Members of community group Cardiff Diabetes. Credit: Derry Salter.

The people selling their blood to help research – and raise funds for their community group

Members of a diabetes support group send their blood donations around the world to help tackle the chronic disease

DIABETIC members of a Cardiff community group made £3,000 in the space of a year by selling their blood to diabetes research groups.

Each member of Cardiff Diabetes can make £150 per donation of 100ml of blood. To give you an idea of how much that is, donors who ‘give blood’ to the blood service usually provide 500ml each time.

The money raised by donations helps fund the group made up of eight members, who meet once a month in Whitchurch Community Hall.

“This money is essential to keep our small group running. It helps people with diabetes in the local area to meet and know they are not alone,” said Rob Lee, chairman of the group.

“Our group try to raise the issue of mental health problems caused by diabetes. We all support each other.”

Cardiff Diabetes was set up in 1954 and is the second oldest branch in Diabetes UK, their parent group. The group partnered up with Cardiff and Vale Health Board in 2019 to donate their blood to diabetes clinics worldwide.

All blood donated is analysed to help detect patterns in diabetics and is used to calibrate machines in diabetes clinics.

Members of the group range from lorry drivers to scuba divers and meet to share their day-to-day struggles of living with diabetes.

One member, Steve Gardiner, said: “We talk about the highs and lows of diabetes. I can share my problems and medical scares and know others have had the same experience. Coming to this group makes me feel normal.

“There is so much stigma around diabetes. I feel judged by people who know little about it. But this support group shows that not everyone fits in one ‘diabetes box’. We are all different but our problems are shared.”

Members of Cardiff Diabetes community group. From left to right: Mike Taylor, Steve Gardiner, Janis Haines, secretary Stephen Sims, chairman Rob Lee, treasurer Cheryl Sims, and Dean Clarke. Credit: Derry Salter.

During their sessions, the group watch videos called Pocket Diabetics, which focus on different topics about the chronic disease. The educational videos range from foods to avoid to the importance of having a routine.

The community group are working to develop hybrid meetings over zoom so they become more accessible for those across Cardiff.

“Our numbers have certainly dwindled since the Covid pandemic. We had lots of people not return, unfortunately,” said secretary Stephen Sims.

“Between 2019 and 2021 we made only £300 in donations. That was tough. But luckily the cost-of-living crisis has not hit us hard.”

Renting out a room in Whitchurch Community Hall costs £22 a session, which leaves the group money for essential resources and social activities.

Mr Lee said: “We now want to expand our group across Cardiff and start hosting sessions in BAME communities. Members of the BAME community are two to three times more likely to get diabetes and there is very little support for them.

“Everyone struggling with diabetes should receive the support our members get from each other.”

  • Anyone interested in joining Cardiff Diabetes or Diabetes UK can find more information on their website.