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Volunteer Spotlight - Nicola Beynon - July 2022

I’m proud of setting up the group. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while but not enquired about as I wasn’t sure it was needed. I love it. It’s the best thing I’ve done.

Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for July 2022, Nicola Beynon

Nicola is the lead volunteer for our Neath Wellbeing Group which she formed last year. Having lived with type 1 diabetes for 36 years, Nicola was looking for an opportunity to volunteer with Diabetes UK. She tells us about her experience so far and her exciting plans for the group.

Choosing a volunteer role

At first, Nicola wasn’t sure what volunteer role she should apply for.

“I don’t currently work because of my MS. I was looking for a way to get involved, but I wasn’t sure what sort of volunteering would be the best fit for me.”

Nicola realised that was a gap in support with there not being a group for people with diabetes in her hometown of Neath. The nearest groups were in Swansea or Port Talbot. She thought that she could benefit from having people with diabetes to talk to herself, and knew she wanted to give her time, energy, and skills to set up a group.

“I like organising things” explains Nicola. “I used to be on the PTA at my daughter’s school which I really enjoyed.”

Setting up the group

“I thought there was a need for like-minded people to get together to talk about diabetes and not be worried about what people might say,” Nicola says.

“I’ve noticed there can be a divide between people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes on social media groups. I don’t get it. I think there’s a big stigma with type 2 diabetes, and people don’t understand the differences between the two.

I wanted the group to be informal and be for all types of diabetes, including people at risk of type 2. I wanted people to get together and chat and support each other.”

To get things started, Nicola met with our Wales volunteering team in November 2021 to discuss what she wanted to do with the group.

Due to concerns around Covid-19 and meeting face-to-face, Nicola set up a Facebook Group to begin with. She shares information on the group such as the recent Coronation Street storyline of the teenage character Summer Spellman’s journey with type 1 diabetes. Nicola also shared our ‘This is Diabetes’ campaign. She says “It can be hard to explain diabetes to people sometimes, and the video explains it to a T.”

The first meeting took place in January of this year and the group now meets monthly in a community centre in a local park in Neath.

Developing the group

Although Nicola describes the group as “quiet”, with 40 members on the Facebook group and a small number coming to meetings, she feels that those joining are really benefiting from it.

Nicola has also been encouraged by talking to the leader of her local MS support group who told her that it can take a year to build a new group. She is going to meet with the group leader and hopes to get some advice and tips on growing a group.

Nicola is also excited to be planning a big launch event for the group to encourage people in Neath and surrounding areas to join.

“I want to reach out to the community and make it as good as it can be for anyone that wants to join. I want to highlight all types of diabetes and what people have to go through daily.”

Nicola would like to arrange some movement and exercise classes in the future, making use of the park where the group meets. She’s investigated options for chair yoga, mindfulness, and reflexology to encourage the group to keep active.

Advocating for better care

As well as being a source of support, Nicola has ambitions for improving the healthcare for people in Neath too. She would like to find out about people’s experiences and meet with GPs to see if the gap between diagnosis and support for people with type 2 diabetes in the first six months to a year can be improved.

“From the meetings, I’ve heard that the care in the area could be better. Personally, I can’t fault my care, but the impact of the pandemic has contributed to things such as eye care and foot care appointments falling behind.”

Final thoughts

Nicola is interested in becoming a volunteer befriender, offering peer support to another person with diabetes by phone and email. But it’s the group that she really wants to build and expand on.

“I’m proud of setting up the group. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while but not enquired about as I wasn’t sure it was needed. I love it. It’s the best thing I’ve done.”

If you would like to find support in your area, here you can find your nearest group. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our latest volunteer opportunities.


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