'We’ve loved working together and had a lot of fun at meetings and events. The group’s really important and has brought a lot to people in the community.'
Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for December 2020, the Sheffield Local Group
We’re focusing this month’s spotlight on the Sheffield Group. The group has run online meetings since the coronavirus lockdown in March. They also ran a big event in January all about diabetes and exercise, and have won a local group and community Inspire Award for their achievements. We spoke to some of the hardworking committee; Anita, Glynis, Brenda and Linsay to find out more about the group.
History of the group and committee
The Sheffield group dates back to the 1950s and does so much for their local community; raising awareness of diabetes, running activities and events, fundraising for the group and for diabetes research and offering an opportunity for people with diabetes to talk to others with the condition.
Glynis, the current longest serving committee member, joined the group with her husband Phil in 2004. She’s held a variety of roles over the years and currently coordinates the group’s website.
Brenda, vice-chair of the group, was misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes 15 years ago before finding out that she has type 1. She joined the group to learn more about diabetes. As time went on, Brenda got more involved in patient participation and then fundraising for the group.
Linsay was diagnosed with type 1 when she was 2 years old. She first found out about the group through living with diabetes days in Sheffield and has been secretary since January 2019.
Finally Anita, group chair, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2011. She says “I knew quite a lot about diabetes through my job as a GP. When it’s you, it’s a bit different. I needed support and went to meetings; I learnt a lot from a different point of view. Instead of giving out information, I was taking it in and I was very grateful it was there.”
When they’re organising an event, the committee meets every month and talks to each other in between. Since lockdown, they’ve come together virtually each month for both committee and group meetings.
‘Move More’ event
One of the group’s highlights was the ‘Move More’ event in January 2020. Sheffield’s Move More partnership had been promoting being active and was a great help in getting this event off the ground. The event was open for anyone with any type of diabetes and aimed to help them to be confident to move more.
Linsay’s son was diagnosed with type 1 in 2003 and they went on a cycling holiday that summer. “We both had to reduce our insulin because exercise made us more sensitive to it; we kept doing our blood tests and my son, who was in the honeymoon phase post diagnosis, didn’t always need insulin for food because of the activity! On the other side of that though is that hypos can be a complete pain when you want to be active and can put people off, despite all the fabulous benefits from moving such as it boosting mental health and resilience. We also knew of people with type 2 who are in remission through exercise (some who’d even been on insulin) so our main themes were motivation, enjoyment and staying safe!”
Linsay looked online for diabetes healthcare professionals with an interest in exercise and emailed several to ask if they would like to speak at the event. Professor Rob Andrews, who co-founded the Exercise for Type 1 Diabetes Program (EXTOD) got in touch.
“I was bowled over when my phone rang and he offered to come”, Linsay says. “People’s enthusiasm and support didn’t stop there; Jerry Gore who’s a Blue Circle Champion came, as did Lynne Dawson, an international swimmer, Diana Maynard who’s registered blind yet runs, climbs and treks, and Gavin Griffiths – DiAthlete who does motivational work with children with diabetes; they all have diabetes and combine it with being very active and fit. We were also thrilled that people joined us who had managed to get their type 2 diabetes into remission years after they were diagnosed. This is so encouraging."
With the help of our Northern office, the group contacted Muhammad Ali, a professional boxer with type 1 diabetes who supports our work. He agreed to come and speak at the event, and even joined in the dancing.
In addition to speakers, workshops and stalls, City Limits, a Sheffield dance school, ran a dancing class in the lunch break, teaching attendees how to cha-cha. The dance class was perfect, Linsay says, they had great music, many joined in, and it was such fun and showed that everyone could join in and get moving.
The committee also credit the diabetes team in Sheffield and local GPs and practice nurses who are really supportive of the group. Professor Simon Heller was a brilliant master of ceremonies, and dieticians from Sheffield and Leeds came, along with Karon Major from the local DESMOND team.
Adapting to the lockdown and moving online
When the pandemic began and the UK went into a national lockdown, the group had to cancel their March meeting, but their April meeting went ahead virtually. Our Northern office supported with this initially. Further help was provided by Glynis and by David, the group’s treasurer.
Adapting to running activities online was a challenge at first because not everyone had the technology and a stable internet connection. The group already had speakers booked in to talk and this gave them an incentive to keep going with their meetings.
“We wanted to try and keep going during lockdown and to some extent that’s been successful. Unfortunately some people who used to join us regularly haven’t been able to, but others have joined by phone” says Anita.
Whilst some members haven’t been able to join the online meetings, possibly through holding their meetings virtually, the group have attracted new people to join them from other parts of the UK.
“We’ve talked about keeping some meetings online when we come out of lockdown. We do have some older members who find it difficult to get into town in the winter months. We also might think about recording or streaming the meetings so people can still join in through Zoom who live outside Sheffield or find it difficult to get into the town centre.”
Another advantage of doing meetings online, Brenda explains, is that people can join without video if they prefer to and don’t need to give their real name. They don’t have to stay until the very end and it’s flexible.
What’s next for the group?
The group are keen to continue running despite the challenges the pandemic presents. They’re realistic that they won’t be able to get out and about and organise stalls just yet.
The next event the group are planning for is their winter social and quiz on 10 December, which will of course take place online. A local artist has offered up their skills for a raffle prize for the social – a painting of photo of a pet of the winner’s choice.
The group have a programme planned for next year and speakers booked for their meetings. They’d like to do an event for World Diabetes Day 2021 and they’re always thinking of new ideas, as a committee and as a group.
One wish that they have is for the group to reflect Sheffield’s diversity more and to also attract some younger people. They’d also love to help people with type 2 diabetes to put their diabetes into remission.
“We’ve loved working together and had a lot of fun at meetings and events. The group’s really important and has brought a lot to people in the community. There are enough people that we know we’ve made a difference to, to feel that it’s very well worth carrying on and building on what we’ve got,” reflects Anita.
Linsay closes by saying “it’s wonderful meeting other people with diabetes. It’s such a boost knowing others have the same frustrations – and have good ways to get round them! People are so accepting and helpful, kind and compassionate. We try to make everyone feel welcome at the group. We also really value and appreciate the contribution that everyone brings.”
If you’d like to find out more about the Sheffield group or join one of their online events, you can visit their website. There are tickets available for their winter social and prize draw. If you’re interested in buying raffle tickets, you can email the group at DiabetesUK.Sheffield@gmail.com.
You can also use our postcode finder to find a local group in your area.