Volunteering Helped Me Find My Vocation

Gráinne Flynn has been volunteering for 10 years. Living with Type 1 Diabetes, Gráinne was keen to meet and help other people in her situation. She never imagined how much volunteering could change her life.

I’ve been volunteering for 10 years! And the most important thing I have learned from volunteering is that it’s more than just the reward for doing good; the benefits, for me, have been tenfold.

The numerous volunteering opportunities I’ve received have enabled me to create a local diabetes support community when I desperately needed it, become an empowered person with diabetes, fostered a diabetes advocate, allowed me to grow and develop as a person, and ultimately find my calling! But I could not have done any of that without the help of training from my local volunteer centre in Clare (Dolores & Sharon) and Diabetes Ireland.

I have lived with Type 1 diabetes for 24 years. Living with type 1 diabetes requires a great deal of concentration and mental energy. It’s not just about taking insulin and healthy eating. It requires calculating the amount of that medication based on what my blood sugar is at that point, how much carbohydrate (yes, I weigh carbs) I am about to eat and how physically active I’m likely to be in the next 4 to 6 hours and more. It’s a lot of work.

Type 1 diabetes didn’t stop me from doing anything in my life but, living with diabetes can feel very isolating.

In 2007, I moved back to Ireland after a four-year stint living in the US. I was a stay at home parent with two very small children and didn’t know very many people in my new town in my old country.

I was receiving support from my medical team but it just wasn’t enough for me. I needed a way to meet more people with diabetes.

So, with the help of Diabetes Ireland, we started Clare Diabetes Support. That was ten years ago. We became a community that helps each other live with the daily challenges of living with diabetes through sharing our own experiences.

In 2011, Diabetes Ireland decided to shorten their name and needed a new logo. As a graphic designer, they approached me to volunteer to do this. I still have to remind myself wherever I see it that I helped do that. It’s kind of awesome!

Also through volunteering with Diabetes Ireland, I adapted the Australian “Type 1 Diabetes Starter Kit; A Guide for Newly Diagnosed Adults” for Irish people with diabetes. What I learned during the process of adapting this booklet was most of what I needed to organise a national type 1 diabetes conference called Thriveabetes.

I created my first blog post in May 2010 to connect with more people with diabetes. I often say that I blogged from inside a closet for many years because I didn’t have the confidence to say, “I write a blog”. Until 2015, when I received a scholarship to attend an Advocacy MasterLab in Florida in July 2015. This was A-Mazing. I learned so much from this experience and six months later I came out of that closet and actually told people I write two blogs!

And there you have it! What started out as a cry for help became a “what can I do to help you.” Thriveabetes: The Thrive with Type 1 Diabetes conference is probably what I spend most of my volunteer time on these days. This event uses every skill I have learned though all of those years of volunteering.

I have found something I am passionate about. I can’t wait to see where volunteering brings me next!

If you want to hear more from Gráinne, you can find her on Twitter @BSugrTrampoline or read her personal blog http://bloodsugartrampoline.com/ You can alos learn more about the Type 1 Diabetes Conference at http://thriveabetes.ie/ / @Thriveabetes

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