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Volunteer Spotlight - January 2022

Carol wearing a pink hoodie and a yellow tshirt, sitting on a chair and lifting a broom over her head as she delivers an exercise class at home

“I want to let people know that we’re here to help, whether you’re at risk of diabetes, newly diagnosed, or need support.”

Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for January 2022, Carol Ross

Carol, pictured above delivering an exercise class, is a Befriending Volunteer with our Carmarthen Befriending Circle. She has also been giving virtual exercise classes and, with our support, is working with her local council for Voluntary Services in Swansea to run sessions for people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes

Carol was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in January 2021. She has a family history of diabetes and is also at a higher risk of developing the condition because of her blood disorder, Thalassemia.

When Carol was diagnosed, her GP told her that she had been pre-diabetic for two years. This wasn’t picked up until they updated their database. She says, “it’s frustrating that I wasn’t aware for that length of time, as I could have done something earlier and maybe prevented developing type 2 diabetes.”

She was also disappointed to be advised to make some changes to her lifestyle, but not given guidance on how to do so. She was told she would have a yearly diabetes check-up and was signposted to the Diabetes UK website. Carol contacted the Diabetes Cymru Office for support. She was looking for a local support network, particularly a group where she could talk to others managing their diet with diabetes alongside other health conditions.

Becoming a volunteer

Carol started volunteering with us in March 2021. She applied to be a befriender with our Carmarthen Befriending Circle and attended peer support training. Carol had previous skills and experience she could bring to the role having been involved in peer support for other conditions.

She was keen to help people with diabetes, to make sure they had the help and support they needed in their first year of being diagnosed. Carol is passionate that everyone should get the “right information at the right time and stage in their journey.” She wants people to have the information they need to change their lifestyle rather than just being directed to the internet when diagnosed.

Helping people to stay active

Carol is an advocate for the benefits of exercise for people with long term health conditions. She is a qualified fitness instructor and Personal Trainer, trained at the Sports Academy with her training funded by the Welsh government. She is also a trained Nordic Walking Instructor with British Nordic Walking and has almost completed a Diploma from Nordic Walking UK.

“I read an article that you use 90% of your body muscles through Nordic walking. It’s also great for mindfulness, being an outdoor activity. I joined a local Nordic Walking group with other people with long term health conditions, and really felt the benefits.”

With funding from Sports Wales and Versus Arthritis, Carol has set up a Nordic Walking Group for people suffering from Fibromyalgia, a condition she also lives with.

"I decided that I wanted to be a Nordic Walking Instructor to deliver walks for other people with a wide range of backgrounds. It brings so many benefits to health and wellbeing, develops social skills and creates new friendships."

Carol would like to start a Nordic Walking Group for people living with diabetes to help them to stay active. She is particularly interested in offering Nordic Walking to children and young adults because parts of Wales have the highest levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes in children and young adults. She is looking to run classes as part of the after-school curriculum, including weekends, and during school holidays.  

Due to Covid guidelines earlier this year, Carol couldn’t go out with groups of walkers so to keep the walkers active, she decided to deliver online exercise classes twice a week to her members. The classes are usually 40 minutes. She puts music on (upbeat golden oldies) and encourages participants to make use of everyday household items such as tins of beans, mop or broom handles, cushions, towels and even pairs of tights! They do a wide range of exercises, from chair based to standing to encourage people to keep moving daily.

When Carol started volunteering for us, she was invited to deliver a taster session at the Peer Support meetings in Wales and delivered another taster session at our National Volunteer Conference in September 2021.

“Keeping active can make a huge difference to energy levels and feeling good. You can keep moving whilst you’re watching TV or during the ad breaks, at your computer, or on the phone. It’s important to keep circulation going whilst working from home, especially for people living with diabetes.”

Other projects

Carol is working on several projects to help people to prevent getting diabetes, put their diabetes into remission or manage their diabetes when newly diagnosed.

In conjunction with the Voluntary Sector and Health Board in Swansea, Carol is working with a GP cluster to pilot a self-management programme to prevent type 2 diabetes and to help people to put their diabetes into remission. She has helped to design the programme based on her own experience. The sessions will be virtual, and Carol will help to deliver the healthy eating and exercise section.

Carol is also working on pilots with the Education Programmes for Patients to produce a six-to-twelve-week self-management programme for people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The project will aim to have support and input from a dietician including healthy eating, recipe and meal planning, wellness, mindfulness, and mental health support. There will be exercise and movement sessions and advice on how to look after and check your feet and eyes. This is in addition to annual feet and eye check-ups by a Practice or Diabetes Nurse.

After the pilot has been developed and delivered, they are hoping to offer it out wider to those who have had diabetes for a while, but are struggling from the effects of the pandemic, where many haven’t been able to attend their usual hospital appointments and missed crucial check-ups or appointments. She would particularly like to help people who don’t have access to digital technology and to reach people from all backgrounds.

Looking to the future

Having started as a volunteer in the pandemic, Carol’s looking forward to being able to get out and volunteer face-to-face in her community when it’s safe to do so.

“I can’t wait to do an information stand” Carol says. She also wants to help to get literature out there to public places like supermarkets and GP surgeries. “I want to let people know that we’re here to help, whether you’re at risk of diabetes, newly diagnosed, or need support.”

Carol would like to see “a better pathway from the GP” so that people get the information they need to understand their condition and how to manage it. “With any newly diagnosed condition, it is important to have support and intervention at the right time, from the correct services so people can find a routine that suits their needs.”

In the meantime, Carol says that she will continue to run her virtual exercises classes and Nordic walks whenever she can.

If you've been inspired by Carol's story, take a look at our volunteering opportunities in your area.

 

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