March is Women's History Month, so it's a perfect time to discuss our signature program - Part of Diabetes Sisters (PODS) Meetups This month, we'll look at the history of our PODS Meetup program and follow its evolution through the years to today.
In the Beginning...
In 2008, DiabetesSisters existed solely online. Through chat rooms, women of all ages across the country who lived with diabetes connected, shared their diabetes experiences, asked questions they didn't feel comfortable bringing to their healthcare team, and found ways to help one another.
The following year, TCOYD hosted a conference in Raleigh, NC. Through the DiabetesSisters chat rooms, women made plans to attend this conference and connect as a group after the event. And thus, the first in-person gathering was born.
Creation of PODS Meetups...
In 2010, DiabetesSisters hosted our first Weekend for Women, and 100 women living with diabetes gathered in Raleigh to learn, share, and connect. At the conclusion of the weekend, these women decided that annual in-person meetings were not enough. Chat rooms and phone calls were great, but women really wanted more connection. (This was before Facetime and Zoom!)
A few women raised their hands and said, "we want to bring this connectedness and trust back to our homes, to other women who cannot come to Raleigh." It was a monumental moment in the history of DiabetesSisters: the creation of PODS Meetups.
PODS: The Early Years...
PODS Meetups soon grew to five locations, then ten, then fifteen. With the help of dedicated volunteers, we created peer support groups where women felt comfortable sharing their deepest feelings about diabetes without fear of judgment. Guidelines were established to include women of all ages and races living with any type of diabetes.
As our Sisterhood grew, we continued to train volunteers and develop resources for discussion. We created a Virtual PODS Meetup group in 2014 for women who wanted support but didn't have a Meetup in their area.
PODS Meetups Evolve...
PODS Meetups now meet regularly in about 40 locations nationwide (when they can be held in person) and have expanded to reach over 2,500 women annually. PODS Meetup locations that have been active the longest include Durham, NC, and Princeton, NJ. Some of the most recently formed PODS Meetup groups include the greater Washington, DC area (South Riding/Chantilly) and Austin, TX. We are also working to coordinate several new PODS Meetup locations, so stay tuned!
PODS and the COVID Pandemic...
Early in March 2020, DiabetesSisters shifted all of our PODS meetings from in-person to online methods or conference calls. Although this shift is temporary, we continue to see high needs for peer support and connections, even more so during the challenges of COVID-19. We are proud to provide this support while keeping our volunteers and participants safe.
PODS Meetups have continued to flourish with these remote platforms despite the pandemic, as both numbers of meetings and meeting attendance exceed our expectations. Much of this success is due to our volunteers who lead PODS Meetups (known as PODS Leaders).
Shoutout to our PODS Leaders...
PODS is the nation's only program that organizes women living with diabetes who volunteer to facilitate peer support groups for other women living with or at risk of developing diabetes. We have more than 50 PODS Leaders located in 22 states. These Leaders are the heart of DiabetesSisters as we strive to ensure the voices of women with diabetes and prediabetes are heard. PODS Leaders facilitate discussions among group attendees and share their own life experiences with diabetes as a tool to support, educate, and advocate for peers in their communities, and often in state and national forums.
Tune in next month when we'll share a bit about what it is like to attend a PODS Meetup.
If you'd like information on joining one of our PODS Meetup groups, please fill out this form: https://diabetessisters.org/form/pods-part-diabetessisters-interest-form
For information on leading a PODS group, visit https://diabetessisters.org/form/become-pods-leader to learn more and apply!