“Volunteering gives me something to do every day, I just love it. If I didn’t do it, I’m not quite sure what I would do."
Meet our Volunteer Spotlight for June 2019, Corinne Wykes
Corinne has been volunteering for us since 2012. “I’ve got a busy home life but this is such a big part of my life and I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing people getting the support they need. It does take up a lot of time, but I love it. I get so much out of volunteering, it’s something I’ve never done before and I’m quite passionate about it."
How it all began
"When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over 30 years ago, I didn’t really do anything about it. There was limited information, I was just given a piece of paper about what I shouldn’t eat. So I walked away and did nothing for years. Then I started medication and now manage my diabetes with insulin and tablets.
"As soon as you know you have diabetes, it’s important to do something sooner rather than later. It isn’t until you get the symptoms that you realise what’s going on. I do have some of the complications, but if I had done something earlier I could have put them off for a few years. People aren’t always getting the right information, or they don’t understand what it really means and how important it is.
"About 7 years ago I had finished work. As part of my membership I received a letter from Diabetes UK, looking for people to volunteer as a Service Champion in their local area. I decided to apply for the role and was successful. It was a new role at the time, and involved meeting or writing letters to local healthcare professionals looking after people with diabetes. It wasn’t like anything I’d done before and I found it very challenging in the beginning.
"The first big project was to get a multidisciplinary foot care team in the local area. This was a steep learning curve for me, I learnt lots about diabetes but because I had worked in the NHS previously I had a bit more confidence. Jill, the Regional Head of the South East team at Diabetes UK, supported me a lot in the first years of the role.
"I’m also a patient representative on the National Diabetes Audit, my remit is the foot care audit because of my work as a Service Champion. As a patient representative I’m there to help give a patient’s view of the reports. It can sometimes be quite challenging in a room full of consultants and other healthcare professionals but everyone is really friendly, I’ve been doing it for a few years now."
Taking on new roles
Corinne has since got involved with a few different volunteer roles. “I decided to get involved with my local group, so I went along to a meeting. I was eventually asked to join the committee of the Milton Keynes group about 6 years ago. I started with taking minutes and now am the secretary of the group. I started pushing to do a bit more awareness raising and going out and about with information stands. I’m quite proactive and like to get out there and do something so now we’re doing a lot more. Everybody does as much as they can, and we’ve all made some really good friends.
"I’ve also had peer support training from the South East team. We do a lot of peer support locally, and when we’re struggling to find speakers for our group meetings we run a peer support session instead. It’s really taken off and we’ve learnt so much from it so we now have a mix of speakers and peer support sessions throughout the year.
"I’ve also trained as a speaker and most recently as a Know Your Risk volunteer. I’ve been a speaker for about 5 years now, and next I’ll be speaking at the Open University in Milton Keynes during Diabetes Week. As a Know Your Risk volunteer I’ve done some local events and I’m looking to do a lot more this year. If I had the information I needed about diabetes earlier in life I might have changed things. That’s why being a Know Your Risk volunteer is so important. Some people are so shocked when they realise they are at risk, but hopefully it might make them do something about it. You can only give people information and try to help them understand what their risk means.
"More recently I’ve been supporting the staff inductions at Diabetes UK head office in London, by talking about my story from the perspective of a person with diabetes. I’ve been involved in some workshops on the information prescriptions around mood and mental health. I went to Westminster for the launch of the Mental Health campaign, It’s Missing, and it was a fabulous day. I also go to Buckingham University to talk to first year students studying medicine, sharing my story and answering questions about my diabetes. These sessions make them more aware of the patient’s perspective.
Greatest volunteering achievement
"My biggest achievement was helping to get the multi-disciplinary foot care team in Milton Keynes, with lots of support from the South East team at Diabetes UK. The service has been in place for three years now, it was a lot of work but I’m proud of what we achieved.
"I’m also proud of how the local group has developed, we have a great team of people to share knowledge and signpost people to more information. We’ve really moved forward, and we have some really dedicated people who work really hard. We’re definitely seeing more people coming along to the group, so we always ask what people want to hear about and we offer a lot of peer support.
"I also do Walking for Health with my local surgery, which is with a large group of around 100 people. I also started small walking group for people who have diabetes. I’m encouraging people to get involved, it’s a great opportunity to chat and possibly stop for coffee afterwards which is just as important as exercise.
Challenging the stigma
“It can get quite lonely when you have diabetes and we try to pass on the message that we’re here to support each other. I know a lot about my own diabetes, I’m not an expert on anyone else’s diabetes, but I am an expert of my own. There are nearly 13,000 people living with diabetes in Milton Keynes, but there are only a small number of people coming along to the group in comparison. We try and get the message out there, which is why I always share my own story".
"Getting the local group up and running and getting to know people helps to spread the word. One member from our committee attends every Desmond course to talk about the local group and say ‘your care doesn’t stop here, our group is there to help’. We offer the peer support people often need. One group member told me that they learn far more about themselves and their diabetes at group meetings than they’ve ever learnt from their doctor or nurse, so it can make a lot of difference.
"It can be difficult to raise awareness, but it certainly changed my life and I hope we are helping to change other people’s lives. I always say to people ‘don’t be hard on yourself, but if you make some small changes you might help yourself along the way’.
“But now we really need to tackle the wider issue of mental health and the impact diabetes can have on someone. Working alongside Diabetes UK has given me the confidence to speak up more in my own appointments and be more confident about my own diabetes. There is definitely a stigma with diabetes, you can never assume anything about anyone with diabetes, which type they have, or about their condition".
"When my daughter was pregnant she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. As a result she had an extra scan at 28 weeks as part of her care. During that scan they found a congenital birth defect, so when my grandson was born he was operated on within a couple of days. Although it was hard when my daughter was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, she told me that they wouldn’t have found out about the extra care my grandson needed without the extra scan and he might not have survived. Sometimes positive things do come out of raising awareness. It’s not only you, it’s future generations that carry the risk.
"The biggest thing for me will be pushing Know Your Risk. We did one at the hospital recently and it went really well. I’m also going to continue being a patient representative for the National Diabetes Audit and helping with the staff induction days. I’m not very good at saying no to things!
"If you just reach one person you can change their lives. When I first started it was frustrating when there was low response, but we do as much as we can and you can’t do any more than that. I really enjoy meeting people, it means a lot to me and to be recognised with an Inspire Award feels exceptional. Not everyone knows what you’re doing as a volunteer, so it’s motivating to share my story.
"I would say definitely give it a go, you can do as much or as little as you want. You’ll get as much out of it as you’ll put in, I’d recommend it to anyone. If there wasn’t any volunteers in the community a lot of services would collapse, the amount of work that gets done by volunteers adds up. I feel more connected now than I’ve ever felt."
If you’ve been inspired by Corinne’s story, get involved today.