 

The ‘buddies’ come from West Montréal Readaptation Centre, a provincially funded organization headquartered in Lachine that encourages, promotes and stimulates the participation of community members.

The not-for-profit club gets funding from the CSU’s clubs budget, which it uses to organize outings, get-togethers, parties and other activities. In September, Best Buddies had a volunteer meet and greet at Westmount Conservatory, where members bonded over pizza, cupcakes and cold drinks while creating cherishable memories.

Students who want to volunteer first have to fill out a form detailing their interests. They are then invited to a one-on-one meeting, where the club gets to know them, if they are willing to commit and if they have any difficulty interacting with people with IDDs. The club currently has ten buddy pairs and are looking for more volunteers as they have five buddies on the waitlist.

The group tries to be as inclusive as possible, welcoming anyone who does not fit under the neurotypical standards. This includes anyone with autism, nonverbal learning disabilities and developmental disabilities. 

According to chapter president Evleen Kaur, prior experience working with IDDs is not a prerequisite for aspiring volunteers. “You just have to want to volunteer. We do screenings before anyone volunteers, we do criminal background checks. You have to be willing to commit and engage,” Kaur said.

Jennifer Lee volunteered with Best Buddies Concordia from 2018 to 2022. “I found out about it in 2018 when I went to the club fair in my first year of university,” she said. “I had never worked with people with disabilities before and I thought it would be a learning experience.”

The group tries to build a community around their work. “Even if you get paired with one buddy, you still get to meet [everyone] in the group because you have monthly meetups,” Lee said.

Lee’s buddy was Potter, with whom she built a significant connection which continues to this day. “I learnt how to communicate and get along with friends,” Potter recalled.

“Although we're not officially best buddies anymore, I still text her from time to time,” Lee  said. “It's amazing to see how much more confident she is now. She looks so much more confident and social than when I first met her.”

Potter’s favourite Best Buddies activity was a trip to a Montreal Canadiens hockey game. “I loved it. My favourite part was the Canadiens scoring in overtime and winning, but I loved the whole game,” she recalled. “They should do it more often.” 

As volunteers are asked to meet with their buddies every two weeks, it was too big a commitment for some. “It did [get in the way of my studies] at times. I had to admit that at the beginning I was worried about the commitment but the people at Best Buddies are very understanding because they were students themselves,” Lee said.

“They won't kick you out if you don’t do it every two weeks. Sometimes I would have to postpone something. I would try to give my buddy a phone call instead and she was very understanding. I would try to make some time for that but also be gentle with my academics,” she added.

The program tries to accommodate all interests and ensure that people feel as comfortable as possible. 

There is room for improvement in the club, according to Kaur. “We do not have an efficient social media presence. And I think that's really necessary to actually reach people. So this year, [...] we have a bigger executive team, we have somebody specifically for social media,” she said. 

Students interested in volunteering can fill out the form in the club’s Instagram bio or send an email to 

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 6, published November 14, 2023.