Monday, 31 July 2017

Volunteering on a Type 1 Event - Ardentinny

Top: Steven, Isla, Miguel, Andy, Kirsty, Lorna, Rory, Becky, Me
Bottom: Amy, Claire and Magic
This year I was a volunteer on a Type 1 Event, previously known as "Care Events", and it was such an amazing experience, I enjoyed every minute of it. I have attended two Type 1 Events myself, and I benefited so much from them that I decide that when I was old enough, I was going to return as a volunteer.

I got accepted as a volunteer at the 8-10 year old camp in Scotland, which was held in Ardentinny, Dunoon. I have never done anything with young people of this age before, and I had never met any of the other volunteers before arriving, so I was very nervous to start, but also really excited! At the camp I attended, which was for 16-18 year old, the young people were left to independently control our own diabetes, however I knew that on this camp the volunteers would have a lot more involvement in diabetes control.
Me, Andy (volunteer) and Becky (student nurse)
I arrived very early to the event. I didn't want to be late, so instead I arrived over an hour early, which meant that I arrived before anyone else. This left me sitting with my own thoughts and made me even more nervous. After sitting for around 15 minutes, the other volunteers started to arrive. They all seemed to know each other already, after having been on the camp together several times, but they made me feel welcome, and included me in everything.

Me and Becky (student nurse)
When volunteering on these camps, the team arrive a day early, which allows everyone to get to know each other before the young people arrive, and I'm so glad this happens. It gave me time to relax, and prepare myself for everyone arriving, knowing that I was supported by everyone. I soon found out that the team were very outgoing, and there was never a dull moment!

The volunteers are filled with a mix of Health Care Professionals, including Diabetes Specialist Nurses, Doctors, a dietician and a student nurse, as well as volunteers living with diabetes. This camp also had a special guest: Claire (one of the organisers) had a diabetes alert dog, which all the young people (and volunteers) loved!

Magic Alerting Claire
I was in a room with Isla (One of the Diabetes Specialist Nurses) and Rachel (a volunteer with type 1 diabetes). Both of them were lovely roommates, although these camps keep us all so busy we were like ships passing in the night, we barely saw each other! One of us would be on night-shift, which meant we got to sleep in the following day, or one of us would be on Wake-up, which meant they were up and out of the room before the others were even awake, or we would all be so exhausted from the day that we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows!

Isla and Magic in our room!
Throughout the camps, all of the young people got to do all activities throughout the week, but at different times, so we were all divided into groups. In each group there was 5 young people and 3/4 volunteers. In my group, there was Kirsty (the camp dietitian) and Rory (one of the doctors). Each of the groups had a name, Bob, Kevin or Stuart (named after the minions!), and Rory, Kirsty and myself were assigned Team Bob. There was also Steven, who could sub into a group if one of us got too exhausted or ill, and there was extra volunteers in each group, which meant we could switch around and still have enough volunteers should something happen.

Me and Kirsty before going Rock Hopping
Kirsty bringing the energy to our group

I have 4 words to describe the week: Loud, colourful, exhausting and priceless. Kirsty made team "Bob" so energetic, constantly singing, dancing and rallying the young people and me and Rory to participate in everything.  We did so many amazing and challenging activities, such as Gorge walking, rock climbing, rock hopping and dragon boating, I was exhausted, let alone the young people! However Kirsty made sure there was never a lull and made sure we made the most of every moment!
Team Bob's Trophy after we won the dragon boating competition!

It was amazing to see how much the young people got out of the week, not being the only one having hypos, having to count carbs and give insulin. They were the majority for once, and it is priceless to see how none of them were ashamed about anything, just testing, taking insulin and never letting having type 1 hold them back, things which they may have hidden at home!

Andy, Becky and I
It wasn't just the young people who got a lot out of this camp. After talking to the young people, and the other volunteers, I related to a lot of how they felt. Building a connection with a young person becomes a lot easier when you understand how they feel, and by the end of the week, I had a tear in my eye when they left.

Volunteering on these camps was just as amazing as attending them. You still get a feeling of belonging from both the other volunteers and the young people, but you also get to see the young people grow in confidence throughout the week.
Me and Kirsty posing as Rose and Jack

If your thinking of volunteering on a camp, I would highly recommend it! Especially at Ardentinny, the team are amazing, as are the centre who accomodated us I am hoping to go back to Ardentinny as a volunteer again next year. I definitely have the camp blues after coming home!

If your thinking of sending your child to a camp, definitely consider Ardentinny. The young people are taken such good care of, and the food is scrumptious!

Until next time,

Alyssa x

Monday, 24 July 2017

IDF Youth Leadership Camp

IDF Europe Youth leadership Camp

This year I was very honoured to be invited to the 7th International Diabetes Federation Europe Youth Leadership Camp, which was to be held in Cluj Napoca, Romania. As I haven't traveled at lot, I was very excited and humbled to attend this!

Me and Rebecca (The other UK Representative)

The process of applying was long. A lengthy application form had to be completed, stating what you have done in your country, how you would benefit from the camp, and why you should be selected over the other applicants, and you also have to get a letter of recommendation from your local diabetes association, which in my case was Diabetes UK. This application took me a while, as I wanted to make sure that I had represented myself in the best light. A couple of months later I received an email with the subject "CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR SELECTION", which I was delighted and beyond excited about. One person from every EU country got selected, and I was the UK representative, so I was very happy about that. I later found out that someone from another European country had dropped out and so another girl from the UK had got selected in his place, meaning there was extra UK representation!

Me representing Diabetes UK while doing sports!

All the work I have done up until now has been national, either in Scotland or the United Kingdom. It had never even crossed my mind to try and reach people on a European level. However, on this camp, there was sessions on how to engage a wider audience, and on how to get sponsors for events to do so, which in turn has created some very daunting but exciting ideas. I have been given the tools that allow me to create campaigns, approach the leaders of diabetes, and make a change, which I plan to use as much as possible.

Most importantly this trip has allowed me to meet amazing contacts from all over the world. Not just the people teaching us, but also the participants, who have also done amazing things in their own country. These camps always have many benefits, from learning new sports, culture and skills, but I always find that the people I meet is the main benefit.

A group of us on the last night

I have attended many events about diabetes, but the IDF Youth Leadership Camp is by far the biggest event I have been honoured to attend, and will hopefully lead to bigger and better things! I would definitely recommend applying, even if you are unsure, because you never know what might come of it. Watch this space!

Until Next Time,

Alyssa x
It wasn't all business! Trip to the pub

Walking the beautiful landscape in Romania!
Group Photo!