Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for August 2023, Phoebe Halfpenny
Phoebe was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two weeks before her 10th birthday. She’s now studying for a degree in Forensic Science at university, and is one of our Young Leader volunteers on the Our Lives, Our Choices, Our Voices youth programme.
Funded by the Steve Morgan Foundation, Our Lives, Our Choices, Our Voices is a programme to support young people aged 11 to 25 to feel more confident managing their type 1 diabetes, build strong peer support networks, and better communicate with their healthcare teams.
"It’s good to know you’re doing something that will impact other people.”
Starting out in volunteering
Phoebe has volunteered with Diabetes UK for just under a year. The week she started university – which was also the week she started using an insulin pump – she saw one of our Youth Coordinators, Adam, promoting Our Lives, Our Choices, Our Voices at the university’s Freshers’ Fair. She says “I thought: I know about diabetes, I’ll talk to them.” Adam told Phoebe about the volunteering opportunities available, and Phoebe decided to apply to be a Young Leader.
Since becoming a Young Leader, Phoebe has been involved in various different activities. She’s been part of a couple of ‘fireside chat’ events, which take place online and are based on different topics such as going to university, driving, or sports and exercise. At the events, a panel of Young Leaders talk about how they manage their diabetes as a young person. The aim of the fireside chats is to give support to other young people who are less confident with managing their condition. Phoebe says “It is possible to do all these things, you just have to think a bit more before, during, and afterwards.”
Phoebe has also been involved in progression meetings, sharing ideas for future Our Lives, Our Choices, Our Voices activities. The team are currently planning a mentoring programme for 11-16 year olds who have type 1 diabetes. The Young Leaders will be paired with a younger person who they’ll coach and support.
Meeting other young people with type 1 diabetes
One thing Phoebe has particularly enjoyed about the programme so far is meeting other young people with type 1. Her cousin also has type 1, and her family have adult friends with diabetes, but she says meeting other people her own age who are not family members has given her a different perspective on living with the condition. She says it’s been interesting learning about the different ways other people manage it.
Although the mentoring programme is still in its planning stage, Phoebe says being part of it has been a highlight so far. “I agreed to do it before thinking about what it would involve, then thought I would’ve loved this when I was first diagnosed.” She’s proud that she’s put herself forward for it, especially as she’s naturally quite shy.
“This is a really good thing that I’m doing.”
The Young Leaders keep in touch outside of their volunteering too. A couple of months ago, Phoebe and the other Young Leaders who are based in the Midlands and Eastern region met up to go bowling and have a meal out together, which she really enjoyed.
And they have a group chat that they use to keep in touch as well. Phoebe feels that because of their wide spread of ages – 16 to 25 – they’ve all brought their own unique experiences to the group, and all benefitted from it in different ways. She describes the group as “brilliant” and says there’s always someone talking on the group chat “If you ask a question, someone will always answer straight away.” They discuss all sorts of subjects – learning to drive, going to university, going to see Taylor Swift! – and how diabetes fits in alongside doing these things.
Excited for the future
Looking to the future, Phoebe is excited to get started with the mentoring programme. She’s also really looking forward to September, when all the Young Leaders from around the UK are going to meet face-to-face for the first time. And there’s an overnight stay at an activity centre for the whole group coming up too.
Phoebe’s message to anyone thinking of joining the Our Lives, Our Choices, Our Voices programme is "Do it! If you have even a moment’s hesitation, just do it.” She says she feels supported to do as much or as little as she can. She’s recently stepped back from volunteering a little bit while taking her exams at university, and is looking forward to doing more now she has extra time over the summer. “It revolves around you, the time you have, your individual strengths and interests. It's a lot of fun. And it’s good to know you’re doing something that will impact other people.”
If you’ve been inspired by Phoebe’s story, or would like to know more about Our Lives, Our Choices, Our Voices, get in touch with the team at email@example.com