Thursday, December 13, 2012

Creating Friendships

Something I want to do all year with my blog is to promote different groups and clubs here at UTSC. Most of us are busy with a full course load and part-time jobs so although we make the intention of getting involved we might not have the time to go out and research different groups. 

Recently, I stumbled upon a group on Facebook with a mission statement that immediately caught my attention. It is something that I personally have strong opinions about which means all of you get to hear about it! Instead of going on a rant about my opinions I decided to ask someone with first-hand experience to share theirs. This way you won’t have to read another Moiz rant and you can learn about the program from the views of somebody who has been through it. 

Yesterday, I spoke to Gabriela Osorio about the Best Buddies Program at UTSC, what she’s experienced and what the program hopes to do in the future. 

Where did you find out about this opportunity and why did it interest you?

I first heard about it in high school through a friend. She found out about it through her volunteer work and was looking for someone to start a chapter with at our school.

What initially interested me was something I hadn't realized before: that people with intellectual disabilities may feel isolation in their everyday lives due to the general population's negative stigma associated with neurological disorders. It seems obvious now, but it was a thought that had never occurred to me before! The fact that a solution to easing that isolation is something as simple as being a friend really struck me. I couldn't wait to tell everyone about the program.

Besides being a friend, what else is this program about? What does it hope to accomplish?

To me, one of the fundamental missions in participating with Best Buddies is letting someone know that people other than their family or caregivers are there for them, support them and want to spend time with them. It's all about making friends, having fun and learning from each other.

Can anybody be a part of it? What are the requirements?

Of course! Friendship isn't only for a select group of people. [Laughs] 

The only requirement I can think of is the ability to maintain a basic commitment to the program and to your new friend. We require people to treat their new friendship with utmost respect as they would any relationship, and not just walk away or bail on the friendship because they're busy. There is flexibility in the friendships as with any, just as long as it is handled with care.

With all the great things you’ve previously mentioned, why do you think the program is under the radar?

It hasn't been promoted enough around campus, most people haven't heard about it. There is also a negative stigma due to lack of knowledge about intellectual disabilities and those that have them... people are scared/hesitant to volunteer to be a friend.

Also, people misunderstand the degree of commitment required of them and see it a becoming a burden.

What kind of commitment specifically is required?

We only ask that people attend the monthly group events and communicate with their buddies via phone or email twice a month and go on one-on-one or group outings with them occasionally. It totals to an average of five hours a month ... most other volunteer positions require five hours a week!

How can people participate in the Best Buddies program?

Attend a group event --> get paired up with a new friend

Become an associate member:
1) Aid in the promotion of the program around campus
2) Someone who helps to plan/attend group events, special events and any fundraisers we may hold.
--Visit our Facebook page to access a link to sign-up.
--No facebook? contact us as

Any advice for somebody who is possibly considering signing up but hesitant to do so?

It's a little greedy to keep your presence all to yourself when it could have a profound impact on another's life isn't it? [Laughs] What are you waiting for, make a new friendship! I'm sure that any hesitation is the result of a lack of information about the program, so feel free to contact me or Luxshi Amirthalingam for any more information! Both of us are really passionate about the program and development of the UTSC chapter, so we'd be more than happy to talk to you about it and how/why you should get involved.

Huge shout out to Gabriela for putting time aside to do this interview and educating myself and all our readers about this wonderful program!

Also, if you need advice on anything you can always hit me up in the comments section below or on twitter. This is something I am very passionate about as well so I’ll help in any way I possibly can.

Until next week,
Peace and love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why is learning so difficult? A meditation

It’s cram season, and I’m just wondering, do we appreciate what we learn, or do we focus too much on grades and consider our education just a mere obstacle to a career?

Do we abhor exams because we consider the routine studying and refining of our skills a waste of time? Do the delightful feelings of mastering certain equations, biological models, and writing skills become lost to the incomprehensible novelty of the internet?

Here’s a question for you upper university students: How do you keep rediscovering the things that brought you glee when you first entered university, when faced with redundancy, a more deliberate pace, and an emphasis on refining instead of discovering?

I think, as exam season hits us we should take the time to reflect on why the things we study interest us, or ever did so in the first place; how much more serious and realistic our ambitions have become; and to really acknowledge that we’re getting better at exactly what we want to do.

For me, entering university was the most exciting time of my life, I could study art, computers, psychology, English, and science all at once. I was enthralled by learning all subjects at such an extreme pace, and my mind was always reaching for new ideas. The social Reddit-like internet was still young and could easily provide unlimited entertainment through the most interesting personal stories upvoted from all around the world. Funny cat pictures were ACTUALLY funny.
There was an old lecturecast that I watched, where the psychology profesor said that when you’re 18 you’re at the smartest you’ll ever be. Then, as you begin to shed useless and redundant neurons, you slowly lose the ability to process new information quickly. However you become wiser, and the experiences you will gain will give you different abilities that younger people don’t have.

I considered this a moment to really seize the day, carpe diem, or #YOLO, whatever your experience leads you to call it. I knew that university would be the best time of my life to grasp at as many straws of knowledge that I could in order to give myself a knowledgeable base to forever stand on.

As I’ve progressed I’ve settled on the humanities, especially English, focussing on the act of learning to write personal stories, poems, and essays that would hopefully allow people to connect over shared experiences and learn with me. I will always be grateful for the breadth of a university education, and for the forced lesson that, learning to love what you want to do is not an easy task, and you will often find yourself hating what you used to love, but when you can stand back and see how much you’ve grown from this forced progress, it’s all worth it in the end.
My girlfriend ripped a poem out of a pocket Rumi book and gave it to me. I think it’s worth sharing at a time when we all feel like we need to surpass our expectations and get the best marks we could ever strive for.
The mouse-soul is nothing but a nibbler.
To the mouse is given a mind
proportionate to its need,
for without need, the All-Powerful
doesn’t give anything to anyone.
Need, then, is the net for all things that exist.
A person has tools in proportion to his need.
So, quickly, increase your need, needy one,
that the sea of abundance
may surge up in loving-kindness.
-Mathnawi II, 3279-80; 3292