As I sat in the AYUDA offices on the first day of the VTP Summit, I reflected on just how I had ended up in some random office building, full of people I didn’t know on a cold morning in March. By some stroke of luck, I had stumbled across the AYUDA website through a Google search a couple months earlier looking for some combination of the words “Spanish” and “diabetes camp.” Turns out AYUDA fits the criteria. However, as I learned more and more about what exactly AYUDA is and the people that make it up, I realized it is so much more than simply a “Spanish (language) diabetes camp.”
I think that the best description for AYUDA is the one in boldface letters that spans the bottom of the website: “Empowering youth to serve as agents of change around the world.” AYUDA invests in its volunteers and truly believes that together, we can make a change in the world. At the VTP Summit, I was able to witness firsthand the incredible people that AYUDA attracts and the incredible passion that they bring to the table. I felt like the people I met through AYUDA and Aprendiendo a Vivir (AAV) truly strive to serve as agents of change in the world. If the future of diabetes education in the Dominican Republic and the world is up to them, I think we’re in good hands.
Throughout my life, I have always thought of diabetes as simply a part of my life and not my whole life. I think that through our work at AYUDA, my fellow volunteers and I can help impart this philosophy on other youth living with diabetes and help educate them on how to live healthy, happy lives with diabetes. I am counting down the days to Campo Amigo this summer and look forward to working with AYUDA in the future!
I must admit, I had no idea what to expect when I stepped off the plane in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. While the volunteer training program (VTP) in Washington, DC a few months prior had given me the tools and resources needed for going in-country, actually working in the field is a totally different experience.
Having previously worked in countries such as Ghana and Kenya, I thought that my week in Haiti would be a piece of cake. Boy, was I wrong. My week in Haiti was more challenging, educational, and inspiring than any other work I have done.Our week kicked-off with a two day leadership training at FHADIMAC, our wonderful partner who is the leading diabetes organization in Haiti. There, I was able to meet in-person the youth leaders I have heard so many wonderful things about. Working with them during the leadership training was such a rewarding experience, but seeing them in action at camp was where I really saw them shine.
Not only did they form a connection with campers that is only possible between two people living with the same condition in similar circumstances, but they took the “leadership” title to heart. During our education sessions, one of my incredible co-counselors led a discussion about how to properly give yourself insulin. I have never seen a group of five to ten year-olds so enthralled with diabetes education. My co-counselor was not only teaching our campers about diabetes, but he was teaching me how to be a leader.
It was moments like these that made me realize how fortunate I was to be working alongside such incredible people and how important organizations like AYUDA and FHADIMAC are in promoting empowerment and sustainability.
What am I going to do for the rest of my life? This is the question that haunts any junior in high school. There are so many factors that key into the making of this type of decision. I sit and I search and I search and I find the word “help” sitting right in front of me; this was exactly what I was searching for. AYUDA opened the door for me to a new feeling of knowing.How did I know this? I know I like to motivate, I like to meet new people, I like to volunteer, I like to help people, I like to learn, I like to travel, and I like to exercise. AYUDA is all of these things I like combined, so I was very interested. I applied, and I got accepted to be an AYUDA volunteer. My experience with AYUDA so far has been phenomenal. I got to experience traveling alone for the first time when I flew across the country to meet all the volunteers at the Volunteer Training Program Summit. This is where I learned all about diabetes and how to take care of it. I also learned how to efficiently fundraise and how to talk about AYUDA. I was introduced to a culture I was previously unfamiliar with; I learned about the traditions, food and dances of the Dominican Republic.My fundraising efforts have gotten me more involved in my community. I have met many people who love to donate to organizations like AYUDA, and I have made many long-lasting friendships with people who have been interested in supporting me. I cannot wait to go to the Dominican Republic in one week to volunteer in the Ganémosle program. I am looking forward to promoting exercise by encouraging people to participate in Ganémosle la Carerra a la Diabetes.