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This summer’s Campo Amigo Dominicano has ended which means that my AYUDA and Aprendiendo a Vivir outreach activities have finished for the time being. There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing that the kids and families we reached out to and created activities for took something away that will help them live happier and healthier lives.
The theme for camp this year was Sé tu Héroe, or ‘‘be your own hero’’, which was reinforced throughout all the days of camp in the hopes that kids could view themselves as superheroes. We wanted campers to leave with the sense that anyone with diabetes can do anything that a person without diabetes can do and that they have a whole community of superheroes behind them. It was so great to see this play out with our little 4-8 year old heroes as we reminded them how awesome they are and helped them to better understand their diabetes, like any good hero would. We went all out with masks, capes, and art activities related to superheroes to really drive home the theme.
One hero sticks out in my mind in particular. She came to all three days of our camp and was incredibly closed off, quiet and non-participatory the first day. Everyone in our group spent some one-on-one time with her to encourage and support, but we did not succeed in getting her to join in with the group. The only activity she took part in the first day was colouring her superhero and making her hero mask. The next weekend she came back and I could see the look of recognition on her face when she saw that the same volunteers would be with her again. We had gained a little trust, although she was still very nervous leaving her dad as he headed to the parent’s room. She joined in more activities that second day and I even spotted her dancing with a few of the AYUDA volunteers towards the end of the day.
On the morning of the final day of camp, her face lit up when she saw me and the other girls. She pointed me out to her dad saying, ‘‘That was the girl from yesterday,’’ and happily joined our group. When we did our ice-breaker activities, I actually saw her smiling as we all sang and danced a little song as a group. She participated in every single activity that day, and was more physically active than she had been in a long time. There was also an opportunity that day for the oldest campers to come and teach our young ones, and when the big-kid heroes asked the group some questions about food choices, her quiet voice rang out to declare examples of foods with carbohydrates and without.
I was so pleased to see so much progress in such a short time with all of our campers in terms of diabetes education, but this particular hero come out of her shell and joined the community which is something I didn’t think was possible on the first day of camp.
We need more Heroes!
Thanks again so much for making this experience for these people living with diabetes possible. I was able to see, in-action, the change happening and the emergence of many heroes.
But we need more heroes. There are more kids that need this kind of experience and others who cannot come on this experience without access to their life-saving insulin and supplies. You can still give to this cause and help to develop more little heroes.
I would love to raise $8,000 for AYUDA because every extra $100 is another child getting to spend a day learning about his or her diabetes, either at the foundation or at camp next year, which is priceless.
I’ve been blogging about my experience. There are a few quotes below, with links to the full posts included.
‘‘Aprendiendo a Vivir provides diabetes supplies to families who a part of their educational programmes, which is so vital for so many of the families. Despite this, some people still cannot afford transportation costs to get to the foundation to receive supplies and education, so there are many barriers to a healthy, happy life with diabetes.’’ Read more…
‘‘It made me pretty emotional to see everyone together, excited for the day and united for diabetes education and empowerment.’’ Read more…
Why this Matters to Me
As some of you may know, I am incredibly passionate about diabetes around the world - particularly when it comes to access to insulin and diabetes education. I have had diabetes for 22 years and I write a blog about global diabetes topics at t1international.com. My background in international development and my outrage that not everyone living with diabetes has equal access to what they deserve have inspired me to work fervently towards equality for all people living with diabetes. I also recently completed the IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes training in Melbourne where I was able to connect with young people living with diabetes from all corners of the globe. It was a thrilling and humbling experience that made me even more determined to be part of solutions to these issues.
This passion led me in the direction of volunteering for AYUDA, helping plan and put on a summer camp for kids with diabetes (and their families). Diabetes camp meant the world to me as a kid, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to give something back and ensure that kids who are lacking in supplies and education get the knowledge to help them survive and thrive with diabetes.
What is AYUDA?
AYUDA is a non-profit volunteer organization that empowers youth to serve as agents of change in diabetes communities around the world. AYUDA’s innovative peer learning model uses international volunteers as catalysts for empowering local youth living with diabetes to live happy and healthy lives. I am so excited and lucky to be one of those volunteers.
As a volunteer, I will go to the Dominican Republic for three weeks to support AYUDA's local partner organization, Aprendiendo a Vivir. Together we will organize programs for young people with diabetes to promote youth leadership and motivate young people with diabetes to lead healthier and happier lives. For some of the new young attendees in the DR, it will be their first experience receiving diabetes education and meeting other people living with diabetes. This will be an instrumental part of their education.
Please get in touch if you have further questions about the program or my involvement with AYUDA.
Why is your donation so important?
AYUDA endeavours to remain a grassroots volunteer organization in a unique way: by asking its volunteers to participate in fundraising for the cost of their programs. Fundraising by volunteers contributes to 1/3 of the costs to run AYUDA’s programs and sponsor local diabetes projects, so every donation goes directly to the AYUDA cause.
For example, $100 can support a child to attend a day at the Campo Amigo diabetes camp this summer. I cannot stress enough the importance of this program. Whatever you can give will help - it all adds up!
A tax-deductible donation online makes supporting AYUDA quick and easy. Your support will ensure that local diabetes programs continue.
I greatly appreciate your support towards this hugely significant experience. Thank you!
¡Juntos Somos Mas Fuertes!
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