Greetings to all our Haiti supporters!
We are pleased to report that on the 21st April 2014, five AYUDA volunteers journeyed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti in support of a diabetes education program for 68 children and youth living with diabetes. For AYUDA, this was a pilot volunteer program, condensed into 7 days and nights after 10 weeks of training and preparation (and of course fundraising). FHADIMAC (fhadimac.org), AYUDA’s local partner based out of Port au Prince, had selected a location for camp one and half hours north of the capital in a beautiful coastal location called Moulin-sur-Mer. The setting was one of the most beautiful locations in which AYUDA had ever co-hosted a camp and it turned out to be the first opportunity for many of the campers to enjoy a dip in the sea despite living on a Caribbean island.
The AYUDA volunteers were a mixed group with diverse skillsets but who brought much more to the experience that the sum of their parts. Four of the five were living with diabetes themselves (some for more than 20 years each) and four of them had prior experience in-country with AYUDA, but for one this would be her first overseas introduction to AYUDA. Although team members spoke French (along with some basic Haitian Creole), we managed to overcome language barriers with the help of the young leaders who spoke some English, French and Creole to provide a safe, educational and recreational diabetes camping environment.
Two and a half days were spent in the Caribbean nation’s capital revising activities for camp, preparing materials and getting to know some of FHADIMAC’s young leaders. FHADIMAC is lead by the tireless Dr Nancy Charles Larco, daughter of Dr Rene Charles Larco who founded the organization more than 25 years ago. Keeping it in the family, experienced AYUDA volunteer and granddaughter of the founder, Vanessa Larco, took a leadership role in the camp and helped to merge the AYUDA and FHADIMAC teams into one. The team also spent some time at the University State Hospital in Port au Prince, the pediatric department still functioning 4 years post-earthquake in temporary buildings. A shift to more permanent home is hoped for in the near future but hasn't yet happened.
On Thursday 24th April, the AYUDA team supported the FHADIMAC staff in registering the campers at FHADIMAC, testing blood sugars and ensuring everyone had taken their insulin. A packed lunch was provided and once everyone’s paperwork was done, the AYUDA team jumped into a car to head to camp ahead of the FHADIMAC buses that were following behind.
‘Do you have diabetes?’ one of the campers from Cap Haitian asked AYUDA volunteer Chris who has been living with diabetes for 2 decades diagnosed as a small child, ‘how is that possible if you’re so big!?’. These sort of revelations were heard multiple times over the camp days, since this was the first time that many had had the opportunity to engage with other young people living with the same condition who weren’t from Haiti.
The camp was 3 days and nights during which the AYUDA team worked tirelessly from the 7am morning blood sugar checks to the 1am night rounds. The FHADIMAC young leaders quickly took on leadership in their new camp counselor roles. Meanwhile, the night activities revealed an intensely competitive Haitian spirit for musical chairs and a constant desire to dance whenever possible. New friendships were formed and many talents were shared in the final evening’s talent show.
As the camp wrapped up on the Sunday morning, an emphasis was made on the community aspect of the program and the feeling that everyone was connected, not just by diabetes but the shared experiences during the four days. As the groups departed back to their respective communities in Port au Prince, Cap Haitian and St Marc the organizers remained to evaluate and discuss opportunities to improve for our next activities.
Thank you for your continued support!
For this report to our donors, I'd like to share a blog post from one of our returning volunteers:
By Ashley Morse (Campo Amigo Dominican Republic 2013 and 2014)
On May 11th I celebrated ten full years of living with diabetes. If you talked to me on May 11th of any other year, I would not have been so celebratory. In fact, I use to regard diabetes as a hindrance. It made every aspect of my life—sports, class and friends— more difficult. May 11th merely served to remind me of how much more challenging my life had to be as a result of diabetes. However, May 11th, 2014 was different. After finding my place last year as an AYUDA volunteer and spending three weeks in the Dominican Republic to support others with this same condition, my mindset changed completely. Diabetes is still a huge day- to-day commitment with a plethora of emotional and physical ups and downs, but for me, it has been a blessing in disguise.
Last summer was the first summer I volunteered with AYUDA, and I’ll be returning this year for the Campo Amigo program in the Dominican Republic. It was an incredibly sobering experience to witness the poverty some Dominicans face on top of managing such an expensive condition. The experience showed me how lucky I am to have access to such great resources and to be supported by such a wonderful community. In this way, my experience with diabetes challenged me to take full advantage of the resources and knowledge I have and to bring them into communities that are less fortunate. AYUDA became the first experience in my life for which I felt I could personally make a difference. I learned that there are few things in life that bring as much happiness as assisting another to improve his or her life.
So, thanks to AYUDA, this year and every year, I’ll be celebrating on May 11th.
I send a warm and hearty thank you to all our supporters for your continued support! As AYUDA's motto says "Juntos somos más fuertes!" - Together we are stronger!
In recognition of World Diabetes Day on November 14th, a small, experienced AYUDA Team combined forces once again with the young leaders of AYUDA's primary partner organization in the Dominican Republic (Aprendiendo a Vivir/AAV) to put together a series of diabetes education and outreach activities in schools across the capital. All sessions started with asking students what they had heard about diabetes and whether they knew anyone in their families with the condition. More than half of students raised their hands in most of the sessions. The rest of the interactive sessions focused on 'myth-busting' a lot of preconceived ideas about diabetes, how it occurred and how it could be managed. In total more than 1000 students were reached via this pilot program. Furthermore, funds were raised for our local partner through the sale of diabetes day bracelets and T-shirts.
In addition to these sessions, the team was involved with a Media Tour discussing World Diabetes Day which included TV, Radio and newspaper appearances. These events culminated in a specially designed workshop in San Pedro de Macorís with a small local foundation called "El Hogar del Diabético". This new partnership with AAV serves as an outreach opportunity for both organizations to work closely with a broader population of people living with diabetes. AYUDA volunteers Louise Kyle and Chris Noble worked with AAV's young leaders to prepare sessions on diabetes education 101 while Diabetes Health Educator and Nurse from Barcelona, Irune Goicochea, delivered a more technical training on diabetes management to local nurses from the main public hospital in the region as well a small group of nursing students.
World Diabetes Day activities also included a hosting of an hour of a global WDD chat on issues around youth empowerment and diabetes, and the lighting in blue (the color of diabetes) of one of the main Agora shopping Mall in Santo Domingo.