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Volunteers' Week 2023 - Norma's story

A lady wearing a grey top is sitting in front of a window

Norma Fraser

"It's a great feeling knowing that you’re helping to make a difference for people living with type 1."

Norma helped Diabetes Scotland set up an online peer support group, after joining their Friday Lunch Club for support during the Coronavirus pandemic.

"Living with type 1 diabetes is a 24-hour job."

Norma was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September 1971. She’d lost weight and was feeling unwell, so made an appointment to see her doctor. A urine test showed she had high glucose levels, and she was admitted to hospital the next day to begin insulin treatment

Earlier that summer, she’d been on holiday in Paris with three university friends and had been delighted with two pairs of trousers that she bought on the Champs-Elysees. Sadly, she says “my delight with one pair of trousers after my diagnosis – and subsequent weight gain – was short lived!” But she was pleased to have an answer after having various issues with her health. 

Norma can’t really remember how diabetes has changed her life as she was diagnosed so long ago, but she does feel it’s made her more aware of her health. And she also feels “living with type 1 is a 24-hour job; it is relentless when you want to ensure as far as possible good health and control.” 

Looking for peer support - and giving something back to others

Particularly in the early days of her diagnosis, Norma says Diabetes UK’s Balance magazine was her main source of information about diabetes. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she wanted to find more support from the diabetes community as she was concerned about the impact of covid on people living with the condition. She joined the Friday Lunch Club, an online group that Diabetes Scotland were hosting, in 2020 and really benefitted from the support she gained from it.

She decided she wanted to give something back, so attended our Peer Support Facilitation volunteer training and through Diabetes Scotland helped to set up an online support group. She’s facilitated this weekly group for the past 18 months, and has set up a WhatsApp group for members of the online group to keep in touch outside of their weekly meetings. She also joins the monthly Diabetes Scotland Volunteer Community meetings to keep updated with news from Diabetes UK and Diabetes Scotland; she supports the Lead Volunteer of the Edinburgh Support Group; and has joined other campaigns such as attending the Diabetes is Serious event in Scottish Parliament last year. She also still occasionally joins the Friday Lunch Club, as well as another type 2 support group. 

Helping to make a difference

Norma feels that the most beneficial impact she’s had as a volunteer is providing the opportunity for other people with diabetes to have “weekly participation and interaction at the group alongside chat in our WhatsApp group.” She says “helping to make a difference for people living with type 1 and all its challenges” is her favourite thing about volunteering. 

Her message to anyone thinking of volunteering is “give it a go, there are opportunities to share and learn from one another, support, encourage, and laugh! If you have an interest in the well-being of others, and your own too, why not try volunteering with Diabetes UK.” 

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