“Before joining the panel, I’d never been in a room with so many people with Type 1. It makes such a difference. Even having a chat before the panel starts, comparing pumps and the latest technology. Everyone’s friendly and there for the same reason: to help."
Meet our volunteer spotlight for August 2019 - The Young Adults Panel
This month we’re putting our volunteer spotlight on our Young Adults Panel. We spoke to two of its members, David Stephens, 28 from Newport and Rick Nimbley, also 28 from Chester, who have been a part of the panel since it began back in 2017.
How it all began – joining the Young Adults Panel
David, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nine years ago, decided to get involved with the Young Adults Panel after he saw an advert on Facebook. He was one of around 200 applicants with 20 being awarded a place on the panel. “I joined because I felt my input could help Diabetes UK improve its content about Type 1 diabetes.”
Rick was diagnosed with Type 1 in 1994. Growing up, he had lived in different countries, so his diabetes care had varied. But overall, Rick found there to be a lack of understanding, education and a general ignorance surrounding Type 1 diabetes. This was the driving force behind him wanting to volunteer.
“Before I joined the panel, I did a 55km walk to raise money for Diabetes UK. Off the back of doing the walk, I found out about the young adults volunteer network and it ticked all the boxes for what I wanted to get involved with. Then the Young Adults Panel was set up, which was a bit more focused.”
What is the Young Adults Panel and what does it do?
The Young Adults Panel is a group of young adults from around the UK, who are aged between 18 and 30, and living with Type 1 diabetes. The panel share their experiences and views to help Diabetes UK reach more young people with Type 1 and ensure the support the charity offers is relevant, practical and accessible. Much of this work happens online and over the phone, but the panel also meets a couple of times a year.
Rick explains: "When I was diagnosed, there wasn’t the content available for people newly diagnosed that there is now. That’s the target audience, people who haven’t heard about Diabetes UK before. People who think they’re the only person with diabetes.
"We have helped with topics including university, drinking, mental health, work, sexual relationships and access to technology. The Young Adults Panel is a real catalyst for change. I’ve talked about anything and everything, from diabetes and alcohol, to going to university for the first time and moving to a new place. There’s a misconception that you can’t drink alcohol or eat what you want with Type 1. But actually you can do exactly the same as your peers. It’s about taking care of yourself.”
The panel meets twice a year and this offers the chance to catch up on what’s been happening. “There’s usually a theme. There’s lots of brainstorming on big paper and post it notes! The last time the panel met, the focus was on the research we’re doing and how we can get the message out there to a younger audience. We often get asked what we think about campaigns or social media posts. We get asked if it grips us or if we would scroll past.”
Highlights and achievements
David describes the successful Fight for Flash campaign as his biggest achievement. “I was lucky as I was one of the first people in Wales to get Flash glucose monitoring on prescription. I didn’t think it was fair that I was getting it but other people couldn’t access it. I shared my story and it was featured on the website. I was asked to go on BBC Breakfast, which raised so much awareness. NICE guidelines have changed; everyone will have to prescribe it because it’s on the criteria. It’s a big thing and really great to be involved with. I was nominated for an Inspire Award in the category of Campaigning and Influencing in Wales. I didn’t win the award, but it was great to be recognised, it was on behalf of the whole Young Adults Panel, really.”
David is also a part of our Diabetes Voices. He was recently invited to speak at the Welsh Assembly and has been asked to return in August to hand in a petition for the It’s Missing mental health campaign.
For Rick, it’s difficult to pick out a particular highlight. He explains, “It’s a culmination of everything. When I was growing up with Type 1, there was no one to ask because I didn’t know anyone with the condition. There are thousands of young people in the same position. Through helping to get the message out there, we are reaching a wider audience about topics pertinent to young people. Even if it just gets one person to reach out and engage with Diabetes UK about what they didn’t know existed, it’s been a great success.”
When asked what he’d say to anyone thinking about volunteering or getting involved with Diabetes UK, David replies, “Apply and get involved. You get to meet other people living with diabetes and your journey with diabetes helps others.”
“We’ve all learnt something from being part of the panel,” adds Rick. “Before joining the panel, I’d never been in a room with so many people with Type 1. It makes such a difference. Even having a chat before the panel starts, comparing pumps and the latest technology. Everyone’s friendly and there for the same reason: to help.”
David also admits the panel has helped him in other ways, too. “Being on the Young Adults Panel has helped me become more confident and grow as a person. Before the Young Adults Panel, I was anxious about living with diabetes and would have struggled with things like going to London on my own.”
Looking to the future – what’s next?
“The panel have done a hell of a lot but there’s still more that we could do,” says Rick. One area in particular that he is keen to help with is raising awareness about the fantastic research that Diabetes UK funds.
David is also ambitious for the future. “I would like to join the Council of People Living with Diabetes if an opportunity opened up and I’m also applying to be a moderator on the online forum. I’d love to volunteer at a Type 1 event if one happens in Wales.”
If you’ve been inspired by David and Rick, get involved as a volunteer today.