A Young Leader
Just a few of the many feelings I felt as I stepped onto the plane, on my own, for the first time to go to Srby, Czech Republic to attend the IDF Europe Youth Leadership Camp. This anxiety however, immediately disappeared upon being welcomed at the hotel and meeting with all the twenty four participants each with their own story.
Seeing so many different people coming from diverse backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles in one room was overwhelming to say the least. The room buzzed with excitement as we started to share our stories, challenges and experiences, some of us even for the first time. We all came to realise how much easier and relatable it is to talk about living with diabetes to people who are going through the same struggles. We also ranted over misconceptions that people associate with diabetes and common statements that we encounter on a daily basis, of which include:
“Isn’t diabetes just for the elderly?”
“You cannot eat sweets or chocolate”
“Did you take too much sugar when you were younger?”
It was also brought to our attention that although we are all going through the same condition, we all tackle it so differently due to our culture. The whole experience in general was really an eye-opener and made me feel privileged to be living with diabetes in a country where medication and medical assistance is provided for free. Having said this, I also realised that we are rather behind on particular technologies and their availability. This made me question the reason why Malta is not as advanced in its technologies as other nearby countries like Italy, Cyprus and Greece, who have been using the insulin pump for quite some time, alongside other technology such as the CGM.
Raising awareness in a population is one of the most important factors of facilitating life with diabetes and in early recognition of such condition. This camp has inspired me and provided me with the necessary skills to communicate information about diabetes to others, since awareness, especially on Type 1 diabetes, here in Malta is rather scarce. Through our workshops, which ranged from communication and design thinking to project management, alongside many more, we identified ways as to how to strengthen our voices throughout society and ultimately make a difference.
Departure from this camp was rather bittersweet. It was heart-breaking to leave that incredible experience behind and the friendship and community that was created in the time span of one week, but we were also certain that we would remain in contact and meet once again in the near future. We left the camp feeling empowered and enthusiastic about the projects that were created, and for the future of diabetes in our respective countries and on an international base. It was a truly unforgettable experience that I will cherish with me for the years to come.
Martina Erika Mallia, 18, Malta