What do you enjoy most about your role?
What I most enjoy in my role as Project Officer is feeling part of the community at our face-to-face events and in the online support group for children living with type 1 diabetes and their families. It’s a rewarding experience when children and families realise they don’t have to deal with the diagnosis on their own and have a strong support system around them.
What are some of the challenges that young people living with type 1 diabetes face?
Looking after type 1 diabetes is a 24/7 job. An unexpected diagnosis places families under significant stress as they work to learn about diabetes and do everything they can to keep their child safe and healthy. Children with type 1 diabetes need to regularly monitor their blood glucose levels, calculate insulin doses, consider the food they are eating and any activity they are doing. This can be utterly exhausting for children and their families.
Isolation and feeling ‘different’ because of their diabetes is another big factor. Many children may never meet someone else with type 1 diabetes, until they attend a DiaBuddies event! At a recent face-to-face event in Queensland a family drove hours from the small town of Ayr, South of Townsville so their family could meet and connect with others for the first time. Seeing the children compare insulin pumps, or talk about their favourite hypo treatments (jellybeans, lemonade or juice etc.) is really special. Seeing their relief when they realise they aren’t the only one dealing with diabetes is such a privilege to watch. Feedback from parents tells us that attending even just one event helps children to feel more confident and positive about living with type 1 diabetes. And the benefits continue long after the event. As is the case for a family in the Nepean area of NSW, who attended a DiaBuddies Day in January 2019 and continue to enjoy friendships made at that event.
How has the pandemic impacted DiaBuddies Days events?
Future Generation Australia funding allowed us to adapt DiaBuddies events from face-to-face to online so we could continue supporting the children and their families and carers. DiaBuddies online events have quickly become a favourite amongst families in NSW, ACT and Queensland, with a regular group devoted to joining us monthly to connect with each other and ask questions of our health professionals. As the pandemic evolved, our team in Queensland has worked diligently to follow public health advice and capacity limits to successfully host face-to-face DiaBuddies events across the state. These events in NSW & ACT may still be some time away, however, online events have continued to welcome new families to the DiaBuddies community. We have almost 500 families in our closed Facebook support group who share tips and advice to keep each other going through difficult times.
What are some of the important ways that Diabetes Kids Fund fosters community for families living with type 1 diabetes?
Diabetes Kids Fund and DiaBuddies events help children and families in three main ways.
- Creating an environment that provides fun and a feeling of normality for kids and parents.
- Provides connections to others who understand the challenges of living with diabetes and can lend a listening ear in tough times.
- Provides education, information and access to health professionals who can support them on their journey with diabetes.
The move to digital delivery during COVID-19 has broadened our ability to share and promote other community events and information important to families with a child living with type 1 diabetes. For example, recently we’ve worked with organisations like Butterfly Foundation and Black Dog Institute to provide our families with convenient access to experts in the mental health space.
Do you have any other updates from Diabetes Kids Fund?
Diabetes Kids Fund is taking big strides into the digital space with the creation of an eLearning module ‘Caring for children with type 1 diabetes’. The course which is designed to help parents and carers understand how to care for a child living with type 1 diabetes will cover positive language, how stress and anxiety affect blood glucose levels, diabetes management, diabetes technology and nutrition.
Plans are also underway for the delivery of an exciting online special event – DiaBuddies Digital Quest. The event will use innovative technology to offer a fully interactive online experience. Children and their families will be able to choose their own journey through fun and educational activities.
Thanks to funding from Future Generation Australia, DiaBuddies can support children living with type 1 diabetes and their parents and carers with community events, informative educational sessions and provide a safe space to connect with other families on the journey with a child living with type 1 diabetes.