INTERVIEW: T1 INTERNATIONAL

Our first blog for the new site comes from one of Pendsey’s favourite fellow bloggers, Elizabeth Rowley.
Elizabeth is a T1D blogger who set up the blog www.t1international.com to raise awareness about the struggles of those living with Type 1 diabetes that are not as lucky as others in certain parts of the world. This blog was one of the first to feature The Pendsey Trust so we thought we would return the favour and find out a little bit about what inspired Elizabeth to get involved in this cause.

 

Lucy Laycock: Tell us a little bit about yourself- how did you come to feel so passionately about access to insulin for Type 1 diabetics?

Elizabeth Rowley: I grew up in the United States in a small town and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of four. Living with diabetes is a challenge for anyone and has always been a huge burden for me, despite my diligence and hard work, because it is particularly difficult to control. As I got older and learned more about the world outside of my small town, I began to wonder what it might be like to live in another place or what might happen to me if I found myself amidst a natural disaster or conflict of some sort. I discovered that getting my insulin and diabetes supplies would be very difficult in those situations, and I started to think about the many people around the world that actually are in those situations.

There are people in places where access to medical care, supplies (like insulin) and education aren’t easily available or in any way affordable. For some people, life-saving insulin can cost as much as an outrageous 75% of their annual income.  I have a background in international studies, but the driving force behind what I do is my desire to inform others that people are dying from their diabetes simply because insulin (a medicine available since 1922) is not accessible to everyone who needs it – and I want to do something about that! 

LL: Tell us about T1International – where did the idea come from and how did you start out?

ER: I came to London in 2011 to complete a master’s degree in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies. Soon after, I started an intense search for organizations or initiatives that might be working to solve the problems that people living with diabetes in resource poor settings face. Despite coming across a few initiatives, I couldn’t believe how little the issues were talked about and how few people knew about this problem.

I decided to create a space for anyone who might be interested in topics related to global type 1 diabetes and access to insulin to come and learn more. I wanted to be able to put all the resources, organizations, and existing literature about these topics in one place to not only show how much more needs to be done, but also to allow others to easily find information that took me months to scavenge.

I started by compiling all of the information I had, and then I got in touch with as many of the known resources I could. I sent many emails to various groups and people, and most responded very enthusiastically. It feels like those of us who are pushing for access to insulin and awareness of the issues are all part of a little community with very similar goals. We all wand the community to grow and are determined that it will so that this completely tackle-able issue can be resolved!

LL: Who have you spoken to and what have you learnt about the situation for those with Type 1 diabetes in the developing world since you started out? 

ER: I have connected with some really exciting organizations and people through my interviews, including the 100 Campaign, Insulin for Life, Life for a Child, young people with type 1 diabetes around the world, and of course The Pendsey Trust! You can read all of the interviews and other posts at www.t1international.com.

The blog has helped shed further light on what type 1’s who face access issues are dealing with, what diabetes care is like in different places, and the different ways that everyone can contribute to the solution.

The young people especially have helped t1international’s readers to understand first-hand what some of the biggest problems and potential solutions are. I think that is key – to not just look at the problems, but also the solutions. I’ll be heading to the World Diabetes Congress and Young Leaders in Diabetes training this December in Melbourne and I’m really excited to meet more young leaders there. It will be so great to learn about their stories and ideas so that we can all work together to find the best ways to confront the issues.

LL: What do you think is the key to changing the situation for those with Type 1?

ER: We have all seen the huge strides that have been made with reducing the HIV/AIDS burden and making that medicine more affordable, so we know it can be done with diabetes! There are many factors that will make things better for people living with type 1 diabetes everywhere, including government cooperation, more affordable medicine, and better education. Really, it’s all of those things and more, but I believe that the first step is creating a huge movement – an ‘’army of diabetics’’ and their supporters, as I called it on one of my first blog posts. J

This movement will be global and will allow people to raise their voices and share their stories. It will grow and get others on board to share the stories again. It will unite and raise awareness so that we can put pressure on the decision-makers in the areas that need to change. Not only that, but the more people that know about the issues, the more they will realise that they can be a part of something huge. We CAN make life better for people living with diabetes, and with ideas like The Pendsey Trust, we already are!

LL: Why do you support the work of The Pendsey Trust? 

ER: If it’s not already obvious from my answers above, I fully support the Pendsey Trust and its goals and aims! The trust is a perfect example of seeing a problem and taking action to do something about it. It is initiatives like The Pendsey Trust that give me inspiration and hope that there are people who are passionate and determined to help other people who, through no fault of their own, are struggling.

I also support The Pendsey Trust’s focus on education, which is vital in any child’s life, but especially for a child with diabetes. Due to misconceptions and stigma, there are beliefs that girls with diabetes will never be able to have children, for example. The Pendsey Trust wants to break down those stereotypes and give all children an equal chance through education, which should enable them to gain employment and therefore a long-term income to help pay for insulin.

LL: Give us your message for those who are deciding whether to support The Pendsey Trust and other charities with similar aims to us?

ER: It is difficult to sum up my enthusiasm in one message, but I believe that the goal of access to insulin and a better life for all people living with diabetes is 100% an achievable one.  Readers should support the Pendsey Trust and the 100 Campaign and share this information with everyone they know because this movement is going to be BIG! More and more people are starting to learn about this topic and although the current reality that people are dying because they cannot access or afford their insulin is a tough pill to swallow, if we use that knowledge to propel our passions and build an empowered force for good, we will be unstoppable!

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Thanks very much to Elizabeth for the interview, and we look forward to working together in the future! You can find out more on the website: www.t1international.com, follow them on Twitter, and like them on Facebook.

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