Volunteering at a Roadshow – by Rob Southworth

We have a blog today from Rob. Rob has Type 1 diabetes and is a regular volunteer on our Healthy Lifestyle Roadshows. He’s kindly written about why he volunteers for us and why our Roadshows are so important. After Rob’s post, we’re also sharing the winners of our “name the Roadshow buses” competition that we ran on Facebook back in February. Thanks everyone for voting – we hope you like the three names that have been chosen!

“I’m Rob; a gig-going law student, supporter of Man City (for my sins), a Type 1 diabetic and most importantly for this blog, a volunteer risk assessor at the Healthy Lifestyle Roadshows for Diabetes UK. I’m also a Local Ambassador for the charity, aiming to raise awareness of the condition through presentations and information stands, doing my bit for a charity that has given me and my brother so much.

Alright, soppy stuff over for the time being! The Roadshows are our attempt at raising awareness of the condition, primarily making sure that those at risk of Type 2 diabetes know what the risk factors are and the importance of reducing that risk through healthy eating and physical activity.

As a volunteer I have had the privilege of riding the infamous Diabetes UK “bike of fruit” up high streets and I have hula-hooped my way to volunteer fame all in aid of promoting an active life (such activities are not mandatory as a volunteer, though you may be gently pressured!).

It’s an early start in a student’s book being at the bus for quarter to 9 in whichever location we might be sent. It could be Manchester, it could be Carlisle, it could be Blackpool; each offers something new and the old cliché of no two days on the Roadshow bus being the same stands the test of my time being a volunteer.

The process of the risk assessment is really simple and we try to make it go as smooth and as quickly as possible while making sure that we are giving the right and relevant advice and answering all the questions we can, but directing people to those in the know when we can’t.

The basic assessment involves a height and weight measurement to work out a person’s BMI, a waist circumference measurement, all in the strictest confidence, followed by a series of questions to ascertain at what level they are affected by the risk factors of type 2 diabetes. Then if at a high or moderate level of risk we will refer them to their doctor and for everyone, we offer advice on ways to reduce that risk with the help of our dietitian and healthcare professionals.

With the fear of getting all deep and sad about things again, it is really rewarding when you get a person who’s honestly grateful for the work you do and giving them a kick-start in making the changes they need and, in the end, want to make. Some know the risk they’re at, some will have no idea and be shocked. But the fact that, come the end of the assessment, their awareness of the danger has increased because of something you’ve done is a pretty impressive thing.

As a Type 1, I’ve found that volunteering with Diabetes UK and helping out at the Roadshows has helped me in my own condition no end. Before volunteering I’d had issues like the rest of us with roller-coaster blood sugars and if I’m honest, I had a bit of a “meh” attitude to it all.

Yet, volunteering with the charity made me realise how that’s probably not the best way to go about things.

I learnt a load of stuff in the briefing sessions about my own condition that I didn’t realise, and every time I’m out on the Roadshows I get the chance to meet other diabetics of both types who’ve gone through the same experiences as me and, without getting too deep and meaningful about things, it really changed my outlook.

The great thing about the Roadshow team is exactly that; we are a team. And in the Northwest I like to think we’re the best team going… No arguments! Everyone is there to support you and in the end, even though diabetes is a serious condition that can have dreadful consequences, we’ve got to have a laugh about things otherwise it’s only going to drive us crazy!

I’m not sure if this blog is meant to have some kind of important message at the end of it, but if it should, then here it is: volunteer at a Roadshow. Whether you’re a diabetic yourself, know someone with the condition or just want to get out of the house once in a while! If you can spare the time, get on the bus and give us a hand with these heights and weights. I’m pretty sure you won’t look back.


Back in February to recognise the brilliant work undertaken by our Volunteers, we asked them to suggest a name for each of the three Roadshow buses we use to tour the UK. We whittled down the entries and came up with a shortlist of six and asked users of our Facebook page to vote on which three we should choose. And the results are in…!

In no particular order, the names chosen for our three Roadshow buses are:

Virgil, entered by Sandra O’Neil.
It stands for Volunteers, Information, Roadshow, Giving, Inspirational, Life saving.

Morph, entered by Martyn Brooks.
Short for metamorphasis – to change the form or nature of a person.

Herbert, entered by Alexander Cordrey.
As it’s the first name of one of our founders, the author HG Wells.

Many thanks to all those who nominated a name and voted too. Virgil is already out on the road whilst Morph and Herbert will be touring the UK over the coming weeks and months – you can find out exactly where they’ll be by visiting the Roadshow section of our website.

Has Rob’s story inspired you to volutneer for us? Find out more about how to get involved. We look forward to welcoming you aboard Virgil, Herbert or Morph!

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