Highlights — 18 July 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
Diaspora Belizeans providing diabetes education at home

BELIZE CITY, Fri. July 13, 2018– Belizeans in the diaspora have been making incalculable contributions to the development of Belize for a number of years in many areas. In their own way, many of these Belizeans are finding their way back home and are transferring their valuable skills and resources for the benefit of Belize.

At a reception Friday night for members of the New York Belize Diabetes Association, (NYBDA) a group made up of mostly qualified healthcare professionals, leaders of the organization told Amandala about the work that they have undertaken to provide education to Belizeans suffering from the often devastating condition of diabetes.

Vanessa Jenkins-Young, the president of NYBDA, recalled that their organization got started with a initiative to raise funds for the purchase of a thousand strips, (diabetes glucose test strips). Young explained that, as a healthcare professional, she “realized that it is more than strips,” that are needed. So much more is required to enable a person to cope with a diabetic condition, “so we formed an organization in 2010,” she said.

Young said that the objective of their organization is to empower persons with diabetes to live longer. “If you manage your diabetes well, you could live long and don’t need to have kidney failure or have your limbs amputated,” she said.

Judith Mendez, a nurse from Los Angeles who formed the Corozal chapter of the Belize Diabetes Association, and has been in Belize since last November, said she was inspired to get involved, when upon visiting Belize, she heard “all kinds of stories from people with diabetes, who just didn’t know how to take care of themselves.”

Mendez said, “I decided to come here and give to the people of Belize, because we cannot afford to continue that story without understanding what is really going on.”

Mendez explained that presently in Belize, “People are just dealing with treatment without education. From the latest figures done by the Pan American Health Organization, the Corozal District has the third highest numbers of people with diabetes.”

“We have to show them that they can live longer with diabetes,” Mendez said.

Young, the NYBDA president, explained that their organization has worked collaboratively with the Ministry of Health.

Asked if there are plans to expand the organization, Young was optimistic and said that the NYBDA has two nurses from Los Angeles — “Judith Mendez and Shelmadine Arnold, a nurse coordinator for transplant surgery for pancreas and kidneys.”  “And what I can foresee is some mobilization in the United States, in the diaspora. I have a feeling that we are going to see a BDA Los Angeles and we might see a BDA Chicago,” Young said.

Another member of BDANY, Klay Young, added, “We have found a way to give back and giving back is one of the primary reasons we are here today. When we put a smile on somebody’s face, who said thanks for remembering us, that says to us that we’re on the right track.”

In explaining “the organic manner” in which the BDANY came into existence, president Young introduced some of its members, beginning with Sheree Burgess-Stuart, a nurse who is one of the founding members and one of the two treasurers, and said, “People were just coming together. I remember asking Gwenda to just help me cook. Anita Cadle, one of our newest members, is very hard working, Norma Jean Hyde, a traveling nurse, who is based in Texas but travels all over the US, and on her vacation volunteers in Belize, Betty Hamilton-Williams, a teacher and vice president. “

Gwenda Flowers, the other treasurer, gave credit to Imeon Myvette, who came up with the idea “for us to start our own organization.”

President Young explained that they follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Health on their needs assessment on where to focus the organization’s efforts. “We wanted to go back to Punta Gorda this year, but the Ministry of Health said there was a lot of missions there already, so this year we went back to Dangriga,” Young said.

Young said that they reached out to the Caribbean Diabetes Initiative, and, in referring to this group, which came in 2014, said that they “reached out to them again, but they said they couldn’t come in 2019, but they committed to come in 2020.”  In addition, Young said that they met with the Director of Health Services, Dr. Marvin Manzanero today, and he explained some of the challenges they are facing and explained how the organization could help.

All the persons who made the trip to Belize this year did so at their own expense. President Young explained that they do fundraisers in New York, which, she said, includes “our big dance that we do in December.”

BDANY expressed their gratitude to their sponsors, the Radisson Fort George hotel, which provided complimentary rooms for their volunteers, BEL, which helps to cover their accommodation costs, as well as Fultec Systems, which hosted this reception, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Young also made “special mention of Belize Diabetes Association volunteer Delshanna Armstrong.”

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