Diagnosed at the age of three, I have been living with type 1 diabetes for nearly all of my life. Since my diagnosis, my path has crossed with many influential and inspiring people who have shaped my journey. From the beginning, my family, friends, doctors and the American Diabetes Association have had such a huge influence on me.
I’ve been actively involved with the Association since I first attended their Camp Wana Kura, in San Diego, at age five. I’ve been to Diabetes Camp every year since and have been a teen staff member for the past four summers. At 16 years old, I am the youngest (and proudest!) ongoing member of the Camp Wana Kura planning committee to help plan the most successful Diabetes Camp possible. I’ve loved helping the kids and working with diabetes so much that I’ve even listed myself as a babysitter for children with diabetes!
I’m also very involved with my local Association office and their events. As an avid advocate and fundraiser, I’ve shared my personal story and passion to find a cure at the San Diego Tour de Cure® kickoff event, the Father of the Year Awards and Step Out®: Walk to Stop Diabetes®.
I believe in helping any way I can, which is why I’ve expanded my volunteer efforts to other organizations and causes. This year, through the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, I have the opportunity to go to Mexico and help build a house from the ground up for a family in need. I’m a member of my high school’s Red Cross Club and have even initiated my own club at school to raise awareness about cancer and how others can help the cause. These activities strike close to my heart because I understand how important it is to show support for all communities. Helping others is a gift that keeps on giving, and you can never do too much for others.
My diabetes advocacy efforts have led me to amazing experiences that have changed my life forever. I love speaking to people of all ages about the disease and encouraging the fight for a cure. I feel like a hero when I see a smile or a happy tear out in the crowd because I know that audience member has connected with me as a person living with diabetes.
As the Association’s 2014 National Youth Advocate, I want to show the world that the love found in the diabetes community is so strong. In my role, I will continue to participate in important speaking engagements and advocacy efforts, with an emphasis on the Association’s Safe at School campaign, which seeks to make sure that all children with diabetes are medically safe at school.
Being the National Youth Advocate is a very important responsibility, but I am prepared to take this job head first and use my position to be a positive and strong role model for those with and without diabetes. It doesn’t take a certain age to be able to make a difference—it takes love and dedication. As President Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
There is always hope behind closed doors. Diabetes isn’t just a disease—it’s a part of life that we bring along for the ride.
Basma Abdellaoui, age 16
2014 National Youth Advocate
American Diabetes Association