Interview with Diabetes Youth Care: Supporting Young Ghanaians

I recently connected with an organization in Ghana called Diabetes Youth Care (DYC), led by the wonderful Nana Ama Barnes. The mission of DYC is to support young people living with diabetes in Ghana and their families. DYC focuses on providing education and medical support to encourage personal growth, knowledge acquisition and independence.

Diabetes Youth Care was started because Nana Ama Barnes saw a gap in the resources for supporting young people with diabetes in Ghana. I’m so impressed by how far the organization has come in such a short amount of time and DYC is continuing to grow. They even hope to put on a camp for young people with diabetes next year and to expand across the whole of Ghana.

Diabetes Youth Care

I had so much fun meeting some of the young people on Skype. We chatted about all things diabetes and the differences and similarities of living with diabetes in different parts of the world. Diabetes Youth Care 3

Yaa and Ishmael, two of the young people, explained to me that the reason they love DYC is because it gives them an opportunity to talk with others who are going through the same things. The support and understanding they gain from being a part of the DYC meetings and activities is really important to them.

Diabetes Youth Care 2Theresa (top left), age 24, is a teacher and her favorite subject to teach is math. I told her math was my worst subject, although math skills are always useful for counting carbohydrates and calculating insulin levels! Ishmael (top right), age 27, was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 17 year old. Yaa (middle), age 22, is a nurse who was diagnosed with diabetes at age 15. She shares knowledge with others from her medical background as well as her own experience living with Type 1 diabetes. Pearl, age 8, was diagnosed a year ago and looks up to the others for support. Pearl’s mother was at DYC as well, so it was great to see the family support!

I connected with Nana after the Skype session so that she could tell me more about DYC and its background. You can read more about Diabetes Youth Care at their web site: http://www.diabetesyouthcare.org/about.php.

Can you tell me a bit about Diabetes Youth Care and as how it was founded?

It was during my residency training in internal medicine 4 years ago when I met my first young person living with Diabetes. He was then 13 years old and looked so scared and helpless with his dad. I had to admit him to our ward which was an adult ward. He had lost so much weight and had missed so many days of school. My Consultant asked me to take over his management, ensuring that he did not miss any more days of school. I researched and realized that there were no clinics in the country dedicated to managing adolescents living with diabetes. So I thought of the idea of creating a clinic for them, and also a support group dedicated to teaching the young ones living with diabetes how to live a healthy life to reach ones full potential in spite of diabetes. Diabetes Youth Care was founded 2 years later.

Why do you think it is important that your organization exists?

One sentence haunts me and answers the question….Gifty is 30 years old and has been living with diabetes for 16 years. She said to me “I wish I had met DYC when I was younger, it would have saved me a lot of hardship growing up. However I am happy joining it now; I have learnt a lot to share with my peers”.

It’s wonderful that there is now a place for young Ghanaians with diabetes to come to for support. Part of your aim is to raise awareness and advocate for youth living with diabetes, what would you say are some of the biggest obstacles for people with type 1 diabetes in Ghana?

Cultural beliefs are what affects most management and care and knowledge about diabetes. Some people believe diabetes is caused by a curse and would rather listen to non-health personnel about how to manage diabetes. That is why education and awareness are so important.

On that note, what do you think are some of the greatest needs of young people with diabetes in Ghana in terms of education?

Support for them in terms of management of diabetes, getting glucometers and strips for monitoring, and knowledge about management of emergencies at home to prevent them from losing school days.

Can you tell me a bit about the Adora project and Care4One and how they support young people?

The Adora project was named after my maternal grandmother who believed in education. I realised that some of the young ones with diabetes had dropped out of school due to the many sick days because of diabetes. In order to ensure that every young person living with diabetes has some basic education, we set up the project to encourage young ones to pursue their dreams with a solid base in their education. Sponsors can choose to adopt a child via taking care of their school fees and supplies to a said time of their choice.

The Care4One is a support or donation project so that insulin, glucometers, strips, syringes can be donated to the young ones living with diabetes.

Your website and facebook page shares posters and images that help educate people about diabetes. Can you tell me a bit about who makes the images and what you hope people will gain from seeing them?

I have a great team of IT and Computer (Tech). Nii & Eli have created the best website I could ever ask for. The posters are also designed by Nii. I give him the information and he creates them! We disseminate the information on our social networks for nurses, doctors, and the general public and we get amazing feedback about how much folks learn from the posters.

What kind of progress do you hope to see in the future, and through the foundation, for people with type 1 diabetes around the world who do not have access to insulin, supplies, or education?

For DYC we are hoping to be a network nationwide (Ghana) by the end of the year. We also hope to network with all health professionals who are interested in the care of young ones with diabetes so that wherever someone is, there is support.

In Ghana we have the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which provides some insulin, so we try and make sure that every young person living with diabetes is registered with the scheme. Insulin is not always available under the insurance scheme, so we solicit for funds to supplement and provide insulin.

In what ways do you think we can get the global community as a whole to be aware and involved in supporting people living with diabetes in places like Ghana and elsewhere?

I think showing the world that diabetes is not a barrier to living one’s life to the fullest is one way to do this. If we show the world the activities of young ones with diabetes on social media platforms it will go a long way to educating the global community. In Ghana, sharing information via platforms like religious places go a long way in educating the general public about diabetes.

What is the best way for people to help or get involved in Diabetes Youth Care and make a difference to its cause?

Fortunately, there are so many ways. One can volunteer time and any other resources. We have young ones who have lost time in school so, locally, one can volunteer to give extra classes or to help out at the monthly meetings. Anyone can share the information seen on the social media network to spread the word. You can also support us by helping to raise funds to support the various projects we are involved in.

Thank you so much for sharing about DYC and for connecting with T1International! You can follow Diabetes Youth Care on Facebook here.

Thriving for 22 Years

The photo below is of me in December 1991, a few months before my Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Learning to live with daily injections, finger pricks, carb counting, and high and low blood sugars was a traumatic time for me and my family. Those of us living with or supporting someone with the dreaded D can also attest to the fact that diabetes is a continuous struggle to live with because it never goes away. However, I’m proud to be able to say that today marks the day that I have lived, and thrived, with diabetes for 22 years! Continue reading

The First Steps

I have been thinking a lot lately about determination and first steps.  It can be easy to get discouraged and feel like global diabetes problems – or any problems or adversity we face – are just too big and too much to handle. We may feel that as one person, there is little we can do. I am personally very passionate about making life for people living with diabetes around the world better, and for a long time I was really tired of being outraged by global inequality of access to medicine, education, and supplies. Before I decided to DO something with my outrage, it remained only that – sadness and anger about the problem. Once I decided to take the first step towards changing this problem, tackling it didn’t seem as daunting as it had before I was working towards change. For me, the first step towards change was in the form of this web site. Continue reading

Read All About It!

I’m so pleased to have recently discovered that T1International, myself, and my efforts to raise funds for AYUDA made the FRONT PAGE of my hometown newspaper! You can read the full article online by clicking this link.PiattCoJournal