Hala Khalaf is the author of “Young Voices: Life With Diabetes” (John Wiley & Sons, 2005). Her book is an intimate portrayal of how culture influences the daily lives of 13 young people with diabetes from around the world.
Khalaf, 24, was born in Kuwait and has worked as a journalist in Canada and Jordan. In 2004, she was awarded the Novo Nordisk Media Prize for her article “The Truth About Diabetes” (Jo, March 2004). The award is given to the best article on diabetes and is evaluated by an independent international jury.
After winning the prize, Novo Nordisk sent Khalaf on a journey around the world to eight countries on four continents to interview 13 children with diabetes from different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds. The result is her photographic and narrative book “Young Voices: Life With Diabetes.”
What was the most rewarding aspect of writing this book?
I would have to say the opportunity to travel the world, learn about different cultures and backgrounds and meet incredible people who, in their lives with diabetes, constantly portrayed strength and perseverance. It was an honor and a privilege for me to have found a way to direct my writing toward raising awareness on a subject I have truly come to believe in.
How do you feel this book will affect the way diabetics feel about the disease?
I can only hope this book will become the inspiration that I dream for it to be. I hope it allows people living with diabetes—young and old—to think of themselves as people, not solely as patients or diabetics. I hope the stories show all people living with diabetes that having strength, an optimistic attitude, a willingness and readiness to take control and a drive to live life to the fullest can allow one to overcome the limits that may be imposed by diabetes, and allow a person living with diabetes to enjoy life. Most of all, I hope that anyone reading the stories and enjoying the beauty and depth of the pictures—whether or not they have diabetes— will be able to look beyond the disease in order to understand the personal side of diabetes.
What were some of the most inspiring stories you discovered on the photo shoot?
First of all, it is impossible for me to pinpoint one story as more “inspiring” than any other. Throughout this experience, I was inspired, moved and motivated by every single person I met and every story I heard as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months. Our experience with the individuals in the stories you read about in “Young Voices” could not be described as a photo shoot. Jesper Westley, the photographer, and I practically lived with each one of the young people we interviewed. We spent entire days with them, watching them interact with their families and friends, watching them live their lives and engage in countless activities. It is this intense interaction that was the most inspiring for us, because we truly had the opportunity to meet the person behind the disease. To get the book, visit www.amazon.com.