A series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

The Giving and Receiving of Life-Saving Insulin and Diabetes Supplies

This post is one of a series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film below and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

 

Every day, at their office in Gainesville, Florida, packages from around the United States arrive at the Insulin for Life USA (IFL USA) offices. When the IFL USA team and their dedicated volunteers open the boxes, one can sense the kindness with which they were put together. There are insulin vials and pens with ice packs tucked beside them, bubble wrap keeping meters safe and boxes of lancets, strips, alcohol swabs, pen needles and more carefully stacked – all no longer needed by their sender.

 

The supplies are sent to IFL USA with the hope that they can be repackaged and eventually end up in the hands of someone who is in dire need of access to insulin and diabetes supplies somewhere else in the world.

 

This is the work of IFL USA in its simplest form. Boxes arrive, supplies are unpacked, meticulously cataloged and sorted, repackaged and sent along their way to a distant community where a trusted medical practitioner will deliver them to someone who needs them to stay alive.

 

“Our goal at Insulin for Life is to provide access to those with no access,” said Carol Atkinson, the Director of Insulin for Life USA. “[The supplies] have been purchased, and prescribed and they aren’t able to be utilized by the person who has them.”

 

Atkinson noted that if they aren’t sent for redistribution, often these life-saving medical supplies end up in a landfill – no place for in-date, unused medical supplies. “Instead, through Insulin for Life USA, we are saving lives around the world of people who have no access.”

 

The story of access to insulin and diabetes supplies is deeper than this giving and receiving of boxes. It involves broken supply chains, lack of government subsidies for medical care, families with little income for their daily needs, healthcare providers who don’t have access to what their patients need, children with bright futures ahead of them and adults with loved ones to care for.

 

The IFL USA team is excited to share this complex story in their new documentary film Insulin for Life: Real Stories of the Struggle for Access and the Dedicated Individuals Who Help. Watch the film below and discover the many layers of this global issue and how donors to Insulin for Life USA help alleviate the worry of families around the globe.

 

Watch the film below to learn more about how donations are sent and received by Insulin for Life USA.

To donate supplies or funds to Insulin for Life USA click here.

 

Child-Size Needles in Short Supply in Countries Around the World

This post is one of a series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film below and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

 

Nyla Burgess looks out from underneath a ponytail of curls that perfectly match the spunk of her 8-year-old personality as she explains the plot of her latest, most favorite comic book. Our film crew visited Nyla’s family at their home in Belize to hear first hand of the difficulties one can encounter attempting to find diabetes supplies in their country.

 

Nyla has been living with type 1 diabetes for about a year. She has a small frame, as one would expect of an 8-year-old, and requires the smallest syringes to administer her insulin injections each day. When her family first started gathering supplies last year for her care, they discovered that these small, child-sized syringes could sometimes be impossible to find at pharmacies in Belize.

 

That’s where the Belize Diabetes Association (BDA) steps in. The organization provides diabetes supplies free of cost to people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes from across Belize. Some of the supplies that BDA delivers to its members are donated by Insulin for Life USA.

 

Nyla’s family visits the BDA office in Belize City once a month to pick up the syringes, test strips and lancets she needs to manage her condition. Because Nyla’s doctor prescribes a type of insulin that the Belize Diabetes Association does not have in great supply, her family purchases her insulin at a nearby pharmacy.

Nyla’s parents explained to us that the BDA has buoyed them in this past year while they all adjusted to Nyla’s diagnosis. “To be strong for Nyla, we need the Diabetes Association to help us,” her father, Kerry Belisle II, told our crew.

 

Nyla’s mother, Anita Ack explained that if the Belize Diabetes Association didn’t provide supplies for Nyla they would most certainly have to limit her testing. Test strips are incredibly expensive in Belize. If they had to purchase them, they wouldn’t be able to afford all the strips she needs to meet the protocol that her physician has laid out for her daily care.

 

“You are shooting in the dark if you don’t have testing equipment,” Mr. Belisle said about testing Nyla’s blood sugar. “You don’t think about it when it is there…it becomes a very scary place to be to not have access when you need it.”

 

As Insulin for Life USA’s President, Mark Atkinson, PhD says, the goal of Insulin for Life USA is not just to keep people alive, but to improve lives.

 

Donations to Insulin for Life USA help to improve the lives of people like Nyla living around the world.

 

Watch the film to learn more about Nyla’s story.

 

 

The Belize Diabetes Association 

To donate supplies or funds to Insulin for Life USA click here.

Staying Healthy in Belize Thanks in Part to Donations from Insulin for Life USA

This post is one of a series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film below and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

Deandre Dawson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 4. He is now 15 and living outside of Belize City, Belize with his family. He has had his fair share of difficulties with his condition – being hospitalized numerous times with complications from his disease. Deandre is now doing well and credits much of his current health to the Belize Diabetes Association (BDA) where he receives all of his diabetes supplies each month, free of cost as well as education through their monthly programming.

“It is very difficult to be parent of diabetic, it definitely takes a lot out of you emotionally,” Deandre’s father, William Dawson, told our crew. “No parent wants to see their child in that condition. At one time, he was in a coma and it was very emotional for me. He’s my only son and I’m not comfortable when he is sick.”

Though Deandre’s family is able to manage their day-to-day finances, the cost of his supplies would be unmanageable without the Belize Diabetes Association’s help. Supplies can be prohibitively expensive in Belize for people living with diabetes and people are often denied health insurance coverage even when they can afford the cost of monthly premiums.

Insulin for Life USA supplies the Belize Diabetes Association with regular shipments of diabetes supplies that they then distribute free of cost to their members, like Deandre and Nyla Burgess – another person in our film.

Mr. Dawson spoke to us about the incredible support their family receives from the association. In an effort to give back for what his son has received, he joined the volunteer staff as a public relations officer. He now helps the association with awareness campaigns in Belize where people often are uneducated about type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

“Once Deandre became a member, I wanted to be a part of what the association does to help,” Mr. Dawson told our crew. “Once I joined, I saw the work they are doing and I wanted to be a part of the campaign to build awareness.”

Watch the film to learn more about Deandre’s story.

The Belize Diabetes Association

To donate supplies or funds to Insulin for Life USA click here.

 

Insulin for Life USA Donations Help Patients in Belize Find Scarce Diabetes Supplies

This post is one of a series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film below and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

 

The sign for the Belize Diabetes Association hangs above the intersection of Mahogany Street and Central American Boulevard in Belize City, Belize. It notifies passersby of a small set of offices that act as a pipeline for life-saving supplies and a source of information for many people in this small Central American nation.

 

Anthony Castillo, the President of the Belize Diabetes Association (BDA) guided our film crew around the complex dynamics surrounding the treatment of diabetes in Belize. The country is widely defined as middle-income, with an annual per capita income of around $4,500. The US Government estimates that about 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, with some estimates of extreme poverty hovering around 10%. As Anthony Castillo says, many people in Belize fight to maintain steady household finances even without the burden of purchasing medical supplies for a chronic illness.

 

“Not everyone with diabetes has access to insulin and for those who have access, it comes at a cost. Medical costs can be astronomical,” Mr. Castillo told our film crew. He added that even for those who can afford medical supplies, often visits to their pharmacy for refills reveal that the particular insulin or needles they require for care are nowhere to be found due to supply chain issues.

 

“We inform the parents that once they are diagnosed, all supplies that they ever need to maintain their diabetes, we will be able to give them free of cost,” Mr. Castillo explained. The BDA has a group of children and adults on their roster. Though all are entitled to receive free insulin and supplies – many just come for test strips or syringes and purchase insulin on their own if they are able.

 

The Belize Diabetes Association also has a consistent schedule of diabetes education courses and events. When they hear of a new diagnosis from a local physician, one of their staff members visits the patient in the hospital to welcome them to the community. Mr. Castillo is often the person who makes hospital calls to newly diagnosed, offering their first introduction to the kindness, education and support that the BDA provides its members.

 

Mr. Castillo credits donations of insulin and supplies, like those that come from Insulin for Life USA, for helping to keep people with diabetes in Belize healthy.

 

“If we didn’t have these supplies, especially the supplies form IFL, it would be a great challenge for people. Not everyone would be able to purchase the supplies, hence the reason there would be a number of person suffering from complications.”

 

Watch the film to learn more about how the Belize Diabetes Association helps their members.

The Belize Diabetes Association 

 

To donate supplies or funds to Insulin for Life USA click here.

 

The Bojang Family’s Experiences with Diabetes

This post is one of a series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film below and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

 

Lamin Bojang supports his family in the village of Sukuta in the West African nation of The Gambia with his salary as a local policeman. In The Gambia, however, municipal salaries can be quite small and day-to-day finances are difficult for the family. Their situation became even more difficult when one of their young sons, Djembe, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

 

They first took him to a local healer, who tried traditional herbal remedies to rid him of his – at the time – unknown ailment. When his condition didn’t improve they brought him to a local private hospital where he was diagnosed with diabetes. Shortly thereafter, two of their younger sons Kalifa and Karamo were also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

 

Three kids in one family with diabetes is a rare occurrence and posed significant hardship for the family. They struggle just to pay bus fare to the clinic to receive treatment, never mind the price of diabetes supplies themselves.

 

The family has endured unspeakable tragedies in their diabetes journey and we focus on their story in our film, which you can watch below.

 

Though the disease has not been kind to them, the love the family shares keeps them all strong. They share in the hope that many around the world have that someday there will be a cure.

 

“That’s the source of my happiness,” their mother Isaton Sanneh told our film crew. “If your child is sick, you as the mother can’t be in good health. When mine were sick, I also became sick. Nothing could make me happy. Therefore, if they are cured, I will be happy.”

 

In the meantime, they receive all the diabetes supplies they need from Dr. Alieu Gaye at Pakala Clinic in Banjul. Dr. Gaye is able to provide the family with supplies partially because of shipments he receives from Insulin for Life USA. It takes the boys most of a day and sometimes up to three bush taxis to make it from their rural village to Dr. Gaye’s offices. In between visits, they receive educational home visits from Pakala’s diabetes educator, Lamin Dibba to help them manage their day-t- day care.

 

“Dr. Gaye is a very kind person, very humble, and has mercy for other people,” Kalifa Bojang told our film crew. “Without him I don’t think we would be here today.”

 

Watch the film below to learn more about the Bojang family and their diabetes journey.

To donate supplies or funds to Insulin for Life USA click here.

 

A Young Man with Type 1 Diabetes in The Gambia Dedicates Time to Educating Others

This post is one of a series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film below and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

 

Lamin Dibba’s smile is contagious and our film crew saw him employ it generously when out on his rounds as diabetes educator for Pakala Clinic in Bajul, the main city of The Gambia. Insulin for Life USA provides Dr. Gaye insulin and supplies to give to patients who do not have the means to purchase the supplies on their own.

 

Pakala Clinic is run by the physician and diabetes specialist Dr. Alieu Gaye who has known Lamin since he was a young teen, struggling with his own type 1 diabetes in a country where supplies can be difficult to find. Dr. Gaye helped Lamin understand and take control of his condition and through the process the two became close, like father and son they say. They employ a similar sense of calm as they work side by side to help their patients successfully manage their condition.

 

“He paved the way for me. He nurtured me to become a good man,” Lamin said of Dr. Gaye. “All I know. Being hardworking, the spirit, the courage, everything came from him.”

 

Dr. Gaye practices general medicine, but most of those people in the Gambia who are newly diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are referred to his clinic. Lamin, recently out of university, is now employed to help Pakala’s patients manage their day-to-day care. He makes home visits, discusses dosing, supplies, nutrition and exercise with people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes between their visits to the clinic.

 

Lamin spoke to our crew about the difficulties of growing up in The Gambia with type 1 diabetes. His family didn’t have enough money to purchase insulin, so he had to sometimes wait in long lines to receive vials once a month from the government hospital.

 

“It’s frustrating. Because, we all didn’t come from a good economic background,” Lamin said. “So, what the rich man’s kids may experience is really different from what the poor man’s kids experience.”

 

Dr. Gaye is hoping that Lamin will use his education and training to make a change in the country – lobbying for the government to provide supplies for all people living with diabetes in need.

 

I want to, “give him leadership skills and leadership training. I’ve gone through all that and I want to give back to him a lot of what I have gone through. I see a future in him as a good leader and I want to help him,” Dr. Gaye said when we asked him about Lamin. “He is an inspiration to the kids, he really is. He would be wonderful for this country if he continues this way and he will influence change at the highest political level in this country.”

 

As our crew followed Lamin on his visits, they saw the spark of a leader who wants to make a difference in the lives of the people around him.

 

Watch the film to learn more about Pakala clinic and their patients.

 

To donate supplies or funds to Insulin for Life USA click here

One Gambian Doctor Saving the Lives of Children with Diabetes in His Hometown

This post is one of a series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

Our film crew followed Dr. Alieu Gaye out the front door of Pakala Clinic and into the streets of Banjul, the capital city of the West African country, The Gambia. The physician, tall, graceful and deliberate, took our film crew on a short walk to see the streets of the city he grew up in. His childhood home is a quick walk away from the clinic he now runs.

As they walked, Dr. Gaye greeted friends, neighbors and patients and patted the heads of young children as he passed them. Everyone seemed to know him and he seemed to make each and every one of them smile. It was a walk that showed what Dr. Gaye would never say himself – he is admired and respected by his community and to him they owe a world of thanks.

Dr. Gaye started his clinic in 1993, a small facility with just nine beds. Eight years ago, they moved to their current location where he and his fellow physicians and healthcare providers see around 15,000 patients a year on an inpatient and out patient basis. The nearby hospital uses his operating theater for some of their procedures. It is a modern building tucked back a short way from the street. It has welcoming gardens on either side of the entrance and friendly faces inside with the knowledge and kindness to treat the ailments of the local population. Though most of their patients pay for their services, Dr. Gaye and his colleagues also treat others without the means to pay, evaluating each request on an individual basis.

“It is part of my social responsibility to give back to the community that I grew up in,” Dr. Gaye explained when our crew asked him about his generosity. “These are people I owe a lot to. They helped be in being who I am at this point in my life.”

Dr. Gaye practices general medicine, but he has special interest and deep knowledge of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Many of his colleagues around the country refer newly diagnosed patients to his hospital.

“Diabetes is one of our strengths,” Dr. Gaye told our crew. “We run blood sugars, do kidney profiles, we do lipid profiles, we test their A1C. It is part of a package that we offer to patients and they find it very attractive. Newly diagnosed diabetics and all children with type 1 diabetes get referred to this clinic by my colleagues.”

In treating his patients with diabetes, Dr. Gaye has become very familiar with the access to insulin and diabetes supplies in his country. The government is one of the main providers of supplies and he told us they don’t provide enough to cover everyone’s needs. So, Dr. Gaye set up a small program where he provides insulin and diabetes supplies to children with type 1 diabetes from families living in poverty. The program now treats about 70 patients. Each of the patients receives Dr. Gaye’s time and all the insulin and supplies they need free of cost. Insulin for Life USA provides insulin and supplies for Dr. Gaye to deliver to these patients.

Dr. Gaye’s partnership with Insulin for Life USA is a great example of how the model works. Carol Atkinson, Director of Insulin for Life USA noted that IFL finds healthcare providers to partner with who can help distribute supplies to patients in need.

“Dr. Gaye in The Gambia has been a wonderful partner. His impact and work in The Gambia is admirable,” noted Atkinson. “He has had a very deep and profound impact.”

“Without Insulin for Life, I would find it difficult to practice diabetes in this country,” Dr. Gaye told us. “We would like to thank them tremendously from the bottom of our heart for the support we are getting.”

Watch our film to learn more about Dr. Alieu Gaye and his patients.

To donate supplies or funds to Insulin for Life USA click here