Tuesday, 18 March 2014

T1 International

If you haven't heard of T1International then this is a great chance to find out more!

Elizabeth Rowley has has had Type 1 Diabetes for over 20 years and is the founder of T1International, a platform used to raise awareness for those around the world who may not be as fortunate as others regarding their diabetes treatments and care. 

Elizabeth and I met as Diabetes UK Young Leaders and have recently been talking about an exciting new project she's working on... I did an interview with Liz to find out more. Here's what she had to say;

Hi Liz! Tell me a bit about yourself and how T1International came about...

My name is Elizabeth Rowley. I grew up in the United States in a small town and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of four. As I got older and learned more about the world outside of my small town, I began to wonder what it might be like to live in another place with poor healthcare systems or what might happen to me if I found myself amidst a natural disaster or conflict of some sort. I discovered that getting my insulin and diabetes supplies would be very difficult in certain situations, and I thought about the many people around the world that actually face those circumstances daily.

I have a background in International Studies, and I came to London in 2011 to study International Development and learn more about health and development obstacles. The more I learned, the more I realised that access to medical care, supplies (like insulin) and education aren’t easily available or in any way affordable for a huge number of people living with diabetes. For example, some people’s life-saving insulin can cost as much as an outrageous 75% of their annual income. Soon after, I started to search for organizations or initiatives working to solve the problems that people living with diabetes in resource poor settings face. Despite coming across a few things, I couldn’t believe how little the issues were talked about or how few people knew about the situation.

I decided to create a space for anyone who might be interested in topics related to global Type 1 diabetes and access to medicine and education – and T1International was born. I wanted to be able to put all the organisational information and existing literature about these topics in one place to not only show how much more needs to be done, but to allow others to easily find existing information that initially took me months to scavenge.

Since its beginning last year, T1International has grown hugely. You can visit the site and see the resources, information, and original content we have produced.

So what's the latest T1International project all about?

Through the interviews I conduct regularly on T1International, I discovered the organization AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad) and I knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of. In June, I will go to the Dominican Republic to plan and put on a summer camp for kids with diabetes (and their families). Diabetes camp meant the world to me when I was growing up and it helped me to take control of my diabetes and my life. This project is the perfect opportunity for me to give something back and ensure that kids who are lacking supplies and education get the knowledge to help them survive and thrive with diabetes. For many, it will be their first chance to interact with others living with diabetes, so it will be life-changing for them.

Dominican campers learning about their diabetes

You can read more about my motivation for the program and the program itself at my fundraising page here or at www.t1international.com/ayuda.

In order to keep the grassroots charity projects sustainable, AYUDA’s model asks volunteers to fundraise significantly towards the programmes they will be working on. I have to raise nearly £4,000 before I travel to the DR to support the educational camps in June.

I am not taking my fundraising goal lightly. My husband (who also has type 1 diabetes) and I recently opened an online marketplace through T1International. This Marketplace is something we have wanted to do for a long time to use our combined interest in art, and all things creative, to support international diabetes causes. The T1I Marketplace is an online shop where you can purchase artwork made by people with diabetes (and supporters of people with diabetes) in exchange for donations to the AYUDA program.

Every item you ‘buy’ will support kids in the Dominican Republic to live happier, healthier lives – so it’s a win-win for everything! In the future, we hope that the T1I Market can be used to fundraise for other causes as well, so we won’t stop after we reach the AYUDA target!

Some of the art available at the marketplace

This sounds like an amazing project! What can people do to help you achieve the goals for your project?

Simply spreading the word about T1International and the AYUDA project will help. Raising awareness is the first step in all of this, and taking action is the next. You can take action by supporting my AYUDA fundraising effort through a donation or by reading about the issues to understand more about what some people living with diabetes in other countries are facing.

Check out the Marketplace and get something awesome in return for your donation! Please note that we can customize almost anything to make sure your art is special to you. And don’t let the $ put you off. AYUDA is an international programme but its head office is based in the USA, which is why all the money is in $. Luckily, the exchange rate from $ to £ is great right now, so $20 is only about £12!

You can become a ‘Friend of T1International’ by sharing what T1International is all about on your own blog, page or social media outlet. You can also support us by sharing ideas of what you would like to see more of at T1I in terms of global diabetes. We are always excited to share the voices of people living with diabetes from around the world and pleased when people want to help our efforts. We are all in this diabetes community together, so if you have an idea for T1I, a way you would like to be involved, or something we could support you on, please get in touch!

And are there any future projects on the horizon?

T1I is collaborating on a few different projects at the moment. Some I cannot reveal too much about yet, but there is definitely some exciting stuff in the works!

One thing that we do hope to add on the T1I site as a continually-growing resource is information about what it is like, practically, to live with Type 1 diabetes in various countries around the world. It will offer some basics about what the healthcare system is like in Brazil or Togo, for example, and will explain that means for someone with Type 1. It will share known information about availability of medicine and education, and will look at whether or not there are disparities throughout the country where some people receive medicine and quality care while others might not.

That’s just one example of something we hope to offer, but we are working with some great partners, like NCD Child, to ensure that voices of young people with diabetes are heard resoundingly throughout the globe so that together we can help to not only raise awareness, but to bring a positive end to everyone’s diabetes story, no matter where they live.

You can also follow Elizabeth's journey on twitter via @T1International and on facebook

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