June 17th saw the arrival of 10 new AYUDA volunteers into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic led by AYUDA staff and three Volunteer Mentors. This year broke a record for the greatest number of AYUDA volunteers living with type 1 diabetes - more than 50%! AYUDA's youth to youth model has served not only to inspire, educate and support children with diabetes in Latin America but also to inspire the AYUDA volunteers with diabetes to improve their own diabetes control.
The volunteers hit the ground running with various diabetes 101 review sessions in preparation for the registration meeting held in AYUDA's partner organization Aprendiendo A Vivir (AAV). Volunteers met and pre-registered many of AAV's children and youth with type 1 diabetes from across the country for the family diabetes education sessions held on Sunday 24th June at Colegio Consa in Santo Domingo. The sessions were aimed at children from the foundation and their families - in total the family day saw over 165 people in attendance. Preparation for each of the activities was planned during the days prior to the family day. AYUDA volunteers worked closely with six local medical students - each group was responsible for preparing educational and dynamic activities in accordance with specific diabetes education learning objectives as defined by Sandra Jaquez, Director of Education at Aprendiendo A Vivir. The activities were divided by age group - the green group took children up to the age of 8, the blue group from 9 to 13 and the yellow were the rising young leaders in diabetes, from 14 to 20 years of age. The children and young people all had mixed numbers of years living with diabetes and mixed experience but had been participating in the foundation activities for at least 12 months. Prior to the family day, the young leaders, medical students and AYUDA volunteers, met for a full day of pre-camp training to revise the camp protocols (along with Dr Morla, chief endocrinologist from the main children's hospital in Santo Domingo Robert Reid Cabral) and finalize preparations for the camp itself.
This year AYUDA and AAV were lucky to welcome a team of 5 young leaders from Haitian diabetes organization FHADIMAC based in Port au Prince. The group were lead by the President of the organization Dr Nancy Larco who was of immense support to the program. Not only did the mix of volunteers and organizations help to stengthen ties between organizations but also served to broaden the vision of volunteers and young leaders alike with regard to ideas for dynamic diabetes education activities. This year we also had a special visit from Manny Hernandez and some of his team from www.estudiabetes.org and the Big Blue Test. More updates to follow on this soon!
During the weekend of 30th June and the 1st July a total of 39 children and young people who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the previous 12 months (or had recently joined Aprendiendo a Vivir) participated in diabetes education sessions led by Dominican youth leaders and AYUDA volunteers. Separate sessions were organized for the parents and siblings. Over 140 people attended the weekend in Santo Domingo. Campers and their parents were provided with additional testing strips and asked to test three times during the night and early morning, record their blood sugars and bring them to camp for review to enable better understanding of blood glucose control during the night (as well as allowing for possible dosis changes with the endocrinologists at camp).
The final days that the AYUDA spent in Santo Domingo were taken up with community outreach and home visits to participants at camp. The home visits not only serve as a method of increasing the links of families to the local foundation but also as follow-up from camp where key learning objectives could be reviewed in the home setting.
Preparations are already underway for the month of August which is 'Diabetes Month' in the Dominican Republic - where currently 15% of the population has diabetes.
In March 2012, AYUDA's local partner the FDJE (Fundacion Diabetes Juvenil Ecuador) and AYUDA implemented a type 1 diabetes training workshop for local doctors in the region of Santa Elena. A total of 29 doctors attended the program, held in the main public hospital in Santa Elena. Santa Elena was chosen due to the low level of diabetes education among health workers and the high number of children supported by the FDJE in the region. The region currently has just 1 doctor per 10,000 people.
Home visits to a number of the children living with type 1 diabetes and their families were also carried out. In total 50 children are fully supported by the FDJE's sponsorship program for low-income families. The support provided includes diabetes supplies, education and follow up. Since the average monthly income in the Santa Elena region is estimated to be $260 per month, provision of what would otherwise be unaffordable diabetes supplies (such as insulin, syringes and blood glucose strips) is important. Diabetes education however is just as important as insulin and therefore the home visits and local education workshops are crucial.
In addition, a weekend family education program was held in Quito, Pichincha. A total of 110 people participated, including children, youth and their parents. AYUDA and the FDJE are currently in preparations for this summer’s activities, including the Volunteer Training Program Summit in Washington which concluded on Sunday April 1st.
The last few months have been busy for the AYUDA and Aprendiendo A Vivir (AAV) teams. Members of the AYUDA team have been working closely with the AAV young leaders from the new office location (now on the 27 de Febrero) in Santo Domingo.
A young leader from AAV, Alexander Estevez, was selected to join the AYUDA volunteer training program summit in Washington DC held from March 30th to April 1st. Alexander spoke with passion to the new volunteer teams, local partners and guests about the realities of living with diabetes in the Dominican Republic and his hopes for the future given the role of AAV in his country.
Preparations are currently in place for a 10k, 5k and Zumbathon event planned for June 3rd in the Botanical Gardens in Santo Domingo to raise awareness about diabetes and encourage people to exercise (in particular given that 75% of Dominicans do not exercise regularly). The event should also serve to raise funds for the foundation's summer activities. In addition, plans are underway for June’s diabetes education programs with AYUDA planned for June and July 2012, including extended outreach activities across the country.