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Spare change could change a life

Got any spare cash? It just might change a life.

Three teenagers are asking residents to hand over any loose coins in their pockets, couches and laundry.

It's part of a school project in aid of the Bermuda Diabetes Association. The money will be used to educate students so they don't end up with the disease themselves.

It's thought that a quarter of residents here have diabetes or are at risk for it.

“I knew a lot of people are touched by it, but I thought I had no connection to it,” said Makayla Tucker.

Once she started talking about it with family she discovered her grandmother, Phyllis Trott, had died as a result of diabetes complications.

Two of her classmates at Somersfield Academy had also been affected.

Rhianna Howarth's best friend's mother died from the disease two years ago; Chaz Trott's grandfather, Gilbert Trott, is being treated for it.

“He has to watch what he eats,” he said. “He uses an insulin pump. The quality of his life has been changed by it.”

The experiences made their community service project, Change for Bermuda, that much more important to them.

Type one diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn't produce insulin, a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells. It's usually identified in childhood or as a young adult. Type two diabetes is far more common. It happens when the body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn't produce enough to maintain a normal glucose level. It's often associated with obesity and tends to be diagnosed in older people.

The 13-year-olds met with the Bermuda Diabetes Association to learn more about the disease. They placed coin collection buckets at Hamilton insurance companies Argus and Colonial, and used social media and television to raise awareness.

“We just want to raise awareness of the different types and symptoms,” said Rhianna. “Before I started I had no idea there were different types.”

Makayla said the hardest part of the project has been getting companies to commit to sponsorship.

“It's my priority to get an answer, but it's not a priority for that company to respond,” she said. “That's been hard to deal with. So we just keep e-mailing to remind the different companies.”

The teens are also trying to stay healthy themselves. It is important to raise awareness of diabetes because its prevalence has increased by at least five per cent in the last five years.”

Makayla is involved in a different sport each day and her family grows their own vegetables and avoids processed foods.

“In PE class we had a nutrition unit and learnt how to have a healthier diet,” said Chaz. “In every class we run a mile. Our gym teacher is strict on our diet. We can't come to school with junk food; we have to come with a healthy lunch. I really didn't know [diabetes] was such a big thing.”

Rhianna's mother, Christine DeBraga, is training to be a nurse and Makayla's mother was a controller for government's Health Insurance Department. It was their idea that the trio focus on diabetes.

“Working there made me aware of how much insurance money goes to treating diabetes and its complications,” said Mrs Tucker. “I'm very proud to see Makayla, and her classmates, tackling the problem.”

• Contact the Bermuda Diabetes Association on 297-8427, or

Chasing sponsorship: from left, determined Somersfield students Rhianna Howarth, Chaz Trott and Makayla Tucker are raising money for Bermuda Diabetes Association's education programmes. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published April 14, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated April 14, 2016 at 8:39 am)

Spare change could change a life

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