Has anybody in this group ever started a community support group (not online)? I’d like to start one in my small rural community, and haven’t a clue how to go about it. Any tips or ideas from someone who’s started or run one?
I started one in college on my campus. I posted something in the school newspaper and reserved a meeting space for a first meeting to see if I could generate some interest. You might approach your local library. Our first meeting had over 15 people, but after that, it was just three of us each month. Still, we walked as a team for the ADA walk and became friends. I also started us a website to announce meeting dates.
I know that Minimed sponsors local support groups for their pump users. You might visit a local meeting and see if you can network with some other local diabetics - even if you don’t use a pump. Their meeting locations are searchable on their website.
Eileen, This is horribly long =)
I was looking for diabetes support groups in my state (NJ) in 2003 and only found 2 reasonably close by. One was already closed and disbanded, the other was essentially a J&J rep and a CDE and only 1 other participant (Type 2). That group quickly disbanded too. That’s when I went online. These groups do not have distance so we can visit at our own time and in places that are convenient. The only thing missing that I would really like is “face time”.
I started a support group many years ago (not for diabetes). One of the key things for that group to survive was participation. I live in a densely populated area and we still had trouble… the regular membership was only 4-5 people for almost 2 years and then, after a massive commitment to keep the meeting open no matter what (not rain or sleet or dark of night… you get it), people started to join and show up. That meeting went on for another 7 years before I eventually couldn’t keep up my commitment (open up, make coffee, business related stuff like donations to the church where we met, etc) and when I left, the meeting survived another 5 years before an eventual loss of interest.
The other key thing is advertisement. Newspapers are a start but not enough. You could make flyers and get them out to endocrinologist offices, you could try to make a web page, or jump on to another web page like the JDRF Oregon (if the had no problem letting you advertise your group) http://www.jdrf.org/oregon or the Oregon government site http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/diabetes/ but you HAVE to get the word out. That task alone is monumental if not impossible for one person.
The final key element is content. Keeping a group alive means creating a very strong doctrine, strong group rules about giving advice to one another, about leadership, and about how to foster great discussions and thinking without trying to become an authority. Most of the self-help groups have strong by-laws regarding advertisements and interests and affiliations in outside organizations. Troubles can happen if you get members who think they are helping by telling people what to do… depending on where you live those members or the group, or the facility or anyone involved could even be liable if someone gets hurt.
Meeting rooms can be libraries, church basements, or even sometimes hospitals may donate their facilities… but what happens in a fire, if someone falls coming to a meting, if something happens in a parking lot, who pays for the extra heat or a/c? I dealt with these issues by having emergency numbers on my person and the church where we met had a copy of my drivers license… that group was important to me and I really didn’t care if I had to take some risks, but others might feel it may be too much. I had to develop a relationship with the folks who ran or owned the buildings. Churches were by far easier, they are designed with automatic “no-fault” liability (unlike a hospital) but we had dues (donations by members) to help pay for the facility electricity and heat.
I wish you the world of luck. I didn’t mean for this to be negative so let me finish by looking up at this post and reminding myself that the support group, the face time, the fellowship, the community, actually hearing people’s pain and watching the miracle of self improvement, empowerment, the repair of one’s own self esteem was powerful and worth every risk it involved, ten-fold. It saved my life. I also saw the most wretched and twisted of people come in and over a few years start to feel better, start to treat themselves better and become happy.
Work? yes. Worth it? Yes.
I also decided to start a group here in our small town. I realised the other day when I talked to another parent of a diabetic that we all walk our lonely road and we actually have so much to share. I know of about 3 or 4 adults with type 1 and 4 children with type 1. Here’s lots with type 2. I’m going to visit our local doctors (there are only a few) and inform them of my decision. Hoperfully they will support me. I’m busy writting a small book on diabetes in our language. I’m also going to show them it so that they will see that I’m not that uninformed and that together we can make a group work…