7 Tips for Volunteering Abroad with Type 1

A nursing student shares her tips after volunteering in Cambodia.

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As a person with Type 1 diabetes, I often assumed it would be too difficult to travel on a medical mission trip. In January 2014, I proved myself wrong. As a nursing student at Quinnipiac University, I was invited to join the CMEH Foundation, which provides medical assistance in Cambodia.

Boy, was my mom “thrilled” when I asked her if I could go. “Panicked” might have been a more apt description. She immediately jumped online and did tons of research on how I could be a part of the trip while managing my diabetes. After a lot of discussion, we started taking the necessary steps to prepare six months prior to the day I stepped on the plane.

Here are the steps we took:

  • Researched the necessary vaccinations to see if any were dangerous for someone with Type 1 diabetes
  • Purchased emergency evacuation insurance
  • Researched the local food and what was safe for visitors to eat, and the carb counts of those foods
  • Purchased a charger adapter for my meters
  • Observed the amount of supplies I used in two weeks and then packed double that for the two-week trip
  • Packed my supplies in two separate carry-on bags in case one was stolen or lost
  • Changed my insulin pump settings from a.m. to p.m on the plane, since Cambodia has a 12-hour time difference (my nighttime and daytime basal rates are slightly different)

Managing my diabetes while also caring for others during clinic hours was at times difficult. Between dehydration and the change in diet, my blood sugar would spike and drop very quickly. It wasn’t easy, but I got the job done, and we helped 1300 people. That trip proved to me that I can travel and volunteer with diabetes. I am signed up to go again this year in January 2015!

To learn more about the organization, go to http://www.cmehfoundation.org/.

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Hannah Lambert is a 22 year old student finishing her last year of nursing school at Quinnipiac University. She grew up on the east coast of Florida and plans on returning there after graduation. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on May 18th, 2005. Every year she attends the Friends for Life Children with Diabetes convention in Orlando to stay updated on all the new diabetes research and technology. She loves adventure, photography, volleyball, making videos and helping others! Follow her on social media at @hanluvolleyball