We started the year with our workshop which brought together our board, committee and members to learn more about policy, advocacy and Patient & Public Involvement.
It has been a transition for us stepping forward from the familiar space of peer support, which we have years of experience with, into the less familiar world of advocacy and having the team together in person is vital for us to work more effectively to plan ahead.
For our World Obesity Day Campaign we tentatively created our very first podcast “Sticks and Stones may break my bones but names will also hurt me”
We never would have imagined that at the end of the year we would win a European 2023 award from the European Coalition for People Living with Obesity for this podcast.
This was for the “Best Public Engagement Programme and was a proud moment to have our volunteer work recognised and rewarded.
What stands out for us is seeing new members contact us and say that they felt like they were hearing their own stories, and they did not feel so alone anymore.
In May we saw the European Congress on Obesity hosted by EASO take place in Dublin.
14 members of our board, committee attended over the four days.
All our team are unpaid volunteers and used their valuable holiday days from work and travelled across the country to ensure they could attend to learn, engage and meet the other 40 or so European representatives.
The feedback following the conference was that the patient engagement and involvement at the conference was a crucial and vital component and our advocates came away inspired and eager to continue to improve the lives of people living with obesity through their volunteer work.
Throughout the year we saw a huge increase in the demand for our Stigma Education Training sessions we host alongside Dr. Jean O’Connell of the Association for the Studies of Obesity Ireland (ASOI) These education sessions are high on our list of priorities and we now not only have been hosting sessions to healthcare students, but to organisations too.
Another transition that stood out for us this year was the requests for us to present and speak at conferences that were not directly only organised to discuss obesity.
There is more and more recognition of the link between obesity and other chronic diseases, and we were excited to be involved in raising further awareness through these events.
Our work as PPI for researchers continues and is very busy. We now have better experience and guidance on effective PPI, and we will only be involved if we have an agreed memorandum of understanding. We are proud to stand to our values that if we commit to being involved, we will indeed be involved.
One very welcome transition during the year was from having previously only zoom meetings to rely on for peer support, to hosting numerous face to face support meetings around the country.
We hosted meetings in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Leitrim, West Meath, Kildare, Wexford, Offaly, and Dublin. There is a strong need for this personal time together and this is high on our agenda also to continue for 2024.
Our team has seen some transitions during the year. One of our founding committee members Eoin O’Connell stepped down to focus on work commitments and remains a member.
Our Board of Director and treasurer Ben Whelan resigned and remains on with us as a committee member.
We are grateful to both and thank them for their time and commitment in their previous roles and look forward to continuing to work together in 2024 and beyond.
We often hear some of our peer members and even committee members apologise for not being able to engage and volunteer more.
We really want to acknowledge that all the time people give collectively brings a different size piece for the jigsaw puzzle to be made complete.
Some volunteers pieces will be bigger than others always, but we still need all pieces linked together to paint the full picture.
Thank you to all who have been part of our 2023 jigsaw.
From our Board of Directors, Committee, and members we wish everyone season greetings and we look forward to engaging and collaborating in the New Year.