Welcome Parents!

We are delighted that your child has joined AYUDA's influential group of youth leaders that share a commitment to inspire, empower, and educate young people living with diabetes and their families in communities abroad. The aim of this section of the website is to provide you with materials and information that will help you better support your child in their journey as an AYUDA volunteer.

Below, we have included information about fundraising, health & wellness, and some of the frequently asked questions we receive from our AYUDA parents. If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. In addition, AYUDA hosts pre- and post-program webinars for all parents of AYUDA volunteers.

FAQs by Parents: General

+ What is AYUDA?

AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad, Inc.) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization has been offering life changing educational and empowerment programs abroad for over 20 years. AYUDA was established in 1997 with the vision that youth can serve as agents of change for other youth in diabetes communities around the world. AYUDA was founded in reaction to seeing children with diabetes who had access to insulin and basic medical treatment but still suffered complications and early death, because they did not know how to manage their condition. To this end, AYUDA operates under the guiding principle that a lack of education is just as dangerous as a lack of insulin.

AYUDA has been established as an international volunteer program that trains individuals - ranging from high school, college, and graduate students to medical professionals - to support diabetes youth leadership and educational programs abroad. AYUDA’s volunteers work in partnership with local diabetes organizations to support and enhance diabetes education and outreach programs that target underserved youth with diabetes. AYUDA’s innovative peer learning model uses youth volunteers as catalysts to empower local youth living with diabetes to form healthy lifestyle habits. AYUDA’s volunteer service-delivery model includes a robust pre-program training (online and in-person), meaningful experience abroad, and post-program evaluation. In 2018, AYUDA’s volunteer programs are concentrated in the Dominican Republic. The volunteer program is distinguished for its excellence by the International Volunteer Program Association and has been recognized for social entrepreneurship and innovation by Ashoka, the World Bank as a 2007 Development Marketplace Finalist, and the Economic Council of the United Nations.

+ Why volunteer with AYUDA?

AYUDA’s programs offer a wonderful opportunity for students and young adults to gain hands-on and life-changing experiences while supporting young people living with diabetes abroad. AYUDA’s model is unique in that we place an unprecedented responsibility on our volunteers. AYUDA selects its volunteers from a competitive pool of highly qualified applicants. Our teams consist of about one-third each of high school, college, and graduate students and young professionals. This combination leads to dynamic program teams filled with diverse backgrounds and experiences that lead to a rich learning environment for our volunteers. Once accepted into our program, every volunteer receives extensive pre-program preparation prior to traveling abroad. Volunteers may also be eligible to receive service-based learning credits and/or course credit (200 to 400 contact hours).

Together, the Volunteer Training Program (VTP) along with a life-changing in-country experience can significantly benefit the lives of our volunteers. From volunteering with AYUDA, they will learn key leadership, team building, international relations, business development, empowerment, and mentoring skills. They will develop a unique understanding and respect for a different culture, learn more about living a full life that includes diabetes, and improve their Spanish fluency. Volunteers who have diabetes reinforce their own thoughtfulness about diabetes management and bond and grow with others who face similar challenges.

Volunteers also have the opportunity to take on additional leadership and programmatic roles as they continue their involvement with AYUDA past their primary year. Experienced volunteers who are selected to become Volunteer Mentors-in-Training and Volunteer Mentors participate in various committees, such as Recruitment & Selection and VTP Planning, and manage a group of 4-6 new volunteers throughout our pre-program training and in-country program. Experienced volunteers who come back for a third year (or later) are invited to become Program Leaders and have the opportunity to participate in a site visit during the year to the community to prepare for the volunteer program. By involving all of our volunteers in multiple elements of our program preparation and delivery, we provide hands-on experiences that inspire and empower them to serve as agents of social change, not only internationally but in other areas of their lives, as well.

The AYUDA programs are supported by a motivated and experienced staff, dedicated to creating an empowering, life-enhancing, and safe experience for volunteers. In addition to AYUDA’s volunteer team and AYUDA staff, AYUDA brings volunteer healthcare professionals in country to support its volunteers. Additional in-country support is provided by AYUDA’s partner organization through their staff and local youth leaders.

+ Why is AYUDA’s work important?

Relevant diabetes education, coupled with proper support, is critical to those living with diabetes. AYUDA programs aim to empower young people living with and affected by diabetes to work together with and educate others with the same condition abroad. AYUDA equally encourages the particpation of those who do not have connections to diabetes but are interested in working with like-minded individuals to empower youth to live healthy lives. Through these programs, AYUDA has found improved health outcomes for young people, compared to alternative interventions in resource poor settings, in particular with regard to psychosocial outcomes.

We have seen improvements in diabetes management of the young people who participate in our camps and educational programs and have seen a growth in organizational capacity in the leadership in their communities. Some of those involved in AYUDA camps and programs are now serving as leaders of successful diabetes programs in their own countries.

As a culmination of extensive training and hard work, AYUDA volunteers work with local partners to prepare activities and programs that are both educational and recreational, giving children with diabetes a chance to be children playing and learning without worry or restriction. As the young participants are more relaxed and focused on having fun, they become more open to accepting information about their diabetes management in an environment where others have diabetes, too. Moreover, AYUDA's program can also empower volunteers living with diabetes to be more aware of their diabetes management, which, in turn, helps them to become excellent role models as well as teachers.

+ What educational and professional benefits does the Summer Volunteer Program with AYUDA offer?

  • Real-world public health experience in a foreign language
  • Community service requirements and some college credits can be met (200 to 400 hours depending on program)
  • Unique experience that helps volunteers stand out in the college and graduate school admissions process
  • Development of self-confidence and leadership skills that will help volunteers achieve success in all aspects of life
  • Experience in project management, cross-cultural communications, and teaching
  • Training in fundraising and social entrepreneurship and exposure to Ashoka, other Changemakers, and Changemaking organizations
  • Field experience that is extremely beneficial for those wishing to enter the education, medical, global and public health, and international business fields
  • Resume boosting! Click here for New York Times “Volunteering Rises on the Resume” article
  • Networking and meeting like-minded individuals
  • Fulfillment of AYUDA Core Competencies and Certificate of Completion

+ What are the volunteer demographics?

  • Ages typically range from 16-28 but all ages above our minimum required age (16 years) are welcome
  • All education levels can apply (from high school students to medical/other professionals)
  • All educational backgrounds
  • No prior diabetes knowledge required; typically more than half of our volunteers have type 1 diabetes
  • Intermediate Spanish/Spanish proficiency recommended

+ What is the best way to support my child during this program?

Your support and encouragement can be essential to your child's success not just with AYUDA but with other opportunities your child is passionate about. Volunteers are expected to fulfill all of the AYUDA Core Competencies, including the requirements within the E-course and other preparations for the in-country programs, in a timely and complete fashion. Although rigorous, the more effort volunteers put into the programs, the more successful and fulfilling the program will be to them in the end.

A core requirement of fundraising and social entrepreneurship for our volunteers is that they draw up fundraising “SMART” goals with a plan of action. The plan may involve your participation and endorsement. While the AYUDA Staff and Volunteer Mentors are dedicated to supporting the success of each volunteer's fundraising efforts, your endorsement and advocacy of your child's commitment may be paramount to fundraising outcomes.

While some donors may support the volunteer because they are interested in the work AYUDA is doing, the majority will support your child because of what your child represents. Hence, it is also important for our volunteers' families to demonstrate they believe in what our volunteers are dedicated to achieving.

+ What if my child has questions or needs additional support from the AYUDA team?

In line with AYUDA's fundamental principle that youth can be agents of social change, we have designed our program to specifically provide tools to empower our volunteers. Each volunteer is assigned a Volunteer Mentor group, which is led by at least one Volunteer Mentor-in-Training and one Volunteer Mentor, to help support them with their assignments, and our Staff is willing to work with volunteers if they need extra assistance. If you have questions about the program, please feel free to contact the AYUDA Staff. If there are questions specifically about assignments or coursework, we prefer that your child contact the assigned Volunteer Mentor or AYUDA Staff, so that we can ensure they are getting the most out of the learning process.

If you have questions about fundraising or have donors who you would like AYUDA to contact, please let our staff know.

FAQs by Parents: In-Country Concerns

+ Will I be able to contact my child while he/she is abroad?

Cell Phones: AYUDA volunteers will always travel in numbers and with a Volunteer Mentor that has been given an AYUDA cell phone with full functionality to carry on them in case of an emergency. Volunteers may also purchase an international phone plan or bring with them a prepaid phone, and they will have the option to buy/refill as many minutes as they like in-country. Most volunteers choose to bring their personal cell phones, but this is not a requirement and international fees will most likely apply (check with your individual carrier).

Internet: Wireless internet is readily available at the hotel where our volunteers will be staying. This means that web-based calling applications (e.g., Skype, WhatsApp, etc.) have been preferred means of communication for our volunteers. Prior to departure, parents will be provided a list of AYUDA Staff members who have mobile phone numbers in country as well as a list of emergency contact numbers.

+ How are volunteers informed regarding concerns of food and water?

This is an important topic that is covered during the pre-program training and is specific to each country. Health & safety topics are also revisited upon arrival in-country. Volunteers are instructed not to drink the tap water and are given detailed information about food safety in-country. There is always boiled or bottled water available. We urge volunteers to avoid street food and unclean fruits and vegetables. Despite all precautions when traveling in a foreign country, it is not uncommon for people to experience some minor intestinal troubles or “traveler’s diarrhea.” A Health Care Professional Volunteer travels with AYUDA on each program to serve as an as-needed medical professional for the volunteers and local doctors are on call around the clock to respond to any volunteer health concerns.

+ How will AYUDA ensure my child’s health and safety abroad? 

Maintaining the health and safety of volunteers is our top priority. While AYUDA volunteers are responsible for their own health and wellness while abroad, AYUDA staff are in country to help facilitate that objective. AYUDA has taken preventative measures in pre-program training to keep your loved ones healthy while abroad. If your child does need medical attention while abroad, AYUDA volunteer medical staff, in-country local partners, and in-country medical staff will help ensure AYUDA volunteers receive the best possible care. If a volunteer does become ill, their medical consent forms will be reviewed and the volunteer will be accompanied to a local hospital recommended by our local partners for quality care and service. AYUDA also has local pediatricians and endocrinologists who are on call around the clock to answer any questions for volunteers.

In the case of an unforeseen medical emergency, all volunteers are required to have emergency evacuation insurance, and we also have protocols with AYUDA and local partner staff on the ground 24/7 to help coordinate care. Some countries require or suggest that volunteers have certain vaccinations before entering the country, which is reviewed on our pre-program Health & Wellness E-course call. Please consult your country's government website for more information regarding the health of travelers. U.S. citizens can visit the website of the Center for Disease Control to learn more about vaccinations and staying healthy while traveling. It is also recommended that you visit the nearest travel clinic prior to departure.

In the event of an unforeseen evacuation, AYUDA volunteers are required to consult with their respective state department guidelines for visitors abroad and register their trip (if applicable) with the respective entity. For example, all U.S. AYUDA volunteers need to register with the U.S. Department of State's Register Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

+ Who is responsible for the safety and location of volunteers during "time-off"?

Although AYUDA volunteers are responsible for their safety and health & wellness while abroad, AYUDA has staff on the ground 24/7 and guidelines are in place to help keep volunteers safe. Volunteers undergo cultural training both prior to departure and on arrival in country. The training includes safety and security protocols to prepare them for life in their host country. In the Dominican Republic where home-stays are not available, all volunteers and staff are housed together and encouraged to explore the city in small groups. AYUDA volunteers never travel alone. They will always be in groups led by a Volunteer Mentor and/or a local youth leader from AYUDA’s partner organization. All Volunteer Mentors will have a working cell phone to be in contact with AYUDA staff as necessary during “time-off.”

+ My child has diabetes…

AYUDA is very familiar with the management of diabetes and accepting volunteers who have diabetes. However, volunteers are responsible for their own care. While AYUDA staff are available and can be contacted 24/7, they should not be seen as a substitute for your child’s own medical team. Volunteers will be able to easily purchase food and drink to manage/prevent low blood sugars and are encouraged to bring low supplies from home. AYUDA also has a Health Care Professional Volunteer on each program to serve as an as-needed medical professional for the volunteers, and local pediatricians and endocrinologists are on call around the clock to answer any questions for volunteers. About half of AYUDA’s volunteers have type 1 diabetes.

Travel, Health, and Wellness

Below are some of the documents we provide to AYUDA volunteers regarding travel, health, and wellness. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions.  

VTP Overview Travel Guide

Dominican Republic Travel Overview

Dominican Republic Packing List

Health and Wellness Abroad

FAQs by Parents: Fundraising

+ Why is my child fundraising to participate in an AYUDA program?

AYUDA does not believe volunteers should have to pay to volunteer. What you may not know is that for every dollar an AYUDA volunteer raises, it takes two additional dollars to offset the costs of training, placing each volunteer in country, and supporting the sustainability of the outreach programs your child is participating in. So while volunteers are fundraising to help offset their direct costs of volunteering and helping sponsor the local diabetes programs, AYUDA is working hard to double that amount to sponsor your child’s participation. You can also think of if it like a scholarship: AYUDA is offering a scholarship to your child for almost twice the amount of what your child is fundraising.

Beyond the life-changing experiences AYUDA offers in-country, the AYUDA volunteer experience is much more than just that. AYUDA volunteers’ learning and training spans at least four months prior to their arrival abroad. From the minute volunteers are accepted to the program, volunteers actively engage with other members of the team and begin pre-program training. All of this information and training will be turned into real-life hands-on experiences that will last way beyond your child’s time in the AYUDA program. Together we will help your child build skills to ensure the time spent in-country is impactful and, furthermore, we will help empower your child to become an effective advocate and leader.

Prior to your child’s in-country experience, volunteers receive and partake in over 100 hours of service-based learning through the online training (VTP E-course) and the in-person summit (VTP Summit). Depending on the program, volunteers partake in, 200 to 400 hours of service-based learning credits can be earned, including pre-program and in-country. There is also an investment and cost associated with this training. For example, volunteer fundraising helps offset the cost of accommodations and other expenses during the three days while in Stanford, CA; it also helps sponsor our international local partners to be present at the training.

We believe that our volunteers are at the center of everything we do. The money each volunteer fundraises helps to pay for the overall costs of the program as well as their in-country costs. Volunteer fundraising is critical to AYUDA - without you AYUDA wouldn’t be able to run its programs, and AYUDA would not be a volunteer-based organization. We want your child to enjoy the experience, and we don’t want you to have to pay for the experience out of pocket. This is why we offer extensive training on fundraising and social entrepreneurship.

+ But wouldn’t it be better to have more volunteers raising a little less per head so that everyone wins?

Unfortunately not – since everyone wouldn’t win. Our objective is to ensure long-term sustainability at the local level, by continuing to put the needs of the local communities first, and offering effective support to the local organizations. Our local partners lead the programs and we provide support – not the other way around. AYUDA and our partners agree on the number of volunteers they think they need in order to effectively run the local programs.

In addition, by keeping the number of volunteers low, each individual volunteer is valued for their experience and what they bring to the team. Your child’s impact will be more tangible and, overall, we will be able to ensure that the time your child spends in-country is meaningful (it won’t be a group tour!). Fewer volunteers means your child’s interaction with our local partners and the communities they serve is more personal and profound.

+ Why aren't flights included in my fundraising total? Can’t AYUDA just pay with the money I fundraise?

Pre-program fundraising does not cover travel (either flights or otherwise) to the VTP Summit in March or to the in-country program in the summer. Volunteers are responsible both for the booking and payment of travel (and related insurance). However, we do offer the option of fundraising for your travel costs (up to $1,000) once you have reached your pre-program fundraising goal. We will provide travel reimbursements in November once you have reached your post-program fundraising target.

+ How does my child get refunded for the flights?

We want to help you get refunded as it will mean you will have completed all the requirements and targets. The goal is not to make the process confusing – if there is a requirement you haven’t completed, we’ll let you know. Once it’s completed, we will happily send you the reimbursement.

+ Why fundraise post-program?

Saying thank you to supporters is paramount and a core competency for all AYUDA volunteers. AYUDA believes that one of the easiest ways to engage your supporters and say thank you (again) is immediately after you return from your in-country experience. We hope that the energy and drive with which your child returns home, will inspire, motivate, and encourage others to engage with AYUDA and want to support our local partners.

+ Where does my child get materials to help fundraise? Can I see some of them?

The following documents are some of the materials that we provide to AYUDA volunteers to help support their fundraising. They are companion documents to the 3 E-course sessions held on fundraising. Reviewing these documents is required as part of the course.

The Basics

AYUDA Core Competencies  - outlines AYUDA's fundraising principles

More on fundraising

Interested in hosting an AYUDA information session or fundraising event? Email us at info@ayudainc.net.

Testimonials from Parents

Below, a few of our volunteer parents share some of their experiences about what it is like to be a part of AYUDA.  

“When Melanie was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 12 years old, she accepted and embraced it the best she could. She took care of herself but wasn't interested in becoming involved with any diabetes related program. However, that all changed six years ago when Melanie, at 16 years old, was first introduced to AYUDA. It was truly a life changing moment for her. The idea of being a youth leader who could make a difference in others' lives and use her Spanish at the same time was what drew her in at the beginning. However, what has kept her involved for the past six years has been the strength of the program, the dedication to youth empowerment, and the people involved both locally and abroad. We are forever grateful for AYUDA and all that it offers to help educate and empower people living with diabetes, like Melanie, in the U.S., Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. This truly is an amazing organization!” (Beth & Lee Goldring, parents of Melanie Goldring, AYUDA Ecuador Volunteer 2012, DR Volunteer Mentor 2013-15, DR Program Leader 2016, AYUDA Staff 2017-present)

“Our daughter's first AYUDA experience in the Dominican Republic was very amazing and inspiring...a real eye-opener...for her to see children with diabetes who do not have ready access to medical treatment and supplies, which, she realized, she takes for granted and, without which, would be a big deal for her own life with diabetes. AYUDA has spurred in her personal call to action to make a difference in the lives of others who are less privileged.” (Gail S Packer, mother of Jessie Kaplan, AYUDA DR Volunteer 2011-12)

“AYUDA has made our daughter a stronger, more capable person, both to manage her own diabetes and to be a force to help others in managing their condition. AYUDA has inspired her with the confidence, given her the tools, and supported her with the community to successfully teach critical diabetes management skills to children with diabetes in resource-poor Caribbean communities. She loves the passionate AYUDA team and has developed a personal stake in their mission to improve diabetes care around the world.” (Bob Runge, father of Ava Runge, AYUDA DR Volunteer 2011-12)