A message to our volunteers from CEO Chris Askew

This year’s #VolunteersWeek has been as big a week of thanks and recognition as ever. In fact, the impact of the pandemic reminds us even more of the power of volunteers, to connect with others, to give and share experiences, to make a difference in the lives of others, to bring diversity of views to our work. We’ve enjoyed, at Diabetes UK, celebrating our incredible volunteers this week; thank you to you all, for all you do. I joined our North-East Region online volunteering awards one evening this week and as ever, was blown away by the passion, the commitment, the dedication to others which ran through every single story of volunteering.

But the celebration of this week has been in stark contrast to the worldwide condemnation and protest at the death of George Floyd and, closer to home, publication of data which evidences the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. Our individual reactions to both are likely to have ranged from the saddest kind of despair, through to anger and protest. And as the pandemic wave washes across the globe, we may have felt powerless to act or make a difference to the discrimination and inequity that tears apart communities and ruins lives, young and old.

Diabetes UK, like any charity, exists and thrives as a network of volunteers, of colleagues working together, or those who seek support and help from us, of those partners we work with. And in this, our voice must be the sum total of the experiences of everyone we connect with and serve. One of our values at Diabetes UK is that ‘we put people first’; all people, without condition, qualification, favour or bias.

But in living out that value, do we hear sufficiently the voice of BAME communities, of our BAME colleagues and beneficiaries in our work at Diabetes UK, do we listen and relate in the most open way we can to those thousands of volunteers – our Community Champions and volunteers right across the regions and nations of the UK – who connect with BAME communities?

I have to say ‘no’ to that and if we have a response, as a charity, to the darkness of events in America, to the known and unacceptable inequity in health outcomes in this country, and to the joy and selflessness of volunteering – it must be that we, as a network of people committed to bringing change in every area of diabetes, do more, go further, hold ourselves closer to account, for being as widely representative as we can possibly be.

Only by doing this can we ensure we are providing support to those who need it in a way they can access; that we are seeing inequity and yes, discrimination, in diabetes care and services and challenging it everywhere; that we are truly putting people first in our mission to create a world where diabetes can do no harm. Above all else, at the end of this tumultuous week, we recognise and thank our volunteers for their immense role in and contribution to that challenge we face.

For the latest updates on coronavirus and diabetes, go to www.diabetes.org.uk/coronavirus. And if you’d like to join us as a volunteer, find out how to get involved.

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