Type 1 diabetes advocate, Samir Dattani, wants to make one thing clear; advocacy isn’t just about talking to members of Parliament. It can come in any form, so long as personal stories are being shared.
The 17-year-old has been sharing his story and advocating for greater government support for the type 1 diabetes (T1D) community for almost ten years. Diagnosed at the age of eight, T1D was completely unknown to him and his family, but they took the diagnosis and decided to connect with JDRF and the T1D community right away. “I was diagnosed in December 2010 and we became involved with the Walk the following June,” said Samir. “After a few years I started giving speeches and sharing my story at the Walk, then continued to do so for the Ride,” said Samir.
The experience of speaking in front of crowds and sharing his personal story, made it easy for Samir to transition into advocacy, and in 2012 he joined other young people as a delegate at JDRF’s Kids for a Cure Lobby Day on Parliament Hill. He participated again during Kids for a Cure 2016. “It is basically taking those same messages and conveying them in a way that helps members of government develop a personal connection,” he explains. In July 2019, Samir took his advocacy work international and brought this approach to Washington, D.C. as the JDRF Canada representative at JDRF’s Children’s Congress.
During his time there, he was paired up with another young delegate living with T1D and together they took meetings with U.S. representatives to advocate for greater government support, one of which was with Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, representing Virginia’s 10th district.
“For our meeting [the goal] was the Special Diabetes Program,” Samir recalls. “We wanted [it] to be extended to 4 or 5 years, with an extra $150-$200 million.” Preparing for a meeting with such a large goal for a critical program that supports T1D research was intimidating but Samir says it always comes down to a simple thing, “We knew what we were pushing for and we supported it by sharing our personal stories about how T1D affects our lives.”
While Samir is a compelling speaker and comfortable sharing his story in public, he knows his approach to advocacy isn’t for everyone and wants to make sure people find the way that works for them. “You can do whatever interests you when it comes to advocacy. Whether it’s participating in Walks and Rides, speaking at Walks and Rides, or writing letters to your member of parliament, whatever you want to do you can do – and it will make a difference.”
You can get involved too! Join our #AccessForAll campaign and help us advocate for affordable and accessible technologies for T1D. However you decide to add your voice, you’ll be joining young advocates like Samir and making a difference.