"You’ll get great satisfaction out of knowing, somewhere along the line, you’ve helped somebody."
Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for May 2023, Jackie Boyd
Jackie started volunteering when he was looking for some support for his own diabetes in 2014. He now supports many other people through his various voluntary roles.
Starting out as a volunteer
Jackie Boyd has volunteered with Diabetes UK in Northern Ireland for nearly 10 years. He says he was “a bit shocked” when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 20 years ago, although his sister already had the condition and his grandmother had type 1. Now, three of his sisters also have type 2. About 10 years ago, he felt he was beginning to rebel against his diabetes a little, and started looking for support on the internet, when he came across an advert from Diabetes UK Northern Ireland, who were looking for volunteers.
He got in touch with the local team to find out more, and started out as an Events Volunteer, attending health fairs and community events. He’s now also a Speaker Volunteer and a Befriending Volunteer, and says that since he retired from his job with the Tayto crisps company last November, the volunteering has certainly kept him occupied!
Jackie describes himself as “very much a people person,” and says he really enjoys the public involvement, answering questions, and getting the message out about what diabetes can do to people’s health.
He finds it frustrating when he meets people who don’t realise the dangers of not looking after their diabetes, which can lead to devastating complications. But this drives him to do more.
In his working life, Jackie also worked in a post office, and he feels he’s brought the skills he gained in that role – being a good listener, knowing how to help people, and knowing how to engage with different people – to his volunteering. He also says that meeting people through his volunteering has built his own confidence.
Supporting other people through volunteering
As a Befriending Volunteer, Jackie supports other people living with diabetes, by email or telephone. His role is to give people the chance talk to someone with lived experience of diabetes. He doesn't give medical advice because they get from their appointments with Healthcare Professionals. The people he supports through the befriending scheme don’t always talk about diabetes – “We talk about anything and everything, sometimes it’s an everyday chat” but he’s there for them if they do want to talk about diabetes.
He says everyone with diabetes can face the same problems from time to time, and he can help them realise they are not alone. From signposting them to further support and information, and reassuring them they are doing the right thing, he feels he has made a difference to the people he’s supported this way.
“They wanted a bit of reassurance about what’s in their future, and what’s not in their future – can I do this, can I not do that, is it going to control my everyday life? It’s giving them the reassurance that you take control, and don’t allow diabetes to take control.”
And as well as using his own experiences of living with diabetes to support the people he’s met through befriending, Jackie feels he’s learned a lot about other people’s experiences that he can use to support others in the future.
The role Jackie enjoys the most is being a Speaker Volunteer. He says “I absolutely love it, I’d do it all day every day.” Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Jackie gave talks about diabetes very regularly to local community-based groups, and he missed that during the lockdown. He gave a couple of talks over Zoom but he says he’s “not a fan. I much prefer being face-to-face, so I can gauge the room. And it’s great to get questions.”
He’s given four face-to-face talks across Northern Ireland over the past few months and has a couple more lined up, including one at the Belfast Health Trust this month. One particular highlight of this role for Jackie is speaking to third-year pharmacy students at the Queen’s University Belfast, which he does every year. Jackie, and a volunteer who lives with type 1, spoke to the students about living with diabetes, and how a pharmacist can support someone living with the condition. “If they have a certain knowledge of diabetes, they possibly might save someone’s life in the future.”
Plans for the future
Looking to the future, Jackie definitely wants to continue with his current volunteering roles, and has been considering starting a local support group in the Richhill and surrounding area. This is very much in the early stages at the moment and needs a lot more planning and consultation, but is something he’s beginning to think about.
Jackie’s message to anyone thinking about volunteering is “Do it – without hesitation! You’ll get so much out of it.” He feels that the more volunteers we have, the quicker we can get the message about living well with diabetes out to other people. He says he gets so much joy out of volunteering and describes the local Diabetes UK Northern Ireland staff team as “a fantastic bunch” who are brilliant to talk to and very supportive.
“You’ll get that support, you’ll get a great experience of being involved with the public, and you’ll get great satisfaction out of knowing, somewhere along the line, you’ve possibly helped somebody.”
If you’ve been inspired by Jackie’s story, take a look at our latest volunteering opportunities.