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Diabetes Bites Newsletter

Why get involved? The benefits of diabetes advocacy are outward and inward!

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
~Winston Churchill

We are in a time where people with diabetes are demanding change. From the DIY,  We Will Not Wait technologies to speaking out against the abusive pricing of insulin, we are becoming a voice for change.

With more than 1.3 million people with type 1 diabetes in the Unites States that voice has the potential to be a roar. With 1.3 million hands and feet we should be able to extend helping hands to one another, educate our communities and change the world! But the estimate from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF, the largest organizer of volunteers and volunteer programs in the country is that they had roughly 300,000 volunteers in 2015. So even assuming that that same number of people were volunteering outside of the JDRF (Which is highly unlikely) that would still leave less than 1 in 3 people with diabetes represented in volunteer efforts.

So with our very lives on the line, why are more people not volunteering to support, educate and advocate for people with Type 1 diabetes?

Maybe it’s because we don’t realize how vitally important volunteering, serving others and the community we live in, is to our own wellness!

Did you know that one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your health and wellbeing is to volunteer?! A Study in 2007 showed that mental health and self reported health status improved among people who volunteered.( Piliavin, J. A., & Siegl, E. (2007). Health Benefits of Volunteering in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Journal of Health and Social Behavior48(4), 450–464. https://doi.org/10.1177/002214650704800408) Another 2008 study actually showed, that even when adjusted for age, gender, and race, people who volunteered had reduces risk of all cause mortality over people who did not volunteer! It did not even depend on duration or intensity of the volunteer efforts! The act of volunteering itself can help us live longer, and better lives!!( Ayalon, L. (2008). Volunteering as a predictor of all-cause mortality: What aspects of volunteering really matter? International Psychogeriatrics, 20(5), 1000-1013. doi:10.1017/S1041610208007096)

Let’s look at some powerful quotes about volunteering and how volunteering can improve and even change not just our world and our lives, but even our diabetes management!

 “I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” 

~ Edward Everett Hale

Something that most of us struggle with when we’re diagnosed with diabetes and even as we grow with the diagnosis, and our medical pictures become more complex, is a loss of personal power. It’s easy to feel victimized by a disease that demands so much of our attention. It’s easy to feel like we are constantly at the whims of medical professionals, pharmaceuticals companies, insurance companies, device companies all leeching away our personal power . In  volunteering one of the most profound things that I’ve learned is that even when working on an issue on a national or regional level lives are being changed! I as an individual carry far more power in the long term than I ever realized. No amount of degrees, training, deep pockets, or lobbyists on Capitol Hill can have more impact than a single passionate person with a heart to help others. knowledge of this personal power helps recharge our batteries when the minutiae of living with diabetes starts to become overwhelming. when we feel like we’re becoming a victim of the outside forces we can reflect on the personal growth and changes that have come about in our lives because of volunteer opportunities . Volunteering allows us to reclaim our personal power! WE are not victims, we are individual powerful agents in an army of change makers!

“You can study government and politics in school, but the best way to really understand the process is to volunteer your time.”
~Rob McKenna

As a nurse as well as a person with diabetes, I volunteer with my local board of nursing. Part of this is attending information nights where we meet with legislators. I got A’s in government and civics classes, so I thought I knew how our laws were made. But until I volunteered I had NO CLUE! Volunteering let me see into places I would never had had the opportunity to see, and now I’m a passionate about volunteering to educate our legislators. Volunteering as a person with diabetes gives us an open door to educate others on what it’s like to live with diabetes. It also opens doors to worlds of processes influence and other ways of seeing the world that we never even knew where out there. I have had the privilege to volunteer with inner city youth and learn what it’s like to grow up in a culture economic status and geography far different from my own upbringing; I have had the pleasure of volunteering with persons living with homelessness, addictions issues and serious persistent mental illness. These have all broadened my mind and allowed me to share what I know from my experience and my world to help others. Volunteering reduces not only the ignorance in the world around us, but our own as well.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” 

~Mahatma Gandhi

By far the most powerful positive impact in our individual lives due to volunteering is that it takes our focus off of US when we are working toward a greater goal with others, or volunteering one on one with another person.  Volunteering helps keep our lives in perspective. Volunteering helps us see that the struggles of today are singular and temporary in the perspective of the greater world around us . It  also helps us keep a positive self view .  In times when we can feel defined by A1C numbers and time in-range volunteering reminds us that we’re also world changers; were also helpers; were also hearts and people that mean far more than any negative labels This perspective and positivity does wonders to fend off depression anxiety and burnout that come with a life of diabetes management

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

`Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love this quote because it reminds me that volunteerism is the great equalizer.  No matter our age experience diagnosis race gender socioeconomic status or education service to others put us all on equal footing. When the greatest bend a knee to serve the least they make the two equal.  When the least care enough to reach out to others they can achieve things greater than kings. Most of us have areas in our lives where we feel marginalized. Just having diabetes can make us feel like we’re part of a population that’s judged as unhealthy, weak, or a liability. Everybody volunteering as a person with type one diabetes shows the truth: we’re people with common struggles who share a unique set of strengths and passions! When we volunteer we show that what others may see as weakness, is actually a source of fuel. There is no pharma company, no medical scholar, no research study, stronger then the passions abilities and untapped potential of people with diabetes.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?”

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Remember, our lives are singular, and fleeting. But the changes we can make in the world around us ripple farther and longer than we can imagine. If we leave it to those who are “professionals” change will always be minimal and slow. But when we reach out to one another the world changes!

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  

Anne Frank

Don’t wait! Volunteering can be your next step to better wellness. Volunteer match is a great site where you can find volunteerism opportunities in your community or by area of interest.

alicia downs

Alicia Downs RN/MSN/CDE

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