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Volunteer Spotlight - December 2021


Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for December 2021, the Friday Lunch Peer Support Group.

The Friday Lunch Peer Support Group was set up online in June last year as a response to our local support groups being unable to meet face-to-face during the pandemic.

The group is made up of six volunteers living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, spread out across Scotland from the remote Western Isles to the South West in Dumfries & Galloway. It includes members from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and West Lothian.

We spoke to four of the group’s members, Marylin, Isabel, Norma, and May, to find out what the group means to them. May is not a member of the Friday Lunch Peer Support Group. She is Chair of the West Lothian Group and was invited along as she had met Isabel through the Diabetes Scotland’s weekly online meeting set up for committee members during lockdown.

How the group started

Diabetes Scotland were looking to set something up in the wake of the pandemic to ensure that people living with diabetes were supported in what was a very difficult and worrying time for many. They reached out to people in Scotland to see if anyone would be interested in getting involved, and the Friday Group was formed.

Isabel is the most remote of the group, living in the Western Isles of Scotland. She says, “I joined the group to make contact and learn about the work of Diabetes UK and what support was available.”

Isabel met Norma and Marylin through Scotland’s regular local group Zoom sessions. May and Marylin both volunteer with our West Lothian Group and have provided support to people in Scotland throughout the pandemic, through exercise and nutrition classes, online meetings, and virtual quizzes.

Norma, who is a Diabetes UK member, was looking for support last year when she felt isolated due to the pandemic.

Benefits of Peer Support

Marylin explains that the big thing for her is the friendships that you make. “Some of us didn’t know each other before, and our paths may never have crossed. Every time we meet, our conversations start from where we left off.”

“We all have a common base and purpose. It’s all about trust”, explains Norma. “There can be stigma attached to diabetes and people don’t always understand how hard it can be or what it really means to have diabetes.”

Norma wanted to give something back after benefiting from the group and is now training to be a Peer Support Facilitator for the first type 1 adult group in Scotland.

“People just need someone to talk to on their level and to be straightforward and simple”, May says. “It’s good to see someone come on from that and manage their diabetes better and sometimes go into remission. It’s really satisfying. I learn something new about diabetes everyday through peer support.”

Friday Lunch Group topics

Cooking challenge
Soup week at the Friday Group

The group explains that they started off with a structure at meetings, but as time went on, they’ve found that this isn’t needed as conversation feels natural and flows organically.

What the group discusses at each session varies. It might be that someone has gone to a webinar about diabetes and that starts a conversation going, or it could be diabetes checkups and results and how they’ve felt after having coronavirus or flu vaccines.

The group also talks about things unrelated to diabetes. “We might talk about repair work going on in our house, where we’ve walked or what’s happening locally”, Norma says.

The group have enjoyed themed weeks such as ‘MasterChef’ and ‘Bake off’ where everyone sent photos of what they had cooked or baked in the week.

The group have a lot of fun and laughter and have become firm friends. Earlier this year, Marylin, Isabel, Norma and May met up in Edinburgh. For most, it was their first trip since the pandemic began and, although they felt nervous, they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Meeting online

The group all acknowledge that meeting online has made it much easier to meet new people because the distance hasn’t mattered.

For Isabel, the Friday sessions opened a whole new world for her. Using technology was new to her, but her family sent her an iPad when the pandemic began so she could stay connected during lockdown.

For the Friday group, and our other groups in Scotland such as West Lothian, many were in the shielding group. So meeting online provided a lifeline, helping them to get through lockdown.

The group want to acknowledge and thank Diabetes Scotland for helping groups and volunteers to connect online to support each other and share ideas.

As the Covid restrictions eased, the topics discussed at the group may have changed, but the group still feels important to its members.

What’s next for the group?

The group plans to continue meeting each Friday. They are going to run a Christmas bake off and will be soon supporting a group member through some major surgery. Sometimes, they explain, someone needs support at a crucial time, and the group will be there for them.

They are also looking forward to hopefully meeting in person again in Spring or Summer next year. They’ll probably meet somewhere central, but a trip to the Western Isles to meet Isabel could also be on the cards.

 

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