I have now had some time to reflect on and think about the experience of the Young Leaders in Diabetes training and attendance at the World Diabetes Congress, which I am so grateful to have been a part of. I never would have believed when I started my blog back in March that in less than a year I would be in Australia, sharing knowledge and strength with amazing young people living with diabetes from all corners of the globe.
I spent nearly two weeks with about 140 Young Leaders from over 70 countries, learning how to advocate and – most importantly – learning about each other. Despite a few frustrations that come with any large-scale planning and organizational bureaucracy, the chance to build such meaningful relationships in such a short amount of time (thanks to the connection diabetes gives us and the drive we all have to rock the diabetes community for the better) was truly priceless. I connected in person with people I had been Tweeting and campaigning with for months, I spread the word and garnered support for access to insulin and diabetes supplies through collecting a series of videos, and I heard heartbreaking and inspiring stories from some of the strongest people I will ever meet. Being a part of the Young Leaders was incredible (sorry to overuse the word) for so many reasons because it relates directly to my passions and priorities, like this organisation.
Looking back, I started this blog – in part – to fill what I saw to be a gap in global diabetes awareness and interaction. I wanted a place where anyone could come to learn about international initiatives that exist to strengthen diabetes communities worldwide and those that push for adequate care and access to medicine for all people living with diabetes. Many of these organizations – like Insulin for Life, the 100 Campaign, Sucre Blue, the NGDoc, The Pendsy Trust, and others – have been featured here, and hopefully they will inspire others to work towards the same end goals. I have also been able to touch on other global diabetes issues in my posts, so while I know my blog might be filling that gap in a small way, so much more needs to be done. The Young Leaders, and the whole of the diabetes community, are the ones who are really going to be the movement of change. That’s why it was so great to be a part of a group of inspiring young people who appreciate my particular interests and passions, and I know they will help me continue to cover and expand on the above topics with their knowledge and talents.
Perhaps the most important feature pieces I have shared on T1International have been the interviews with Young Leaders sharing about life with diabetes in their country. Not only Young Leaders, but anyone dealing with diabetes challenges – like struggling to obtain or pay for their insulin supply or test strips, not receiving education about their diabetes, or suffering discrimination for being a diabetic – deserves a platform to tell their story. My recent experience at the Young Leaders training in Melbourne allowed me to gain more stories from so many remarkable people that I hope to share.
After getting to know them, I feel confident that the slogan I created to represent the Young Leaders Programme, ‘’Young Minds, Fresh Ideas, Real Change’’ will be embodied over the next two years (and beyond) because my amazing fellow Young Leaders will use their understanding of the local problems to make REAL global change through their individual in-country projects.
I will be working on my own projects: doing more with T1International, taking part in the AYUDA programme in June (more on that in my next post), and working with the 100 Campaign to increase numbers and find ways to get more insulin access to more people. Insulin is just one piece of the puzzle, but it’s a start. I want to help and support the Young Leaders with the other pieces of that tricky puzzle as much as I can. One way I can do that is by featuring my new friends from Brazil, India, Canada, Kuwait, Sweden, Togo and many other countries here in the coming months – allowing them to share their stories and the stories of others living with diabetes in their countries – so watch this space to find out how you can support them too!
At the end of the Young Leaders training we were asked to write one or more words that described our feelings leaving the training and congress. My word was, without a doubt, determined. I (and some of the other Young Leaders) have already faced many roadblocks to solving the global problems which should be priority for all people living with diabetes. My time in Melbourne gave me the hope and determination to keep going, no matter how difficult the path may be. People living with diabetes tell themselves to “keep going” on a daily basis, due to the nature of the disease. Now that I know there are over 100 others who want the same outcomes and who support my efforts, telling myself to “keep going”, to keep fighting for what I believe to be right, will be that much easier.