My recent trip to Haiti as an AYUDA volunteer involved a lot of “firsts” for me:
- First program with AYUDA;
- First trip to Haiti;
- First time I’ve met other young people also living with diabetes;
- First experience with a diabetes camp;
- First time I’ve given a glucose test or insulin injection other than my own; and
- First time I’ve felt a part of a larger diabetes community.
I was so excited to get to Haiti that I barely slept at all during the nights leading up to my trip. I arrived in Port-au-Prince exhausted but eager to get started. We spent our first few days learning about Haiti and the diabetes community in the country, meeting with FHADIMAC youth leaders, planning camp activities, and visiting the capital’s university hospital. After three days in Port-au-Prince, we headed to camp for a whirlwind few days of nutrition trivia games, 1am blood glucose checks, and a few very competitive rounds of musical chairs. Camp was equal parts fun and educational, with just a dash of exhaustion thrown in for good measure. Some moments were hectic and some were hilarious.
My favorite experiences at camp were seeing the campers supporting and learning from each other. When we invited campers to talk about their experiences living with diabetes, more than one camper began with ,“When I was diagnosed, I thought I was completely alone,” or “When I was diagnosed, I thought I was going to die.”
They now know that they are not alone and that they can live happy, healthy lives with diabetes. That’s a pretty powerful change. Watching campers realize that there are people all over Haiti, and all over the world, living and thriving with diabetes was one of the highlights of my trip.
I am so thankful for both AYUDA and FHADIMAC. I can’t imagine sharing this experience with a better group of people – I spent my week in Haiti laughing and dancing and learning, and I can’t wait to go back.