"Volunteering feels natural for me. It’s an opportunity to problem solve and to give back. You learn, you experience and you keep curious."
Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for June 2020, Mistura Yusuf
Mistura lives in Brent, North West London, which is a borough with high prevalence of diabetes. She works for the local council as a freelance Public Health Advocate. Her work includes raising awareness of type 2 diabetes in the local community at festivals, events and other community settings such as care homes, churches, supermarkets, and schools.
As a Diabetes UK Community Champion, outside of Brent, Mistura organises events in mosques around South East London where Nigerian community gatherings are more accessible. At other times, she volunteers whenever she can with the London volunteering team. Through Mistura’s connections, she managed to guarantee Diabetes UK an awareness stand at the annual Nigerian Sports Foundation event in London.
Motivations and getting involved
“I was at an event in my community in 2007 and there was a Diabetes UK stand. Diabetes was something I wanted to learn more about. My background is in nutrition and so I saw volunteering at Diabetes UK as an opportunity to develop my knowledge. Secondly, I was interested in fighting diabetes because my mum, who lived back home in Nigeria, had diabetes.”
Mistura applied to be a Speaker volunteer and to give talks about diabetes. She was accepted onto the programme and attended a training session to help develop her public speaking skills. “At the speaker training, we were told about the many myths that surround diabetes I could see that I could make a difference in my community and really contribute.”
Role of Community Champions
“We bridge the gap for the healthcare professionals and people living and affected by diabetes. We raise awareness in mosques and temples together with other public places. We explain what the symptoms are and encourage the community to see their doctor if they’re at a higher risk of developing the condition. We convey the seriousness of diabetes but reassure them that, if you manage your diabetes, you can have a good quality of life.
We’re also able to give out information for people with diabetes and their families. If someone’s been diagnosed then we tell them about resources available for self-care and self management. We help them to know what their rights are by showing them the ‘15 Healthcare Essentials’ and guidance around looking after feet. People are always grateful for the information.”
Highlights and successes
“Over the years, I’ve met a lot of people. My confidence in public speaking has increased. I love what I do and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity. From sharing the Diabetes UK prevention message, I know that some have gone away and made steps to make changes to their life. It’s been really rewarding.
One of the highlights for me was when I felt frustrated after an awareness talk as there so much disturbance and it was difficult to control the crowd. Following the presentation, I attended a sporting event organised by the group. And as I walked down the street, I asked a lady for the way to the venue. She said, “I recognise you. You gave a talk on diabetes that I attended. Thank you so much. I made sure I came to this when I saw the advert” From then on I realised that even if one person finds the information I share helpful, I have made a difference.”
Adapting to life under lockdown
The lockdown coincided with the start of Ramadan and Mistura had a talk planned at a mosque. That was no problem though, members were sent a Zoom link and it went ahead online.
“The presentation went well, people were attentive and the feedback was very good. They didn’t have the stress of needing to travel to a venue and I was able to reach more people than I would have been able to out in the community. Attendees could still ask questions through the chat function. From that talk, it sparked an interest and I gave five more talks for other organisations. At the last presentation, two hundred people were on the platform. The virtual platform is very powerful and may change the way Community Champions do awareness sessions in the future."
As those attending were concerned about the risk of coronavirus for them and their loved ones, Mistura signposted to the Diabetes UK website for guidance on coronavirus and diabetes, as well as the online forum and helpline for further support.
“I think virtual community is going to be the way forward” Mistura reflects “we don’t know when we’ll return to normal. It’s flexible and we can speak to more people though reaching out online, it doesn’t matter where they live.”
Fundraising & media activities
Together with her role as a Community Champion and Speaker, Mistura has also fundraised for us over the years. She supported at two ‘Big Collection’ weeks at Tesco stores, taking the role as Team Leader at one of them. Mistura also marshalled at the annual London Bridges Challenge where hundreds of people walk 10 miles over 12 iconic London bridges and raise vital funds for Diabetes UK.
Mistura has helped to spread the word about diabetes and Diabetes UK on the airwaves at her local radio station in Brent and an Islamic radio station in the South East.
What would you say to others thinking about volunteering?
“I would say they should go for it! If you’re passionate about helping people there’s a lot to get out of it. You can volunteer for a few hours or you can give more time if you can.”
If you’ve been inspired by Mistura’s story, find out how you can get involved.