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  • Writer's pictureJames Ron

Wonderful T1D Civic Groups Worldwide

Updated: Jan 2, 2022

I’ve written before about Life for a Child, an internationally focused charity based in Australia that supports some 22,000 kids and young people worldwide with Type 1 diabetes. The group sends local partners supplies of insulin, syringes, blood testing equipment, and much more

Who are these “local partners? I’ve met a few on my travels for Life for a Child, and have been humbled and amazed. Here are a few of my favorites:

In Monterrey, Mexico, Laura Gutierrez Cruz created Regalando Vida (Gift of Life), a fantastic program of the Mexican Diabetes Association in the northern state of Nuevo Leone. Parts of Monterrey are extremely wealthy city, but it has its fair share of severe poverty, and has also suffered terribly from drug-related violence.

Laura has mobilized local donations from Monterrey corporations, individuals, foundations, and others, and benefits from the kind services of Dr. Oscar Flores, a paediatric endocrinologist who also has type 1 diabetes. Together, Laura, Oscar, and her team of dedicated diabetes educators help the families of over 100 children from local, low income families. She commissions a detailed analysis of each patient’s socio-economic condition, and makes sure that those who are truly in need get regular supplies of insulin, syringes, and four test strips per day, as well as superb nutritional and other diabetes education.

The program’s children seem to be doing really well, and it’s all due to Laura’s remarkable passion. She is in her 40s, has a family of her own, and maintains her own successful professional career. But as a type 1 diabetes survivor herself, Laura is utterly committed to helping less fortunate kids in her city survive and flourish. I’ve visited her organization twice, and was utterly humbled by what she’d managed to accomplish.

Happily, Life for a Child now gives her program some modest support, in coordination with the Mexican Eli Lilly Foundation.

Another great set of diabetes heroes are the Guptas, a remarkable Indo-American couple. They retired several years ago from distinguished medical careers  in St. Louis – Santosh is a paediatric endocrinologist, and JK is a cardiologist. They now spend a few months each winter in Haridwar, India, a Hindu holy city located five hours drive north of Delhi.

In Haridwar, Santosh and JK volunteer in a local hospital run by the Ramakrishna mission, a religious and charitable order that tends to India’s poor, and operates hospitals across the country. Santosh has spent the last few years training Ramakrishna physicians and nurses on the basal/bolus system common in the US, and her colleagues typically use the best insulins and other management tools.

All this costs a comparative fortune in India, so Santosh and JK have created their own charity, the Manav Seva Foundation, to raise funds for insulin, test strips, A1c tests, and other basic tools. Santosh gets some of her insulin from the Insulin for Life Foundation in Australia, which collects unused insulin from individuals and corporations. Incidentally, there are other Insulin for Life organizations around the world, including one in the US; I’ve sent them unused insulin and strips before.

The Guptas are in their 70s, but are as fit as fiddles, and the most optimistic, happy people I’ve ever met. I visited them once in Haridwar, and joined them on one of their morning walks; they really go at a fast clip!

I am in awe of this couple, leaving their retirement home in Naples, Florida each year to work long hours, for months at a time, in a city whose creature comforts are comparatively limited.

For me, the Guptas are a shining example of how to use one’s retirement, giving to others after having had so much of their own personal success. When I’m in my 70s, I hope I’m healthy enough, and brave enough, to be like them.

In Rabat, Morocco, the wonderful Badil Association created by Dr. Amina Balafrej, a paediatrician, cares for some 700 kids with type 1 diabetes, most of whom come from low income families. I visited once for Life for a Child, which extends Badil some support, and wrote about them earlier in this blog. Unfortunately, Dr. Balafrej had a terrible car accident a few years ago.

Another terrific group in India is the DREAM Trust run by Dr. Sharad Pendsey, a diabetes physician who cares for some 500 kids and youth with type 1 diabetes in Nagpur, central India. I’ve visited him twice for Life for a Child, and have written about his work previously on this blog. Sharad is a great man, and his collaborator, social worker and diabetes educator Seema Chalkhore, manages this huge program almost singlehandedly.

In Samarkhand, Uzbekistan, I met Karina Tatinyanc, a dedicated advocate who operates out of the city hospital’s Endocrinology Dispensary. She helps coordinate the receipt of supplies from Life for a Child, as well as doing many other things with the hospital on behalf of children with the disease.

These are only a handful of the fantastic groups doing wonderful work for children with type 1 diabetes worldwide. I’ve gotten to know them all through Life for a Child, a growing global hub for the charitable type 1 diabetes movement.  Without these local partners, however, globally oriented groups like Life for a Child could do very little. All too often, we focus on the bigger name groups rather than the local associations that do most of the supply distribution, patient contact and advising, record keeping, family education, and more.

A version of this post first appeared in A Sweet Life, a diabetes magazine. 

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