PASSIONATE: Tony Kelly
COULD YOU be a champion within your community to deliver a much-needed message that may become a lifesaver for hundreds of people?
Diabetes UK, the charity that campaigns on behalf of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, has just launched a nationwide recruitment drive to appoint 1,000 community champions from black and minority ethnic communities (BAME) in Britain.
There is currently a shortage of voluntary champions from these backgrounds to spread the word about diabetes, despite all the statistics pointing to the fact that they are the ones more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes earlier than their white counterparts.
Alarmingly, there are thousands of others who have never had a risk assessment carried out by doctors and are therefore unaware they have diabetes and all its associated health complications.
No-one is more passionate about this subject than Tony Kelly, one of Diabetes UK’s current regional Community Champions in the West Midlands, who is on a mission to recruit more champions.
Tony, a former teacher in Jamaica, who also worked in the UK as an equality and diversity officer before retiring, said: “The good news is that this medical condition in most cases is preventable or can be managed with good diet control and physical activity.
“I am living proof of this because although I have lived with the condition for 12 years, as type 2 diabetes runs in my family. I have never taken any medication for it.
“As many people know, I have been working as a volunteer with Diabetes UK since 2012. As a Community Champion I realise there is a dire need to recruit more BAME volunteers to deliver appropriate training and help to get the message out there.
“Contrary to popular belief you do not have to have this medical condition in order to become a Community Champion.
“Delivering the key messages via slides and dvds is not rocket science. I can vouch for the presentations, seminars and workshops that I do in the West Midlands by saying it is one of the most uplifting, enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my life.
“But there is a serious shortage of people from similar cultural backgrounds to communicate these messages.”
Tony’s zeal for his subject is extremely infectious. He is keen to spread the word that practising a healthy lifestyle, taking plenty of exercise, eating a variety of vegetables and fruit can in many cases, avoid the need for medication.
He advocates that adopting a different mindset is essential – swapping a sedentary, coach potato lifestyle for enjoyable physical activity, combined with eating smaller, healthier portions of food all help.
“It’s alarming when you learn that 135 amputations each month in the UK are a result of complications from diabetes,” added Tony.
“I have seen complications such as stroke, blindness and kidney failure affect members of my own family.”
Statistics given to The Voice by Diabetes UK make worrying reading: In the West Midlands the number of people with the condition currently stands at 334,083, with a further 66,800 people currently undiagnosed.
In Birmingham alone 96,238 people are diagnosed diabetics with a further 22,284 undiagnosed.
And with the African and Caribbean communities being between two and four times more likely to present earlier with the condition, the time for action is critical.
For successful Community Champion applicants in Birmingham, there will be two training days on Friday 3rd June and Saturday 4th June from 9am until 4pm, with attendance on both days.
The first 25 successful recruits will be trained to engage and connect with their local communities, build confidence and develop new skills.