Fun, Friendship & Diabetes UK Cymru Cardiff Family Day

Yesterday was the first of the Diabetes UK Cymru family days of 2014. The day-long events are a great opportunity for young people aged 4-17 with diabetes, their parents and siblings, to attend a fun event together- to learn and experience in a way that's really quite unique. The family day's programs were created by Diabetes UK Cymru's Clinical Advisor Chris Headland with the needs of both parents and children in mind. As families start the day together, but divide up into groups for age appropriate activities, and then the teenage activities are facilitated by YPP members like myself.

YPP stands for Young Person's Programme and consists of a group of us young adults aged 18-30 years old who all have type 1 diabetes. We've been a group, (and gaining members) for the last 18 months and I think our fundamental role is to provide support and encouragement to others- not in a medical sense (although there are medical professionals amongst us). But in terms of sharing each other's experiences and helping develop best practices amongst us. Although some of the members of the group have facilitated family days before, we still train for them beforehand and run through the plan for the day to make sure everything runs smoothly. Also to ensure that those who the day is meant for, get the most out of it and go home feeling empowered to manage their diabetes/ help support their child or sibling as best they can.

Some of the awesome YPP member volunteers from around the UK who helped facilitate the day

The day started quite early to allow the YPP member's to gather and have a run through of the day we had planned for the teenagers with diabetes and their siblings. As this is another really important but perhaps unusual aspect to the Diabetes UK Cymru family days, that siblings are especially welcome to attend and are completely included in all we do. One thing that became clear to me when we first started holding the Family Days in Wales, was that without meaning to, sometimes a lot of attention can go towards the person with diabetes. But siblings have their own very valuable thoughts and feelings on diabetes, they're just coming from a different standpoint so need to be given the opportunity to express those feelings in an environment where they feel comfortable. As a result of this shared experience, the teenagers often become friends and stay in touch with each other after the event has been held.

Whilst the day began with introductions and icebreakers for the teenagers and YPP members, I joined a few of the other YPP members to do a Q and A with the parents. This session was important in understanding the concerns of parents, and to give them the opportunity to voice any concerns they might have surrounding issues of growing up with diabetes. We were able to talk about everything from sport and exercise to clinic transitions and psychological support. It really does hit home that although all of our diabetes is different, there are some things- good and bad that we all go through and need support in. When the Q and A panel returned to the teen sessions, the group were part way through a fun activity called 'my story', which simply involves sharing as much or as little of your diabetes story as someone is comfortable to share. This is an amazing thing to listen and to participate in because it gives the young people with diabetes the opportunity to express how their experience of living with the condition is for them. For the siblings it gives them the very rare opportunity to voice their diabetes journey- because they have one too and when the YPP' s tell their stories and show how they've overcome their diabetes hurdles, I think it gives hope for the next generation.

Dai Williams Director of Diabetes UK Cymru delivering parent education presentation
Lunch came around so quickly, as these things do when you're having fun, but everyone eating together truly gives a sense of normality as far as diabetes related things like where blood testing and carb counting are concerned. The afternoon's events were then geared towards 'making the most out of clinic appointments', discussing what is good about them and what could be improved. We then finished on a great exercise created by one of the lovely new YPP members, that involved everyone writing a bucket list of 2 things they want to achieve in the future and one thing they've achieved despite having diabetes or challenges they might have faced. It was a wonderfully positive and powerful note to finish on, because I think it made everyone realise just how far they'd come, and that anything could be possible. Which as someone who has lived with the condition for 13 years, this is exactly the message I would want to be able to pass on to younger people- one of fun, positivity and encouragement in achieving their aims and goals.

With thanks to the great team at Diabetes UK Cymru for organising the event and facilitating a great day.

My certificate from Diabetes UK for recognition of volunteeting


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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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