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29.10.2004 Regional News

Best Buddies, Ghana, launched

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Accra, Oct. 29, GNA - Best Buddies, a US-based non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, was launched in Accra on Friday.

Miss Valeria Vitale, International Expansion Director of Best Buddies, noted that although medical science has discovered many causes of intellectual disability, about one-third cases remain unknown. Intellectual disabilities, she said, were caused by conditions, which impair the development of the brain before and during birth, or in the childhood years.

She said preventive inventions such as avoiding alcohol and excessive smoking during pregnancy, malnutrition and getting rid of certain environmental contaminants could reduce the chances of intellectual disability.

The overall objective of the organization is therefore, to provide the necessary tools for people with intellectual disabilities to become more independent and more involved in the community. The organization, which, she said, works in the areas of friendship, opportunity, Education, leadership and change would start the programme with the Dzorwolu Special School for people with intellectual disability and move to other parts of the country. Mr Amankwah Danquah, Chairman of the Ghana Chapter, said issues affecting people with disabilities were essentially humanitarian in nature and should involve the active participation of the youth. He said the Chapter therefore, requires the efforts of the youth and well-wishers in advancing the rights of people living with intellectual disabilities.

Ghana is the third county in Africa to join the organization. Best Buddies was born when founder, Anthony Shivers, a nephew of the late US President John Kennedy, saw the unjust lack of opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities to socialize with other people. They also lack the power and impact of friendship that could help them develop their self- esteem and improve their outlook on society.

Since its inception in 1989, Best Buddies has had an impact on the lives of more than 250,000 volunteers and people with intellectual disabilities in hundreds of communities around the world every year by pairing them with young adults especially college and university students in one-on-one friendship.

An intellectual disability or mental retardation is a particular state of functioning that begins in childhood before age 18 and is characterized by significant limitation in both intelligence and adaptive skills as expressed in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills.

A person with intellectual disability generally would have an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) below 75 and significant limitation in adaptive behaviour that impacts the person's daily life and ability to respond to a particular situation or environment.

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