By Katie Souris
On November 11th, 2011, I began a 10 hour per week position at the YWCA of Asheville assisting the Care Counselor of the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Program with general office work such as faxing and creating sign-up sheets. I soon began taking on other tasks, like making the support group schedule and handouts for various health topics. Before long I was doing intakes, attending groups and talking to participants about my experiences living with type 1 diabetes.
I remember the first participant I met in the program, a man named J.J. – we were coming down the stairs from the mezzanine and he was walking up. I recall thinking how he and Mehgan, the Care Counselor before me, greeted each other like old friends and how welcoming he was to me. I didn’t know it then, but J.J. was just beginning his journey towards losing more than 100 lbs.
The first time I facilitated our wellness support group was the beginning of my journey towards discovering what I love most about my job. I agonized over my presentation, outlining every detail, rehearsing in the shower, in the car and practicing with friends. The topic was ‘Sick-Day Wellness’ and I made laminated wallet-sized tip cards for everyone to take home. I made peppermint tea that almost no one drank. I was sure everyone thought I was crazy but soon enough we were engaged in a meaningful conversation about people’s experiences. If you had told me that three years later I would feel comfortable facilitating wellness groups and relating to diverse groups of individuals I would have (nervously) laughed at you. This job has helped me practice some of my most valuable skills through direct experience, and learn that talking about health is one of my favorite things to do.
My dream of working full-time at the YWCA and having a bigger role in the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Program team slowly became a reality when a little over a year ago I became the Coordinator of Preventive Health. Coordinating the program has given me the opportunity to experience more of the challenges of organizing and implementing a health intervention program. One of the hardest parts has been balancing scheduling, meetings, and grant reporting with the time I spend interacting one-on-one with participants. Yet, just when I feel swamped with spreadsheets and logistics, I’ll have a conversation with someone who is creating and bravely navigating positive transformations in their life. Getting to tell those stories in the community, to secure great guest speakers and events for participants, and to watch people change is what motivates me.
Now after nearly four years I am ready to create and navigate a change in my life, and I have my work and time at the YWCA to thank for that. I didn’t know when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes my freshman year of college that it would set off such a grand adventure for me. I didn’t know that I’d meet so many amazing people because of it. I didn’t know I would feel drawn to work that related to chronic conditions and public health. Finding the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Program has changed my life just as much as I’ve seen it change anyone’s. As I leave my position at the YWCA and begin a new adventure, I am excited to hear how the program continues to grow and improve, as I continue to follow the lessons I’ve learned here.
Thank you Katie for four great years! Katie’s last day at the YWCA is July 31st.