Are you considering going to the World Parkinson’s Congress (WPC) in Portland, Oregon this September? But these obstacles might be going through your head:
–My spouse/care partner can’t afford to go, so I’m going alone.
–I won’t know a soul at the Congress.
–I’m from [insert non-US country here] — not sure about American culture and practices.
–Gee, won’t it be weird that everyone at the WPC has….Parkinson’s?
A solution that might help with all these concerns is the WPC buddy program.. You’ll have the opportunity to apply for a buddy when you register for the WPC. If you’ve already registered, and now would like to apply for a buddy, fill out this online survey. If you still have questions, contact the WPC organizers (WPC Congress Secretariat <firstname.lastname@example.org>) to get you to the right buddy coordinator. Note the deadline to apply for a buddy is July 5, 2016.
The Parkinson Society Canada came up with the buddy idea for the Montreal WPC in 2013. They matched up non-Canadians and Canadians attending the Congress based on age, years since diagnosis, common interests, etc. For the 2013 WPC, I was fortunate to get matched up with a gal in British Columbia who had had her Parkinson’s diagnosis about as long as I had. We corresponded by email, and I found out that she and her husband liked to camp with their RV, just like my husband and I did. Once we both arrived at Montreal (a city neither of us had ever visited before), it was so reassuring to have my buddy there. We didn’t usually go to the same speakers, but we touched base frequently and often shared dinner.
I’m really excited — For 2016, I’ve gotten matched up with another Canadian, this one from far away Newfoundland, a part of the world I only know about from old sea chanteys. Conversely, my buddy has never been to the west coast of either Canada or the US, so perhaps we’ll have a bit of a cultural exchange.
The community-building benefits of the buddy program are well described on the WPC website:
The idea of having a buddy somewhere else in the world means that people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers/family can share their ideas for coping, their successes and their trials and tribulations. ….it is an opportunity to engage in conversation with someone on the other side of the world whose health care resources may be different but whose ideas of how to cope may be inspirational and enlightening. At the same time your ideas and your resources might assist someone on the other side of our planet and change their life for the better.