JohnPeter exemplifies the resilient spirit and patient perseverance that any lifelong advocate must have. Earlier this year, he ended up in the hospital after suffering two severe low blood sugars accompanied by seizures because he was unable to get the test strips he needed. More recently, JohnPeter contracted COVID-19 and experienced horrible symptoms, including severe hyperglycemia, and was admitted to two different hospitals where his insulin was changed constantly by multiple doctors trying to get his blood sugar under control. JohnPeter described those two weeks as a nightmare and said he was able to come out of it, but not without some complications. For two months after his acute symptoms resolved, he continued to cough and experience chest pain. His blood sugars were erratic and he sometimes found himself shaking and exhausted. He is luckily now feeling much better.
Despite navigating these and other health issues and managing his demanding job, JohnPeter maintained a consistent connection to T1International’s Global Advocacy Network (GAN). His attitude about diabetes, and life in general, is full of positivity. On the GAN monthly calls, JohnPeter is always ready with a joke or a kind word, and he cares deeply about the well-being of others in his community, especially children, who don’t have the supplies and healthcare that they need.
JohnPeter studied Medical Laboratory Science at Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences and currently works as a lab technician. He joined T1International as a Global Advocate in 2016 to combat the lack of supplies and education for people with diabetes in Tanzania, as well as the problem of stigma against people with diabetes. JohnPeter’s vision is for people with diabetes in Tanzania to be able to live a healthier, better life, free from stigma.
Life with diabetes in Tanzania is challenging - so much so that JohnPeter and the other advocates and individuals living with diabetes who he is connected to refer to each other as ‘Warriors,’ and indeed they are. During the COVID-19 crisis, JohnPeter and others had to use their own time and resources to deliver diabetes supplies to families who were unable to get them due to the lockdown or other effects of the pandemic. Accessing insulin and other essential diabetes medications is a struggle in Tanzania even in more normal times, with most people being unable to afford and/or access at-home monitoring and adequate healthcare.
JohnPeter hopes to increase public knowledge about diabetes and its care, and reduce diabetes-related stigma in Tanzania by carrying out educational awareness campaigns. He, along with the team that he is currently building, is developing information sessions that they will conduct in schools and at village meetings to educate students, teachers, and others about diabetes. At the same time, they plan to use television and radio broadcasts to spread awareness about the challenges facing people with diabetes in Tanzania. Their two main goals are to encourage health workers to initiate diabetes education in their health centres and pharmacies, and to encourage government officials to implement awareness campaigns. These campaigns, says JohnPeter, should cover the symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes and promote the idea that a person can have a good life with diabetes with proper treatment and lifestyle behaviors.
We asked JohnPeter what he has learned from working on his advocacy plan in his role as a T1International Global Advocate. He told us, “The big lesson I’ve learned is how to care for others who are less fortunate than I am. Being a Global Advocate with T1International, and specifically working with Elizabeth, the founder and Executive Director herself, has taught me the resilience to fight for what I believe in. Another thing that I have learned and am still learning is public speaking. It was hard at the beginning, but I’ve slowly gotten better and now I’d say that I’m almost good at speaking in public! I feel like people are understanding what I want them to know. This has led to us convincing some leaders to acknowledge that there is a problem when it comes to the supply of insulin for clinics, although nothing has been done yet. At least though, they now understand that something must be done to help warriors get their insulin and test strips in order to minimize the complications that may arise in future if they do not get their treatment on time.”
JohnPeter is also participating in the Pamoja Project, a collaboration between T1International and the Sonia Nabeta Foundation. JohnPeter says of the project, ‘‘The program supports warriors in Africa in many ways, including education about type 1 diabetes to make sure warriors and the community are equipped with the knowledge about type 1 to remove the common enemy in Africa, which is stigma. It also aims to remove the notion that being diabetic means a death sentence.’’
JohnPeter and the other advocates he is working with are hoping that the global diabetes community will contribute educational resources related to diabetes diagnosis and management, for both patients and their caregivers and community, to aid them in their programming. If you would like to share educational resources that might help the Tanzanian advocates, please contact us at: [email protected].