Meet the interns

Diabetes South Africa has two interns, one from USA and the other Germany. We caught up with them.

Hannah Anolik from USA

Hannah Anolik (21) has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 15 years. She is from New Jersey, USA and is studying public health at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). She is currently doing a three-month internship with Diabetes South Africa.

Background of Hannah

The 21-year-old has been involved in the diabetes community most of her life. For the past six years, she has been working with Penpals United – an online-based organisation dedicated to providing support for people with diabetes in developing communities all over the world. She used to lead video chats between people with diabetes in India and mentors in the United States.

Though, Pencils United no longer do that as the recently launched an online information and social website to provide education and a social network, specifically for people with diabetes in these communities.

Hannah is also the founder of her college’s chapter of The College Diabetes Network. She has raised money for and been active in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation since her diagnosis in 2004.

Hannah is studying public health, with minors in political science and psychology. She hopes to one day have a career in health policy or international health, or a combination of the two.

Why made you decide to be an intern at DSA? 

I always wanted to study abroad. So, when I found out about the opportunity, through my college, to intern abroad, I was immediately interested.

The study abroad programme, CISabroad and VACorps, that I am enrolled in found DSA and coordinated my internship. I am beyond grateful that they found this organisation.

DSA’s mission to educate, advocate, and support people with diabetes and other healthcare workers and people affected by diabetes is an obvious passion of mine.

Engaging in this education, advocacy, and support and directly interacting with people affected by diabetes in South Africa, and observing South African healthcare NGOs and diabetes management has already taught me so much.

I am excited to be exploring Cape Town, all the while learning about international public health and impacting an organisation that I so deeply care about.

What roles and responsibility do you have at DSA? 

I have been put in charge of planning and executing the annual weekend camp for children with diabetes in Cape Town and the surrounding area. The camp takes place from 12 to 14 April at the Soewater Environmental Centre and the cost is R250 per child.

The planning involved gathering volunteers, advertising the camp and getting campers to sign up, creating all the educational and fun activities for the children, and anything that needs be done to make the weekend the best that it can be.

I am so excited to be working on this project. Not only am I able to talk to different volunteers who will be at the camp and who also feel passionate about impacting the diabetes community, but I am going to get to meet all the children and attend the camp as well.

I also attend the Wellness Days that DSA participates in. So far, I have gone to Worcester where we distributed literature on diabetes to nurses and other healthcare workers.

I will also be going with DSA to some of the Wellness Groups that occur throughout the area, to see first-hand how DSA supports these groups, and how people with diabetes in different communities encourage each other to stay healthy and positive.

Tell us more about your diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was six years old on 6 December 2004. I currently use a Medtronic pump with Humalog insulin, and I also always use a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor.

Regarding your diabetes, how did you plan for this trip?

Since I am only here for three months, I managed to pack enough insulin and pump supplies to last my entire stay. Though, I made sure to contact a doctor in the area I am staying (Observatory) to ensure that I can get insulin and pump supplies if I ever run out.

I travelled with my insulin in Frio bags and kept all my diabetes supplies in my hand luggage the whole time (and did not let it out of my sight).

I also got a mini-fridge for my room to keep my insulin cool and use the Frio cooler bag when the power goes out, or if I’m travelling and need to keep my insulin cold.

What are the differences between USA and SA when it comes to diabetes and treatment? 

From what I have learned and observed so far, there are only a few differences in treatment.

  • Types of diabetes distinguished

For starters, in America, almost anytime that diabetes is talked about, especially in a healthcare setting, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are distinguished.

I was really surprised at the Worcester Wellness Day when healthcare workers were not distinguishing between the two types. Especially, because the treatments for both are extremely different in my opinion (or is very different in America).

  • ‘People first’ language

Secondly, people in America seem to be trending towards more ‘people first’ language regarding any type of illness. For example, we rather say “a child with diabetes” than “a diabetic child”. The idea behind this is to recognise that the person is not defined by their illness.

  • Insulin pumps and CGMs are common

Thirdly, in America, most people that I know that have Type 1 diabetes have some form of an insulin pump, or have the option to have one (if they have medical insurance). Plus, more and more people are wearing continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) as well.

A lot of people even have what is the beginning of a “closed loop system”. This is where the CGM can send blood glucose readings to the insulin pump, which then adjusts insulin based on those readings without the person with diabetes having to do anything.

Having a pump completely changes how someone manages their diabetes, because they do not have to worry about eating sugar-free foods or eating at a certain time. Instead, they are more or less able to give insulin as needed.

  • Able to eat what you want

For me, and I think as is the case for a growing number of people with T1D in America as well, I’m able to eat what I would like. And, I would rather eat foods with natural sugar rather than artificial sweeteners and then give myself insulin to balance the extra carbs.

Continuously, I have seen more emphasis on specific foods for people with diabetes while in SA. I think that this is good because it encourages and guides the person with diabetes to stay healthy.

Although, people with diabetes are taught to eat healthy and avoid certain foods, I think that this may not be as largely emphasised in the USA because so many people have insulin pumps and can easily give themselves insulin.

What is your favourite place you have seen in SA?

I have done so much in South Africa and everything has been so beautiful, it is hard to pick one place! We (other VAC interns) traveled along the Garden Route and that was beyond beautiful and fun. But, so far, my favourite experience has been seeing the beautiful sunsets and the sky. I think overall, my favourite adventure has been the Lion’s Head full moon sunset hike that I did last week. It was so gorgeous. You cannot see things like that in New Jersey.

Marie-Charlotte Hertel from Germany

Marie-Charlotte Hertel (26) lives in Berlin, Germany. She is currently doing her Master in Health Care Management. She is doing a one month internship with Diabetes South Africa.

Background on Marie

The 26-year-old has funded her trip to SA and her internship at DSA by herself. She does not have diabetes but the internship plays a pivotal role in her studies.

Why made you decide to be an intern at DSA? 

I am currently doing my Masters in Health Care Management and there is a focus on international Health Care Management. So, it made sense to complete an internship in another country.

What roles and responsibility do you have at DSA? 

I am working on DSA’s food product endorsement programme, which is run by the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa.

In this programme, food product companies can apply for the DSA approval logo. Their product must meet certain criteria and then gets tested. Only once it passes all the criteria tests, does the DSA logo get placed on packaging.

The DSA food product endorsement programme informs people living with diabetes of products that fit their nutrition criteria.

What are the differences between Germany and SA when it comes to diabetes and treatment? 

The main difference is that people in Germany have better access to healthcare than South African people. Since South Africa has one of the unfairest distributions of income, there are so many citizens who can’t afford paying for any treatment.

People who earn a good income can afford private insurance. Whereas people with lower income, which makes up most of the population, depend on public hospitals. These public hospitals have an overflow of patients…the staff are overworked and the hospitals and clinics are understaffed.

In Germany, we have the following system: there is a statutory health insurance and a private one. But, almost 90% of the population is insured by the statutory health insurance.

Of course, the same principle applies, the better income you earn, the better treatment you can afford. But in Germany almost everyone has, in my opinion, a good and easy way to get fast and good treatment when needed.

What is your favourite place you have seen in SA?

I was mostly impressed by the landscape and fauna of South Africa. I visited the north-eastern part of SA – Kruger National Park and this experience was so unique and beautiful. Being so close to all those animals in such a wide and open national park. Then here in Western Cape, you have this wild ocean, all the rough coasts, the winelands, and further, all the huge mointains around you. After all my travels I still find this very special.