Farewell Diabetes NZ, I'm stepping aside.

I recently stepped down from my role as the director of youth for Diabetes NZ. The role was created when I joined the team just over 2 years ago, to recognise, advocate and meet the specific needs of young people living with diabetes and their families. I was responsible for ensuring New Zealand youth had the necessary tools, resources and support to thrive. Having the flexibility to structure the role around my family, meant I could work 8 hours a week from home while the little man slept. As the role grew I doubled my hours and placed Felix in day-care.

The role, just like Type 1 diabetes was complex and challenging and I loved it! It was an incredible opportunity and privilege to provide leadership and planning across the diabetes youth sector. Leaving the Diabetes NZ whanau was a tough decision to make, but ultimately I know it’s the right thing to do for the diabetes community, my community. Empowering and supporting over 25,000 people living with T1 in New Zealand, of which 2,500 are children and young people requires more than the 16 hours I was able to give. It was time to step aside and let someone take the reins with more hours up their sleeve.

My last day felt bittersweet as I thought about the many things still to be done to help the diabetes community thrive. But as I logged off for the last time and prepared to pass the torch to the rest of the Diabetes NZ team, I reflected on the many incredible things we’d achieve in very part time hours:

  • Diabetes NZ partnered with the largest online diabetes organisation, Beyond Type 1 and worked together to deliver three awesome initiatives in Aotearoa.

  • Jerry the bear, a one of a kind T1D teaching tool arrived on our shores.

  • We shared the warning signs of type 1 diabetes with 1100 GP practices across the country and 2700 NZ Doctor magazine subscribers. New Zealand DKA posters were created in English and Te reo. Lions clubs around the country also distributed the DKA posters in their communities thanks to their relationship with Diabetes NZ, extending the reach even further.

  • New Zealand took over Beyond Type 1’s social media channels not once, but TWICE!! We showed the world how kiwis live beyond a Type 1 diagnosis. I loved connecting with so many Type 1 warriors and their families from around New Zealand, collating and sharing their stories. A highlight was seeing the comments of love and support each person received from around the globe.

  • We launched the #1 pack for children with T1D aged 4-10 years old. Each pack includes a Jerry the bear and has helped over 300 children and their families discover that they can still live life to the full despite having diabetes.

  • Diabetes Youth NZ merged (DYNZ) with Diabetes NZ and wound up as a separate entity. The DYNZ leadership team joined the Diabetes NZ advisory council and we began distributing newly diagnosed packs to hospitals around the country. Each pack is filled with useful resources to support the training provided when a young person is first diagnosed with T1D and admitted to hospital.

  • I jumped at every chance to speak publicly and raise awareness about living with Type 1 diabetes. Often absolutely shitting myself, I’d breath deep and jump straight in. I had to use this opportunity to share my story, our story to make a difference and to see change.

I’m truly grateful to have been able to share more about Type 1 diabetes with:

  • The AM show (click here to watch)

  • Seven sharp

  • Stuff (click here to watch)

  • Radio Live

  • Ministry of Health funders and planners

  • Lions members and communities

  • Clinicians at regional workshops

  • Attendees at the annual Diabetes NZ conference

  • Anyone that would listen!

  • I was a senior nib health journalism finalist in the 2017 Cannon media awards. (Unfortunately I didn’t win the $6,000 scholarship to research and/or write a health related article, but I’m determined to find another way to share this story. Check out what I was planning here)

  • We started the conversation and challenged government to fund Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) in New Zealand for all people living with type 1 diabetes. This is certainly a work in progress but I have no doubt we will get this across the line, however it will take time. We’re not giving up!

  • My all-time favourite part of the role was and will always be the people I’ve met. Other Type 1 warriors, their parents, carers and supporters. I’ve loved being able to share my experience and provide space for people to vent and process what they are going through. I’ve sent love and strength to families adjusting to life with diabetes, then celebrated every win, no matter how small and pointed them in the right direction, reinforcing they are never alone.

So, what’s next? My passion for making a difference in the Type 1 community remains the same. I have accepted a part-time role with Inspire Group as an instructional designer and I’m determined to launch the T1D Mastery 8 week online learning programme I’ve been working on.

We know that there is a lot to take onboard when learning to live well with Type 1 diabetes. It can be overwhelming and many people feel they never truly master T1D, instead simply ride the blood glucose roller coaster.

Calling on almost 20 years of living with, or supporting someone with Type 1 and utilizing our extensive experience in Learning & Development, Instructional Design, Implementation and Delivery, we’ve designed an 8 week T1D Mastery online programme. It will help you navigate the vast amount of diabetes information available, break it down to manageable chunks and deliver it in a way that sticks!

A mixture of online learning modules, coaching calls, online support, activities and reflections will accelerate your journey to mastering Type 1 diabetes. We are in this together.

Make sure you sign up to the T1D Mastery newsletter and join us on social media to be the first to know when the 8 week programme is open later this year. Or feel free to drop me a message at ruby@t1dmastery.com

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