FAQs FAQS: In-Country
FAQs: Fundraising Travel, Health & Wellness Volunteer Testimonals

Welcome Parents!  We are delighted that your son or daughter has joined AYUDA's influential group of youth leaders that share a commitment to inspire, empower and educate young people and their families living with diabetes 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. You can navigate the page using the menu above. 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 the past 19 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.”

Established an international volunteer program that trains individuals- ranging from high school, college, 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 2016, AYUDA’s volunteer programs are primarily 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?
The 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. This make up creates a dynamic team 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 VTP Program along with a life-changing in-country experience can significantly benefit the lives 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. Experienced volunteers who are selected to become Volunteer Mentors and/ or Volunteer Program Associates are invited 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 leadership team, AYUDA has staff and volunteer healthcare professionals in-county to support its volunteers.

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. 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 also in the leadership in their communities. Some of those involved in AYUDA camps and programs are now serving in their own countries as leaders of successful diabetes programs.

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 – and this 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 speaking 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 and 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. Minimum age: 16
  • All education levels can apply (from high school students to medical 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 son or daughter 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 in engaging. 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 your his/her outcomes.

While some donors may support the volunteer because of 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 also believe in what our volunteers are dedicated to achieving.

If you have questions about fundraising or have donors who you would like AYUDA to also be engaged in the communication, please let our staff know

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

Following in line with AYUDA's fundamental principle that youth can be agents our social change, we have designed our program to specifically provide tools to empower our volunteers. Each volunteer is assigned a “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 ask the AYUDA staff at anytime. If there are questions specifically about assignments or coursework, we prefer that your son or daughter contact his or her volunteer mentor of the AYUDA staff, so that we can ensure they are getting the most out of the learning process.

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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 a local cell phone (pay as you go phone) to carry on them in case of an emergency. Volunteers may also purchase/bring with them a prepaid phone and they will have the option buy/refill as many minutes as the like in-country. Some volunteers may also choose to bring their personal cell phones (iPhone, ect) 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 are volunteers will be staying. This means that web-based calling applications (ie, Skype, WhatsApp) 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 training program and is specific to each country and is also revisited on arrival in-country. Volunteers are instructed not to drink the tap water, they are also 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 travelling in a foreign country, it is not uncommon for people to experience some minor intestinal troubles or “traveler’s diarrhea”.

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 & wellness while abroad, AYUDA staff are in-country to help facilitate that objective. AYUDA has taken preventive 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 he/she will be accompanied to a local hospital recommended by our local partners for quality of 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 staff 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. Please consult your country's government website for more information regarding the health of travelers. U.S. citizens can visit the website of the Centers 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 US AYUDA volunteers need to register with the US Department of State's Register Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

More detailed information about Health & Wellness Abroad will be provided to AYUDA volunteer during their pre-departure training

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 a cultural training program both prior to departure and on arrival in country. The program includes safety and security training to prepare them for life in their host country. In the Dominican Republic where homestays are not available all volunteers and staff are housed together and encouraged to explore the city in small groups.

My son/daughter has diabetes…. 

AYUDA is very familiar with the management of diabetes and accepting volunteers who have diabetes. However, volunteers should be 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 son/daughter’s own medical team. Volunteers will be able to easily purchase food and drink to manage/prevent low blood sugars and they are encouraged to bring supplies from home. AYUDA also has local pediatricians and endocrinologists who are on call around the clock to answer any questions for volunteers. About two-thirds of AYUDA’s volunteers have type 1 diabetes.


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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. 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 he or she spends in-country is impactful and further more, 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 service-based learning credits including pre-program an in-country. There is also an investment and cost associated with this training. For example, volunteer fundraising help offset the cost of accommodations and other expenses during the three days while in Washington DC; it also helps sponsor our international local partners to also 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 and once it’s complete 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 and reviewing these documents is required as part of the course.

The Basics
AYUDA Core Competencies
Outlines AYUDA's fundraising principles

More on fundraising
2016 AYUDA Fundraising Toolkit                                                                                                                      
15 Reasons People Give
Getting Over the Fear of Asking

TED talk - Emotional Hooks (video)
TED Talk - The Way We Think about Charity is "Dead Wrong)
How to Overcome the Fear of Asking for Money, video

Interested in setting up your own AYUDA fundraising page? Please click here for more information.

Interested in hosting an AYUDA information session or fundraising event? Click here.

Travel, Health and Wellness

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

VTP Overview Travel Guide
Dominican Republic Travel Overview (coming soon!)
Domincan Republic Packing List (coming soon!)

Health and Wellness Abroad

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Testimonals from Volunteers and Parents

Below a few of our volunteers and parents share some of their experiences and stories about what its like to volunteer with AYUDA. 

The Impact of AYUDA

"I don’t have enough space to describe AYUDA’s impact! It not only helped me to understand diabetes with a world perspective but also to embrace my own diabetes. Working with all sorts of people with different perspectives on diabetes helped me to see it in such a new light." (Suzette Morabito, AYUDA Ecuador Volunteer 2012)

"Spending nearly 6 weeks in the Dominican Republic this summer changed my life. My tiny diabetes world expanded, and I came away with a new perspective on what the big issues are. No matter how you take care of yourself and your diabetes, we all go through the same thing. We all have the same struggles, and the camps and outreach programs gave everyone involved a sense of belonging." (Louise Kyle, AYUDA DR Volunteer 2013,  DR Volunteer Mentor 2014)

" I learned so much through AYUDA, especially about all the aspects necessary to facilitate change for a global health issue. I only hope that I had an impact on people I was fortunate enough to meet as much as they impacted me. Volunteering with AYUDA has undoubtedly been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and has only reinvigorated my passion and interest in Latin America and working in the global health realm."  (Jeanette Schnierle, AYUDA Ecuador Volunteer 2012)

"First, AYUDA has helped me with my own diabetes care. I really can’t thank the program enough…after 17 years, I felt like I had kind of lost my way with my management. I feel like I am back on track, and for that I feel grateful. AYUDA has truly opened my eyes to varying levels of healthcare in the world. I realize I have been living in a bubble, and now I want to study more and get back out there and help more. For one thing, I know that camp wouldn’t have been what it was if I hadn’t have raised $6,000, and I think the more you can stress where that money is going, the more powerful it will be for the volunteers and will make them want to raise more. But I think it was also really empowering for campers to see other people with diabetes not from Ecuador…so they can learn that they aren’t alone, and that others are doing ok living with the same condition. I know that was helpful for me, and it still is." ( Courtney Jones, AYUDA Ecuador Volunteer 2012)

"Seeing that I had raised all the money I needed (to fulfill the AYUDA fundraising requirements) gave me a sense of pride and fulfillment, as I was able to work toward and accomplish a goal for a cause I strongly believed in. Fundraising forced me to step out of my shell and helped me enhance my people skills, which empowered me to continue being a leader..."  (Melanie Goldring, AYUDA Volunteer Ecuador and DR 2012-13, DR Volunteer Mentor 2014)


"AYUDA was the first real step in my involvement in not only the diabetes community, but the medical profession as a whole. It solidified for me what I want to do with my life and the multiple opportunities I can have. The volunteers themselves changed my life as well ... I feel honored to know everyone and to have worked with them.” (Emma Burke, AYUDA En El Camino Volunteer 2016)


"This was the most time I've ever spent with other people living with diabetes and with people understanding of diabetes, so on a personal level that has been very rewarding to not feel so different from others. I loved making friends with the local volunteers, and I loved the hospital and home visits because they all provided the most understanding on the local culture in ways that driving around the city or shopping in the local stores ever could provide."  (Julia Jankowski, AYUDA Campo Amigo DR 2016 Volunteer)


"Between last year and this year, AYUDA has had a tremendous impact on my life because of the people that I've been able to meet both from the states and the DR, the work I've gotten to do, and every other moment with the organization. I'm incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with AYUDA and I hope to remain engaged ... for many years to come." (Will Epperson, AYUDA Campo Amigo Dominicano Volunteer 2015, Campo Amigo Dominicano & En El Camino Mentor 2016)


"It was [at the VTP Summit] that I came to realize the true extent to which AYUDA could change my life. Through my interactions with fellow volunteers, guest speakers, and AYUDA staff members, I began to garner a never before felt sense of community – a community I was now part of. Listening to this diverse group of individuals speak about their experiences with diabetes was life-changing. Their passion and willpower was contagious and inspiring."  (Cooper Obianwu, AYUDA En El Camino Volunteer 2016)


Volunteer Stories

Please also see AYUDA's Volunteer Blogs page to learn about more volunteers' experiences with AYUDA.


Julie's Story
Julie Burke has been active with AYUDA since volunteering in 2005. After her life-changing experience in Ecuador, Julie wrote to AYUDA to describe how her perspective on diabetes evolved.

On a personal note, I just want to thank you for giving me this opportunity. One of the best moments for me was on the bus on the way back to Quito from pre-camp. I realized that for the past 5 years of my life I wasn't accepting the fact that I have diabetes. I obviously accepted it in the way that I "controlled" it andmanaged it but not in the way of actually having diabetes.

It was like being in mourning after the death of someone close to you and then that day comes when you realize you can't mourn anymore and the burden is lifted off of your shoulders. I felt that on the bus and now I accept it like I didn't know I hadn't. Without this past month I'm not sure if I would have ever come to that realization, thank you. In New Orleans I don't personally know anyone who has diabetes and to be surrounded by so many people with diabetes is a great feeling. I know I'm not the only one, but now I don't feel alone.

When I was first diagnosed, they told me about diabetes camps and asked me if I'd want to go. I thought that was the stupidest idea and how boring it would be. Now I know why these types of organizations exist and the sense of empowerment they give to people with diabetes. I don't know if this really expresses my gratitude but I just wanted to let y'all know how much this past month, especially the week of camp and precamp, means to me. I've learned more about diabetes "culture" and myself in the last few weeks than I have in the last five - and for that I thank you.

Aly's Story
Allyson Bancroft volunteered in the DR in 2012.  This year she is back to volunteer in our Haiti Program.  After her experiences in the DR, she shared with us some thoughts about her first volunteer experience with AYUDA and how it impacted her.

For me, the ticket to staying hopeful is belonging to a diabetes community. In the Dominican Republic, AYUDA and Aprendiendo a Vivir showed me that diabetes connects more people from different backgrounds than I ever could have fathomed. And united, we can accomplish more than I ever imagined possible.

Working with the Dominican families and youth, I saw a diabetes community grow. They bonded while sharing their stories. Parents who became choked up found support. There was no judgment, only empathy. Chills shot down my spine when one camper met another child with diabetes for the first time. Our teens made art projects describing their lives with diabetes. They argued playfully during our diabetes trivia game. (They were so eager to show their knowledge!)

The Dominican families and youth interacted not only with each other, but also with the staff of Aprendiendo a Vivir, local medical students, representatives from a Haitian diabetes foundation, and AYUDA team members from all over the world. We all opened up about how diabetes had affected us. All of us came from a different set of circumstances, which greatly shaped our relationship with diabetes. The diversity of our group afforded us countless different perspectives.

Despite our differences, a deep sense of solidarity developed as we discussed diabetes. And perhaps because of our differences, we were aware of the inequalities experienced by some members of our global diabetes community.


Experiences from the Parents

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 on her personal call to action, to make a difference in the lives of others who are less privileged. (Gail S. Packer, mother of  AYUDA DR volunteer Jessie Kaplan 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 disease. 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  AYUDA DR volunteer Ava Runge 2011 -12)

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 6 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 US, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. This truly is an amazing organization! (Beth & Lee Goldring, parents of Melanie Goldring, AYUDA volunteer, 2012-15, and staff member, 2016 - present)