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Volunteer Spotlight - Sally Oxlade

Sally smiling

Sally Oxlade

I love being part of the CPD... I feel it is a privilege to be part of it.

Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for April 2020, Sally Oxlade

Sally sits on our Council of People Living with Diabetes, an advisory group of 30 volunteers with experience of living with diabetes. The group plays a major part in helping us form new ideas, services and understand the top priorities for people living with diabetes.

Sally’s a speaker volunteer and the Treasurer of our Winchester and Eastleigh local group. Soon after joining us in 2016 as a Support & Development Volunteer, she worked with the South East office to restart the group in her local area. Through a mixture of social media and word-of-mouth she admits that her husband’s been able to recruit a few members on his daily walks . The group has gone from strength to strength.

Where did it all begin?

Sally’s first experience of diabetes came in 2005, when she contracted meningitis and septicaemia on a business trip to Sweden. After recovering in ICU she was told she’d developed type 1 diabetes, and was immediately put onto insulin.

Although she says this was unexpected, Sally admits she didn’t experience the shock that can come when people are first diagnosed. “I had nearly died so being told I had diabetes was not altogether the end of the world, and I went back to working in the city and maintaining my diabetes as best I could. I don’t remember being supported in anyway except for a yearly blood test.”

After retiring some years later, Sally decided to volunteer, and her first opportunity arose when she saw an advert for a Support and Development Volunteer in the South East on the Diabetes UK website. Not only would this begin Sally’s passion for helping people living with diabetes, but it also played to one of her biggest strengths - her ability to work with spreadsheets, brought about by years working in the city!

It was during this time that Sally began sitting on our Council of People Living with Diabetes, which she describes as being a real passion.

“I love being part of the CPD, it is always a really brilliant day when we all come together to look at the various projects the charity is focusing on and brain storm ideas which cover a huge variety of subjects - research, branding, hospitals, diabetes care … the list is endless. I feel it is a privilege to be part of it.”

Working in Winchester

So how did it all begin? Sally confesses that since retiring a few years ago, she’d always wanted to volunteer in some way, and was particularly keen to pick something that was close to her heart. Although she admits that you can never know enough about living with diabetes, she’s passionate about learning more and passing her knowledge and experience onto people in her local community and beyond.

Through her work, Sally has organised with the West Hants Diabetes community service to talk at their type 2 training days which has helped expand the local group, as well as numerous meetings and presentations for people living with all types of diabetes. When it comes to presentations, she acknowledges she’s not shy, but says that it’s important to know the subject inside-out, as well as understanding her audience too.

When she’s planning events, Sally includes information about the big issues for people living with diabetes, including employment, driving and healthcare. She feels that helping people understand what they’re entitled to is an important part of the role. “It’s what I feel was missing for me when I came home from Sweden, there was no support.”

More recently, Sally’s been a huge advocate for our It’s Missing campaign and has been keen to create more of a discussion around diabetes and emotional health in her local group. “As a group, we’ve delivered three talks on diabetes and mental health and I consider it is something where support is needed.”

These days, one of Sally’s main challenges is to get more young people involved in the conversation around diabetes. She’s looking at engaging this audience, and is helped by the fact she knows her way around social media, with plans to set up an Instagram account in the near future.

Her most recent event was going to be centred on cooking and diabetes, but unfortunately the event was cancelled due to the lockdown. In fact, she concedes that cancelling the meeting was more complicated than setting it up in the first place.

Life under lockdown

Since the start of the lockdown, Sally’s been keeping the local community updated on staying well with diabetes during the pandemic through her local airwaves at Winchester Radio. She describes this as a good way of keeping people in the loop and is now planning a newsletter signposting the help that is out there for those living with diabetes.  She also has plans to run a webinar in May with a local consultant on coronavirus and diabetes.

Sally’s also been doing some local fundraising during the past few weeks. Her local group has donated a large collection of jigsaws and over the past few weeks she’s being slowly selling them, raising almost £200 for us. Add this to the £7,000 that her local group has raised since 2017, and you can start to see the passion and enthusiasm that Sally approaches her work with.

Final reflections

So, 15 years after Sally was first diagnosed, what’s her number one piece of advice? “Don’t underestimate the shock that diabetes can have on your life, and know as much about the subject as you possibly can. You’ll have to manage your diabetes 24/7, 365 days a year, so knowledge is the key - and use the support that’s out there for you.”

In fact, that’s where her work comes in. After her diabetes diagnosis, Sally admits that she could have been given clearer signposting by the doctors that cared for her. By creating a network in her local community, she’s one of hundreds of our brilliant volunteers creating support for the people that need it the most.

“I just like doing whatever I can,” Sally says, “Even if it’s an awareness stand where only a handful of people turn up, I think it’s always worth it.”

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