I have been so fortunate to have been able to volunteer in a variety of ways from local walks to medical work internationally. Although it is usually long days (and even nights) finding the time to organize and accomplish volunteer work, I always finish with a big smile on my face and feel so lucky to have shared in the experiences. If you haven’t gotten your feet wet in volunteering, here are some ideas!
If you feel you have limited time to volunteer (kids at home, aging parent responsibilities, physical limitations), start locally. Diabetes walks are available throughout the country, and if you do not have one in your city or town, consider starting one! Contact either the American Diabetes Association or JDRF – or start one for your own as a diabetes awareness campaign! Bike rides for diabetes are also spread throughout the country. You can give a few hours helping out the day of the event, joining a committee and helping to recruit volunteers, planning the food, being a bike coach or providing support along the route. Your family (large and small) can usually take part in these activities as well. It’s a great day! When riders cross the finish line with big smiles on their faces, I often have tears in my eyes and realize how lucky I was to have been a part of the event. I bet you will, too.
It is easy to volunteer for children’s diabetes camps. It’s a huge learning curve for those new to kids with type 1 diabetes. Now that is something I would just as soon do all summer long; just leaping from one camp to the next. From nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and physicians – everyone is needed at kid’s camp. I happen to love the outdoors – and Montana and Colorado, where I volunteer, have the most beautiful camp locations! It was just a phone call and I was volunteering to be a counselor – oh so many years ago. That has morphed into planning all the menus and seeing over the medical needs of kids at camp. It takes a lot of my time, but with a supportive husband, and a job that allows me to take some “leave without pay,” I’m able to spend time in the outdoors, helping to guide children with diabetes in decision making that hopefully can make a difference (or at least keep them safe and happy at camp!) My husband volunteers with me on diabetes backpack and raft trips as a guide and chef, and has learned so much of what I do and has been amazed at the intensity required to manage diabetes!
There is also international volunteering – seeing new places and helping people around the world with diabetes or other medical conditions. I have traveled to places (Liberia, Honduras, Jamaica, and more) that have not been on my travel bucket list – staying in not so comfortable accommodations, rinsing off in freezing cold showers with water surrounding my feet, eating food I had no idea what it was, seeing 700 patients in a long day and loving every bit of it. It is exhausting and wonderful all at the same time. Contact your local hospital or church. They may have a fit for you!
And if you are a bit more conventional, volunteer for your professional organizations such as AADE and ADA. I have met wonderful colleagues from around the country volunteering for national committees as we have worked together to help shape a part of the guidelines for diabetes education.
It’s all there – waiting for you. Find your match and receive the warm feeling of giving freely of your time and energy to a cause beyond your work environment.
I know MANY of you are passionate about what we do and volunteer in a wide variety of capacities. Please share your activities and provide insight for those looking for their volunteer match.