Volunteering is a universal activity, so we thought you might be interested to hear from volunteers who give their time to their local Diabetes Associations around the globe. These young volunteers have a passion for helping other people living with diabetes and are part of the Young Leaders in Diabetes programme, which is a programme of the International Diabetes Federation. You can see that their activities and motivations for volunteering are probably not so different from your own.
Ashely Ng – Australia
Since 2011, I have been a volunteer with Diabetes Camps Victoria (DCV), who organises and runs camps for children and teenagers with Type 1 diabetes. There are many roles you can volunteer for. I started out as a camp leader, which involves looking after the kids and supervising activities. Since my first camp as leader, I have gone on to become a team mentor who coaches new camp leaders, while maintaining the responsibilities of a leader. I have also had the opportunity to coordinate a small weekend camp for families with children who have Type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes camps allows kids and teenagers to meet other people with Type 1 diabetes who have a better understanding of living with the condition. Often, lifelong friendships are formed from camps and it's not uncommon for campers to return as leaders as they get older. It's comforting for kids as well as parents to speak with leaders who also have diabetes, demonstrating that life doesn't need to be limited because of diabetes.
As a new volunteer, I had recently commenced on multiple daily injections. At the point I was diagnosed with Type 2 and didn't know much about Type 1. These camps were an eye opener for me. I was also very humbled to see young kids dealing with diabetes. Some started the camp with confidence in their diabetes management whilst others had very little idea. Seeing the kids grow through friendship in knowledge, confidence and skills has been very rewarding. I hope to keep volunteering for as long as I am able to!
Marlis Schosser – Austria
My name is Marlis and I am a volunteer of the Austrian Diabetes Association. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2001 at the age of 18. At the beginning it was really hard for me to cope with that disease but after I started with my volunteer commitments my life has changed totally. In 2003 I joined a diabetes skiing camp in Austria as an advisor for the very first time. This was so much fun and I've learned so many important things about diabetes. Therefore I started organizing many other diabetes camps and I supported the Austrian Diabetes Association in organizing diabetes family weekends.
I've noticed that the most important thing for people with diabetes is to get in contact with other related people. Talking to somebody who is also affected gives people the feeling to be not alone with the burden of the disease. And in my case, I had the good fortune that I've met so many awesome people during my volunteer work. I really don't want to miss any of these experiences. And therefore, for me, diabetes is definitely not a drama because my volunteer work relating to diabetes has given me so many new opportunities.
Ronaldo Wieselberg – Brazil
I am a volunteer for the Associação de Diabetes Juvenil (Juvenile Diabetes Association) in Brazil. I'm the auxiliary coordinator to the Young Leaders in Diabetes Training, conducted by Mark Barone, PhD in our association.
My role is to help the process of training the leaders, by supplying tests and correcting them, talking about the causes of diabetes, offering ways for people living with diabetes to cope with feelings of anger, lack of self-care, etc. as well as developing leadership skills. I'm also one of the camp counsellors during our association’s Diabetes Camp every summer, which our in-training Young Leaders participate in as part of their programme.
The training helped a great amount of people in our country. One of the best examples is Claudia Labate (from the 2011 IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes generation), who now develops great pro-diabetes advertising through Facebook groups and diabetes events to the diabetes community. Another area that helps people is the work I do to clarify medical terms that might confuse people living with diabetes every time they get a new medical prescription or a healthcare instruction. The support offers general direction to the people that have too many doubts and suffer with a low-quality healthcare condition due to the lack of government investment.
I feel very good when I am volunteering. Personally, I think that the simple fact of helping people, leading them to a brighter way, is enough to make anyone happy. Also, its one great purpose in a continuous process of learning and teaching, which keeps me updated all the time. Lastly, the contact with people brings me new ideas and new points of view, which gives me a great set of tools to deal with problems, and, ultimately, to help people.
Antonis Nakis Soteriou – Cyprus
Howard Thurman said, "Don’t ask what the World needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the World needs, is people who have come alive." From the time when I was a little child, I learned to help without asking why; some people need our help or our knowledge, because they want help to survive, or they want someone to stand by them in difficult situations.
I started my volunteering career in Cyprus Scouts Association and later on I started helping my local Diabetes Association, participating to local activities and Seminars. The main targets of the Cyprus Diabetes Association (CDA) are to provide help and information to people about handling and treating their diabetes. It is also the link between people with diabetes and the Ministry of Health. CDA works very hard on achieving their goals, trying outdistancing the biggest obstacle in Cyprus: the Government. Providing free treatment and medicine from the local hospital is the main goal, as well as the foundation of Diabetes Clinics in Hospitals.
I became a volunteer leader through seminars and youth camps in the Association, as well as through taking part in World Diabetes Day events. After my elections to the Board of my town, three years ago, I got more involved with the rest of the members and events. My favorite thing about volunteering is the summer camps. Knowing and teaching the younger ones about managing their diabetes and how to act in every high-alerted situation, like hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, helps them realize the importance of taking good care of their diabetes. Meeting people newly diagnosed with diabetes is also an interesting part, starting from showing them the insulin pen, the glucose meter, to helping them understand that diabetes is not an obstacle in their own life.
Volunteering for me is more than a hobby. It is way of life and a way to help, to offer a smile to a sad face. The best event of my volunteering events was the Limassol Cyprus Aid, a big volunteering concert in Limassol for the economic crisis victims. Watching thousands of people coming to the place to donate food and other house items made me proud. Meeting other volunteers in through the association activities makes me feel that I am not alone.
Patamaporn Mueanpitak – Thailand
I am Patamaporn and I volunteer for the Thai Diabetic Child & Adolescent support club and Diabetes Association of Thailand.
First, I joined 12th Youth Diabetic camp of Thailand for Type 1 diabetics in April 2011. Then I joined "Diabetic Club Family Day" (of which the Diabetes Association of Thailand is a supporter) as a staff member in October 2011 and 2013.
I wrote an article which was published in Thai Diabetes Bulletin (The Journal of Diabetes Association of Thailand for society members). I also helped in organizing activities for World Diabetes day at my hospital like blood glucose testing for high-risk persons, a poster for creating awareness of symptoms and signs of diabetes, and how to prevent diabetes to in general population.
My experience as a volunteer allowed me to help support and offer advice to people with diabetes while increasing their knowledge and awareness about diabetes and its treatment in children and young people. I built relationships among the families and support team so that they could share experiences of difficulty and problems in managing diabetes care when children transition to adulthood.
I am so glad I joined the associations and volunteered! They made me feel like I was not alone. I am so proud that I participate in and help other people with diabetes.
Amany Maher – United Arab Emirates
My name is Amany Maher. I am a Medical Doctor by profession and I used to work in Egypt but since I moved to UAE I have volunteered with two Diabetes supporting groups here.
One group is called SweetKidz and was created to support kids with Type 1 diabetes. My role inside this group is to meet with families who have kids with Type 1 to educate them about diabetes management. Topics include general diabetes knowledge, hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia symptoms and management, sick days management, insulin injections, types of insulin and how it works, and insulin pump therapy. I also volunteered with this group to participate in Dynamo camp in Italy (2011–13). The camp is for kids with chronic diseases, which was sponsored by the Dubai Crown Prince.
The second group in UAE it called Friends For Diabetes which is supporting teenagers and adults with Type 1 Diabetes. I participate in the awareness campaigns which we hold regularly in public institutions in Sharjah, UAE. At an international level, I attended the Friends for Life Conference twice in Orlando, USA which was held by the Children with Diabetes organization. It was a great opportunity to meet and talk with patients there from different places all over the world.
I am a passionate believer in the power of patient education as living with diabetes is not easy but with patient education and motivation we can make it simpler for them to take the first mile on the right track. I wish I could do more and more as a volunteer to make a difference in the lives of people living with diabetes and to empower them as they deserve to be empowered. I hope to stop the discrimination which exists all over the world against people with diabetes.
Yemurai Machirori – Zimbabwe
My name is Yemurai Sammantha Machirori, a 21 year old lady from Harare, Zimbabwe. I am currently studying Tourism and Hospitality Management at the School of Hospitality and Tourism in Zimbabwe and I volunteer at the Zimbabwe Diabetes Association during my free time.
As a volunteer, I help out with office work such as typing and filing. I have also become a peer educator through my involvement with the ZDA, educating young people who have been recently diagnosed with diabetes as well as talking to parents of diabetic children about diabetes and diabetes care. I also share my diabetes experience with them in a bid to make them understand diabetes and as a way of assuring them that their children can lead normal lives despite being diabetic.
During the monthly meetings, I test blood sugars of the people present, both diabetic and non-diabetic and at awareness campaigns, I help with the testing of blood sugars as well as explaining the readings to the tested individuals.
Being a volunteer at my association has really taught me a lot about myself as well as other diabetic people. It has taught me that I am not in it alone. Above all, I have gained confidence in myself through educating other young people with diabetes and by seeing a lot of people with the same condition as me in the same place.