By: Julie Burke
American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad, Inc., also known asAYUDA, is a small organization with a lofty goal: to bring thediabetes camp experience to underprivileged children and youth withtype 1 diabetes around the world.
For the past three years, I havebeen a volunteer camp counselor. In August 2007, we held our eighthdiabetes camp, Campo Amigo Ecuador, in Quito, Ecuador.
Eleven-year-old Lisette was one of our campers. Small for her age,she has cataracts, hearing problems, an A1c of 11%, and a troubledhome life. When she arrived at camp, her blood sugars wereconstantly in the 300 to 400 range. One day, when we finally got herinto the 100s, she came running up to me and said how much bettershe felt. Then she ran off again to play with her new friends.
All Icould do was smile, but I really wanted to cry. By the end of camp,Lisette was injecting herself and drawing her own insulin doses. Shetold me that she wanted to come back next year, and I told her thatI'd be waiting for her.
We are able to help children like Lisette because of our volunteers,passionately idealistic youth and healthcare professionals from allover the world who raise money and give their time to make diabetescamp a reality for children in developing countries. We have onlytwo full-time and one part-time staff members. Everyone else,including the members of our Board of Directors and Advisory Board,is a volunteer.
Laurie Basloe volunteered as a camp counselor for the first timethis summer. She's had diabetes for twenty years and, like me, hadnever been to a diabetes camp until Campo Amigo Ecuador. As herinitial shock over the campers' lack of diabetes education wore off,Laurie set about debunking the many misconceptions the campers hadabout diabetes, especially their fear that they were doomed tobecome fat and blind.
"I was baffled by a girl who ate only apples,cucumbers, and broccoli for fear of not being in control if she ateother foods," Laurie said. "As each day passed, it was incredible tosee how much the girls grew and how eager they were to continuelearning more about their health. I was proud to be at Campo Amigoas a counselor, role model, friend and camper in my own way."
In 2008, we would like to hold a camp in Belize, a country wheretwelve percent of the populace has diabetes and diabetes healthcareprofessionals are practically unknown. We'd also like to eventuallybring camps to Bermuda and Eastern Europe. To do this, we need yourhelp. Our volunteers do their best, but a small organization likeours can only go so far without outside support. Please considerdonating to AYUDA and helping children around the world who havediabetes. For more information, visit our website atwww.ayudainc.net.
Juntos somos más fuertes. Together we are stronger.