Friends break through the communication barrier

Lauren Hilton, a volunteer in IHC’s Volunteering Friendship Programme, met Sharleen Monaghan in June, but at first they struggled to communicate.

Lauren soon realised that if they were going to get to know each other they needed to find a better way to communicate. So she started to learn sign language.

That was a breakthrough. Over the past few months the communication has got easier as trust has developed. Now Lauren and Sharleen no longer need the signs. “It’s only been about three or four months, but I feel like we have a connection,” Lauren says. “She is not signing anymore. Now she is talking to me.”

Lauren is from Cleveland Ohio and has been living in New Zealand for six years. She says volunteering is an important part of her life. “It is important for me to contribute what I can,” she says. “It’s lovely for me to see how happy she gets.” Sharleen lives in a group home in Lyall Bay, Wellington, with housemates. She and Lauren meet on Sundays every fortnight.

Volunteer Coordinator Tyler Wickham says their friendship has grown with so much respect and joy. “It is so great to hear all about the things they do together – milkshakes in the sun, wandering along the nearby beach, heading to one of the many glorious cafés around Lyall Bay and buying stickers for Sharleen’s sticker chart.” 

Caption: Sharleen Monaghan (left) and Lauren Hilton no longer need signs to communicate.