“Volunteering at the Type 1 events is a great way of making friends whilst learning about diabetes and the latest in diabetes tech. You’ll work your socks off all weekend, but it’s worth it to see the difference it makes to the families who come along”.
Meet our volunteer spotlight for May 2019 – Dilys Shepherd
When Dilys’ daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 26 years ago, Dilys was given a leaflet about the Diabetes UK Type 1 events, or Care Events as they were known then. After a few months of coming to terms with her daughter’s diagnosis, she booked the family onto an event.
Becoming a volunteer
Six years later, when her youngest daughter was 12, Dilys applied to volunteer at a family weekend in Birmingham.
“I wanted to volunteer so that I could give something back to the charity that had helped us so much. I could share my experiences, both good and bad, with the parents of newly diagnosed children, and reassure them that life goes on and they will be able to cope with what’s coming up. I have given them examples of how we dealt with such things as school issues and life at university”.
Dilys says that the children at the events also benefit enormously from seeing how volunteers and other children with diabetes cope with the condition. Parents can speak to volunteers, some of whom have had diabetes for over 40 years, and are living life to the full.
“The weekends have such a positive effect. Parents are understandably anxious when they first leave their children at an event. But by the end, they’ve learnt so much and they and their children have made friends and become more confident at managing their diabetes. The magic works every time."
Dilys has volunteered on the events for an astonishing 20 years now, and her daughters also come along and volunteer when they can.
Being a part Type 1 event refresh
At the end of 2017, it was announced that the Type 1 events would be temporarily paused to look at how they could be made even better. Dilys was asked to be a part of the project group made up of staff and volunteers who met about once a month. She provided important insight on what worked well and what could be improved. Ultimately, though, Dilys was very keen on the events carrying on and she was delighted when it was announced that they would continue.
Highlights and achievements
“A big highlight is being able to reassure parents that their children are in safe hands, there are healthcare professions there and they can leave their children and can concentrate on discussing diabetes issues with other parents and the medical experts”.
"When you’re a parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes and go to clinic, you don’t get much opportunity to chat to other parents. You also don’t get time with the healthcare professionals like you do at the events. You normally have 10 minutes with a doctor every 3 months at the clinic. At the events you get plenty of time to talk to dietitians, specialist nurses and doctors over a whole weekend.”
She also chats to parents and tells them about the support that Diabetes UK can offer and the information available on the website. This is something that Dilys says parents are often unaware of and really appreciate knowing the resource is there.
Dilys has a feeling of wellbeing from her experiences of volunteering. “It’s been a good 20 years” she says. With two children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Dilys remembers the quote from the then British Diabetic Association chairman when her younger daughter was diagnosed, “you have joined a Club nobody wants to join”. But from the worst case scenario, she’s found a way to see the positives by volunteering, learning and meeting some lovely people along the way.
It doesn’t stop there
Dilys has also volunteered at other events such as ones for people living with Type 2 diabetes and roadshows to help people find out their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Dilys was a member of the Council of People living with Diabetes (CPD) for 6 years. The CPD is an advisory group made up of up to 25 volunteers who help the charity develop new ideas, services and establish what the top priorities are for people living with diabetes. Along with contributing to the general debates, Dilys gave her views about issues affecting children and their families.
Looking to the future – what’s next?
Dilys is looking forward to volunteering at the first two events of this year, a family weekender in Bristol at the end of May and then on to Bolton in June.
She’s excited to see her fellow volunteers again. Dilys runs a Facebook group for Type 1 event volunteers to connect with each other and keeping in touch. She keeps it up to date with bits of key information about the upcoming events.
Most of all though, Dilys is delighted that families have the opportunity to experience the events again because, she says, “the difference that they make has to be seen to be believed”.
If you’ve been inspired by Dilys’ story, get involved today.