Tips On Starting Your Own SWD Chapter

Tips On Starting Your Own Students With Diabetes (SWD) Chapter
by: Ashley Wingert, MPH

Thinking about starting a Students With Diabetes Chapter?  Feeling a little intimidated?  Don’t!  It’s not as daunting as it may seem and we are here to help!

The biggest challenge is finding others with T1D – most people aren’t shouting they have diabetes at the top of their lungs.  But you know they’re out there. And you can find them.  Plus, the SWD National Office is here to help.

HOW TO FIND PEOPLE:

Creating a Facebook page and posting flyers on college campuses or around your community are a great way to start, but many of our established chapters have found that word-of-mouth is the best form of advertisement.  Start with your local endocrinologists, doctors’ offices, and student health services – let them know you want to connect with other T1Ds.  Never underestimate the power of social networking – aka: Don’t forget to tell your friends!  Maybe they don’t have diabetes, but you never know when they might meet someone who does.  Also, talk with you local diabetes non-profit organizations like ADA and JDRF.  They can be a great resource to help you get connected and you can be a great resource for them too!

HOW TO START YOUR GROUP:

Informal meetings are a great way to start.  Consider meeting at a local restaurant or plan a fun activity such as canoeing or bowling.  Remember, SWD is a way to connect, share and learn.  Another idea is to ask organizations in your community to help sponsor some of your meetings and events to help off-set any costs. You never know – it doesn’t hurt to ask!  You may be surprised to find how many people are willing to help.  Plus, when you start connection with others to build your chapter you are also networking and building relationships in your community. (Never a bad thing!)

You will find there are challenges to creating your local chapter, but you will also find it is a very rewarding experience.

When you face a challenge that you are unsure how to overcome, contact us.  That’s what we are here for.  We want you to be able to connect with others in your area who understand the unique experience of living with diabetes.  Maybe you don’t know who to ask to speak about health insurance at one of your formal meetings, send us an email.  We have contacts all over the country!  Maybe you’re running out of ideas for fun things to do or topics to discuss at your meetings, give us a call and we will help you brainstorm.  Maybe you’re running into challenges trying to register on campus as a college group (which can help with funding), let us know and we can guide you.

There are so many benefits to being a part of Students With Diabetes, so let us help you start your own local chapter.  Contact me at awingert@health.usf.edu for more ideas, guidance, and encouragement.

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