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Volunteer spotlight – Carole Michaelides - April 2023 

Carole Michaelides

Carole Michaelides

“Peer-to-peer support is a fantastic way of learning. I’ve learned so much from other people with diabetes that has helped me.”

Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for April 2023, Carole Michaelides

Carole is one of our speaker volunteers, and secretary of the Hammersmith and Fulham local group. Carole lives with insulin dependent Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA), and her brother was diagnosed with type 1 when he was 11. When he sadly died of complications of his diabetes when he was just 52, Carole resolved to get involved with Diabetes UK. And when her work schedule reduced a few years later, she decided to start volunteering.

Starting out as a volunteer

Carole began volunteering for Diabetes UK by helping with collections then, in 2018, she volunteered for our Taking Control Champions programme, which aimed to make it easier for people living with diabetes to access structured education. This was very timely for Carole, as she had recently been re-diagnosed with LADA, after initially being misdiagnosed with type 2, and was trying to find more education to help her manage her own diabetes. “It was difficult finding out just what education was available, never mind how to access it.”

Around that time, Carole went to a Hammersmith and Fulham local group meeting. She says she learned so much at that meeting, and that’s what motivated her to get more involved in the group. “You don’t know how little you know until you learn something. When I found out things myself, I was astonished that I didn’t know it.” Carole feels that if the right information is easy to access and understand, it can hugely benefit people to manage their diabetes better and with more confidence. “I’m really passionate about improving care and encouraging people to think about what they’re doing with their diabetes because I know only too well how difficult it is to manage. And peer-to-peer support is a fantastic way of learning. I’ve learned so much from other people with diabetes that has helped me.”

New ways to stay connected

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Carole became a panel member for the North West London NHS Partners in Diabetes (PID) programme. As part of this team, she has been privileged to be involved in the development of a number of diabetes initiatives, such as the Language Matters Programme for medical students, improvement to footcare for people with diabetes in NW London, and helping Diabetes Nurse Consultant Ruth Miller with her Diabetes 10 Point Training project. During the pandemic, Carole and some of her PiD colleagues worked virtually and developed The Diabetes Community Club, which is now being trialled in Harrow and Brent. She also gave virtual Diabetes UK talks as a speaker volunteer. Using this type of technology has helped Carole and the PID team create new ways to support people with diabetes in North West London. 

Highlights and achievements

Growing the group is definitely a highlight for Carole. When she first went to the group, it had been running for around 17 years and the number of people attending was dwindling – at that first meeting, there were just three people. Carole initially joined the group’s committee in 2017, and was asked to become group secretary in 2018. In the five years since she took up the secretary role, attendance at group meetings has grown. At the last face-to-face meeting (in February 2023) 24 people attended to listen to a speaker talking about diabetes technology.

Carole puts the increase in numbers down to “two main things: the legwork and networking to let people know this exists - I put up a lot of posters, because that’s how I found out about the group, by seeing the poster. I went into every local pharmacy and GP practice, then went back to make sure they’d put the posters up. And the venue - the minute we got the Charing Cross venue, that cemented it.” The group had outgrown their original venue at Parsons Green, and now meet in the Boardroom at Charing Cross Hospital. They meet 8 times per year, and have a varied programme of speakers, ranging from footcare to research to carb counting.

Another highlight for Carole is what she learnt during the Covid-19 pandemic, and finding new ways for people to support one another. “I love the dynamic of face-to-face sessions, but the skills I learned during Covid have been a fantastic help, and I employ those skills continuously. It means we can meet virtually when it isn't possible to meet in person, and it's become another important way to connect.”

Final thoughts: “Volunteering is so good for you!”

Carole is enjoying returning to face-to-face volunteering, giving Diabetes UK presentations to local groups such as St Mungo’s and Fulham Good Neighbours, and she’d like to continue volunteering for a long time saying “as long as I can do it, I shall carry on.”

Carole’s message to others thinking of volunteering is “it’s so good for you!” She definitely feels that volunteering is as good for the person volunteering as it is for the people they are helping. “When you feel a bit jaded with it, if you get out into a group and get that lovely feedback, you know why you’re doing it, and you meet such amazing and inspiring people along the way.”

If you’ve been inspired by Carole’s story, find your local support group, or take a look at our latest volunteering opportunities.


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