*(The name Maria is the substitute for this newsletter)
Nine days away from my 12th birthday, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. At the time, I was very set on not changing anything about my life, so I never attended a diabetes camp or went to a support group. About five years later, I received an email from my endocrinologist encouraging me to attend an information session about an organization called American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad (AYUDA). By this point, I had come to terms with my diabetes and was ready to explore some ways to get more involved in the community. After attending the first information session, I was completely enthralled by this organization. I applied to be a first-time volunteer instantly and have stayed involved ever since.
As an active volunteer, I have been working alongside likeminded individuals and local foundations in Latin American countries to empower young people in those areas to take control of their lives with diabetes. Once in the countries, like Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, during the summer, we work closely with our local partners to put on diabetes camps for the local families who have children living with type 1 diabetes. At camp, AYUDA emphasizes the idea that a “lack of education is just as dangerous as a lack of insulin,” so rather than merely providing material resources, we work hands-on with the local families to teach strategies on how to properly manage and care for diabetes, which is knowledge they will retain for the rest of their lives.
On the last day of camp this summer (2014), I was sitting with my camper Maria in our classroom right before going outside to eat lunch. As she very well knew, she needed to inject her rapid-acting insulin. Maria had already come to two days of camp but still had never given herself her injection on her own. Earlier in the morning of that last day, I was working with her and told her that if I helped her with her injection this time, she will need to do it herself the next time. She agreed. Now, back at lunchtime, she would not take the syringe to do the injection herself. A couple other volunteers and I sat with her, encouraging her to take this next step in her self-control of her diabetes. Playing off of the 2014 camp theme “sé tu héroe” (“be your own hero”), I told her that she can be her own superheroine and absolutely has the power to take hold of her condition and not let it stand in her way. After about ten minutes of working her through the emotional aspect of diabetes, her nerves and fears, she agreed to do the injection herself. Slowly but surely she injected the syringe. With a smile ear-to-ear, she removed the syringe and gave me a huge hug. I told her how proud I was of her and proud she should be of herself. It’s moments like this one with Maria that keep me continuing my work with AYUDA and that help me keep up my own diabetes care, reminding myself that I have the ability to keep myself as healthy as I can. I was so fortunate to have been provided with excellent diabetes education and resources and to be able to see that I have been able to pass that on to strong and empowered young people throughout the world is incredible.
AYUDA works to empower others through education and hands-on interactions to be agents of change in their own lives. ¡Juntos Somos Más Fuertes! Together We Are Stronger!
I’m Melanie Goldring, a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis. I’m 19 years old, originally from Los Angeles, CA. I’m a psychology major and children’s studies and spanish minor, and in my free time I love to dance, do photography, and hang out with my friends. I’m extremely passionate about diabetes education advocacy and have loved working with AYUDA for the past 3 years.