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Fiona's story - Volunteering at type 1 events and Tayside family group

Fiona Stewart

Diagnosed with type 1 in 2000

I've developed, grown in confidence and tried new things through volunteering, and have loved every bit of it.

Fiona has been a volunteer for Diabetes UK since 2012. She was first diagnosed in 2000 with type 1 and she didn’t know many people with diabetes until she joined us as a volunteer in 2012. As a teenager, she said she felt she had to prove to everyone she was ‘normal’ and didn’t want talk to others with the condition.

She has been involved as a Type 1 Events team volunteer through the family weekenders since 2012. In 2018 she and a group of local families and parents in Tayside formed the Tayside Family Group, where Fiona serves on the committee. 

Volunteering

Fiona's experience as a volunteer

In 2012 Fiona began volunteering with us through the type 1 events team and attended the weekenders. Fiona loved this experience, in both being able to help people and also gain a network of invaluable friends who give her so much support. She has been involved in weekenders up and down the country and cannot wait for them to get back up and running! During lockdown with the Type 1 events team Fiona has been involved in two of their panel discussions and online webinars and events. 

In September 2018 a group of local families and parents in Tayside noticed a gap in support for local families. They approached Diabetes Scotland about getting more support in this area – and Fiona got involved in helping set up the committee. Before lockdown, Fiona and the committee put on events, organised support and chats for families and got people together. During lockdown the committee have been active on Facebook and social media. They've put on online events and sent out packs, information and different ways to get families involved and stay connected with each other.

Adapting during the coronavirus pandemic 

Before the pandemic, Fiona’s volunteering was all about connecting with people. She did this either through the weekenders or through the events with the Tayside Family Group. It was all about organising things, ticking off a to-do list and her and the committee making sure things are in place for the local families and young people. 

Fiona commented how providing a place for people to connect and chat with each other is still the same, but it’s in different ways at the moment. The committee have organised a few well attended events during lockdown. Two that Fiona spoke about at length were an online Craft Day and an interactive Magician.

For the Craft Day, the committee sent out craft packs for families and young people to make windchimes and other garden decorations. They ran a great session over Zoom for families and children and they got great feedback from it and great interaction. The committee also organised for a Magician (Britain’s Got Talent’s Cameron Young) to come and perform for a group of families over Zoom and they loved it! It was fully interactive and engaging without even having to leave the house! 

Because Fiona has type 1 she has been extra careful and made sure to keep herself safe. Fiona normally travels to Aberdeen for work from Tayside but has been working from home the last year. She's saved quite a bit of time travelling but seems to be working twice as hard! Fiona and her partner moved house during the pandemic, which has kept her busy. She says generally she has been doing okay but can’t wait to get back out and show off her new house to family and friends.

Staying connected during lockdown

The committee have a WhatsApp group where they chat all together and keep in touch. They have been relying on social media to stay connected to group members through a closed Facebook group. Lots of information, events and signposting through this Facebook group. 

Just before the pandemic hit, the Tayside Family Group created a pack for newly diagnosed children. This had to be put on hold at the start of the pandemic, but in the last six months the committee have been producing these packs and have been providing support for young people and families right at the point of diagnosis.

The packs contain:

  • A Tayside Diabetes Family Group bag
  • The Carbs and Cals book, a tote bag with inspirational words
  • A pen
  • DiaWipes
  • Diabetes UK information
  • A £5 Diabity’s voucher to spend on pump/pen/meter stickers.

This has been a fantastic venture and a great way of keeping up with that support during lockdown.

How Fiona's stayed inspired

The big thing for Fiona has been being connected with people and seeing the difference that you can make by reaching out to different people in different ways. She commented about how one of the other volunteers from the Scotland Volunteer team organised some weekly calls at the start of lockdown that she went along to and chatted with people. On average seven people came along each week. She loved just getting to chat to people, keeping in touch with them and getting support from those who know what it’s like to live with type 1. 

Looking to the future

The Tayside Family Group host an annual BBQ for families in the area, Fiona cannot to be able to do this again and to be able to meet new families.  “We have the magician coming on the day and have two bouncy castles organised – it won’t happen until 2022 but we can’t wait!” As an active Type 1 events volunteer, Fiona cannot wait until the Family Weekenders start back again. She's looking forward to connecting with people she has volunteered with for years and getting to meet and support new families. 

She's also had to postpone her wedding twice during lockdown and has it booked again for September 2021. So she is itching for that to go ahead and we wish her a very happy day when it comes! 

Why you should volunteer

Fiona commented that it was how it makes you feel, to feel a part of a group and a part of helping people is amazing. Seeing people develop and gain confidence – be that through a Family weekender or through coming along to the Family group events. Fiona said she also loves seeing the young people meet others with type 1 and realise they are not alone. They also get the support they really need. Also, Fiona spoke about how she has developed, grown in confidence and tried new things through volunteering, and she has loved every bit of it.

Thank you, Fiona and the committee, at Tayside Family group – you are amazing volunteers. The work you do to support people living or affected by diabetes is so great and we are so lucky and thankful to have you with us! 

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