I’m very thankful for the National Health Service and the treatment I’ve received. I feel that volunteering is a way of giving back
Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for May 2022, David Wills
David is the lead volunteer for our online type 1 adults support group, ‘The Funambulists’. The group formed 18 months ago and meets once a month.
Journey with diabetes
David was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1971 when he was 15 years old. There have been big advances in diabetes treatment and dietary advice since David was diagnosed over 50 years ago. He remembers being initially put on tablets for 6 weeks, and then using glass syringes.
David says that “he’s always had a connection with Diabetes UK” since his aunt paid for life membership soon after he was diagnosed.
His volunteering journey with us started about 20 years ago when he became Treasurer of our Winchester local group.
Then, when he moved to Derbyshire three and a half years ago, he contacted our Volunteer Coordinator in our Midlands office to see if there were any volunteering opportunities.
“I’m very thankful for the National Health Service and the treatment I’ve received. I feel that volunteering is a way of giving back.”
David is proud to be a volunteer. He gives his time to several other organisations. He’s Treasurer for his local church and a mentor for a charity in Derbyshire that supports people when they come out of prison.
Setting up the Funambulists Group
In December 2020, David set up our type 1 adults’ online group, ‘The Funambulists’. David has been facilitating meetings every month ever since.
Although the group was initially set up in the East Midlands, anyone that lives with type 1 diabetes aged 18 and over can join the group. The group have recently welcomed people from London and Scotland to their meetings.
“We’re a mix of ages and genders, and we’ve got members from across the country. We’ve all had different journeys and experiences with diabetes. I’ve been on an Insulin Pump for four years, and some of the group use pumps, some pens.”
David had the idea to name the group ‘The Funambulists’ because of the idea of a tight rope walker needing to balance.
“When I first joined Diabetes UK, back when it was called the British Diabetic Association, one of the images used was an elephant walking across a tightrope. That was about balancing your blood sugars and not going too high or too low. That’s where I got the idea from to call the group the Funambulists; a tight rope walker needs to balance just as a person with diabetes needs to balance their blood sugar levels.”
Role of lead volunteer
David arranges and sets up the Zoom meetings in advance and facilitates each session. He makes sure that the meetings are flexible depending on the needs of the group and how they’re feeling. Sessions can therefore vary in length.
“My job is to facilitate our meetings. I keep my eyes and ears open to what’s going on in diabetes treatment or in the health service, but I don’t go in with a list of topics. What we talk about is very much led by the group and what they tell me they would like to discuss. We sometimes come back to subjects. If someone’s being quiet, I try to bring them in so that everyone has a chance to speak and express a view.”
Learning from the group
David says that he enjoys having variety and a wide range of interests in his life. He likes keeping busy and feels that running the group has become part of his routine. He’s also learned a lot during the last 18 months.
“I learn things that I had no idea I was going to learn or hear about. Things surprise me. I find it so interesting to hear about people’s different experiences with their diabetes. It’s good to hear different approaches and opinions and ways of doing things.”
David feels that the use of technology has opened a new way of supporting people and given people greater flexibility. This is something, he thinks, that more people could benefit from in the future.
If you would like to find out more or join the group, please get in touch by emailing Midlands@diabetes.org.uk.