For those with a passion for both football and making a positive impact, volunteering for Diabetes Scotland within the Football Fans in Training (FFIT) Programme offers a unique avenue for meaningful engagement.
In this article, we delve into the experiences of a dedicated volunteer, Blair Dinwoodie, who having lived with type 1 diabetes since 2008 found an inspiring way to contribute to the wellbeing of others.
Why did you choose to volunteer for Diabetes Scotland?
My work encouraged all staff to use additional paid leave to do voluntary work. It felt natural to use this time to help others living with the same condition as me.
What does the FFIT Programme involve as a volunteer?
Football Fans in Training (FFIT) is a free 13-week programme ran by football coaches at professional clubs to help supporters improve their physical health and mental wellbeing.
Volunteers like me attend in week six to talk to participants about type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Scotland provides a simple script to present to the group, along with information leaflets to distribute.
We cover what diabetes is, how to prevent type 2 diabetes, the symptoms to watch out for, how to manage type 2 diabetes and how to live healthily, with or without diabetes.
We only have around 20 minutes with the participants before they head off with the coaches for their weekly exercise.
What football club did you volunteer at and how were they with you?
So far I've volunteered at Hibernian, Raith Rovers and Airdrieonians. It's obvious the clubs all really value our contribution to the programme. By week six participants have formed tight peer groups and I've always been made to feel very welcome by them.
I have a tattoo on my arm that tells the world that I am a person with diabetes, but it also gives a big clue about where my football allegiances lie. This always leads to fun banter and breaks the ice before moving on to the serious subject of diabetes. I always make the point that diabetes doesn't have a team!
What have you found is the most rewarding aspect for you about volunteering for FFIT?
The groups include people who have been told they are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and I've met a few participants that have already been diagnosed with the condition.
The participants are always attentive and keen to learn from us what diabetes is and means. It's rewarding being able to offer practical information and support that participants will use to help them achieve their goal of healthier and happier living.
Would you recommend people to volunteer for the programme, if so, why?
Absolutely. It's a genuine privilege to join groups of people that have taken the brave decision to improve their health and lifestyle, hear them share their stories, and help them achieve their goals.
It's brilliant to represent Diabetes Scotland in the amazing work being done in our communities by football clubs.
And if you're a football fan, you get to see areas of the stadiums that are off limits on match days!