I have been thinking a lot lately about determination and first steps. It can be easy to get discouraged and feel like global diabetes problems – or any problems or adversity we face – are just too big and too much to handle. We may feel that as one person, there is little we can do. I am personally very passionate about making life for people living with diabetes around the world better, and for a long time I was really tired of being outraged by global inequality of access to medicine, education, and supplies. Before I decided to DO something with my outrage, it remained only that – sadness and anger about the problem. Once I decided to take the first step towards changing this problem, tackling it didn’t seem as daunting as it had before I was working towards change. For me, the first step towards change was in the form of this web site.
My initial desire to do something is what brought me to the London to study International Development. It wasn’t easy to take that huge step and move halfway across the world to pursue my passion, but I had a feeling it might be worth it. Boy, was it ever! In London I met my husband, John (who also has Type 1 diabetes), through a diabetes social group. The support and friendship that John offers keeps me going, especially when the problems I am working to fix seem insurmountable. I never dreamed that one big step in the right direction would bring me my best friend and husband, but I am so lucky that it did.
I also never imagined that taking small steps would lead me towards a purpose and a focus that was once only smouldering rage at injustice in the world. If I had not come to London or started T1International, I may never have met some of the amazing and incredible people making waves in the diabetes world who I now consider to be my mentors. People like the former Young Leaders in Diabetes president, Alex Silverstein, who fought for young people living with diabetes in the United Kingdom to ensure they were getting more resources, a voice and a platform to do big things. People like Merith Basey, who has worked with an incredible organization called AYUDA and is at the forefront of the fight for access to insulin for everyone with diabetes. People like those of you reading this, who keep me going when I hear about our shared passions and the steps you are taking towards your own goals. So I will continue to take steady steps, exploring the terrible and scary problems faced by people with diabetes around the world to encourage more steps to be taken which can and WILL lead to something positive.
Advocating and fundraising for a cause you feel emotionally tied to is not always easy, and every step we take as advocates or changemakers isn’t going to be the right one. We may stumble or fall down because of a miscalculated step we took. Sometimes we even get tripped up or intentionally knocked down by others, which can be confusing and painful. However, if the path were an easy one, I suppose there wouldn’t be glaring problems in the first place. We won’t be able to change a life, a policy, or the world if we are standing still. This is where the support of others and the determination to keep putting one foot in front of the other comes in.
Despite having taken both baby steps and more measured, grown-up ones, it can still feel like making real change is an uphill battle. There is a long way to go, but if I had decided against those intimidating first steps earlier in life, I would not be where I am today. I think that the diabetes community (and the rest of the world) must take a deep breath, and take a step – or a leap – forward in order to make positive change and see encouraging results for people with diabetes around the globe. This happened in a big way recently with the smashing successes of the Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign. More than $27,000 was raised for the Life for a Child programme, which will help children all over the world access their life-saving insulin. This is an amazing achievement and it was accomplished by many large and small (but very significant) steps in the right direction. And we can do so much more! When we think about mobilising the diabetes community to do even more for similar causes and to highlight issues that should be the true priorities in the diabetes world, the possibilities for success are endless!
My own determination has led me to take another step by joining an amazing programme called AYUDA. With AYUDA, I will travel to the Dominican Republic in June to plan and execute summer programmes for children with Type 1 diabetes and their families. Access to insulin and other diabetes supplies is a real struggle for many in Dominican Republic, but the camp will give them a chance to interact with people who live happy and healthy lives with diabetes. This has been a literal step for me out of my comfort zone, having a very significant fundraising target to reach, but it facilitates an even bigger step for the children who, at the camp, will learn the best ways to thrive with diabetes.
John and I are working really hard – John is taking literally hundreds of thousands of steps – to raise awareness and get people’s compassion for a programme like AYUDA to shine through. We have created the T1I Marketplace where we are selling original art in exchange for donations to the AYUDA cause. You can take a small step by buying something from the marketplace (and getting something awesome in return!), supporting the fundraising effort, or reading about the issues to understand more about what some people living with diabetes in other countries are facing.
It’s not going to be easy, but I am resolute in my belief that we can all help bring a positive end to everyone’s diabetes story, no matter where they live. So what will your next step be? You won’t regret it.