Last week I joined hundreds of grassroots advocates from across the country in Washington, D.C. for JDRF’s Government Day. We arrived with a mission to speak with members of Congress about the ways the Federal Government can advance the JDRF Advocacy Agenda and help ease the burden of life with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

This year, our big focus was getting support to renew the Special Diabetes Program – which provides funding for critical research and studies that better treat and ultimately, will cure type 1 diabetes. Another key issue was about the rising cost of insulin, due in part to the existence of rebates that pharmaceutical companies have to provide to Pharmacy Benefit Managers (or PBMs).

My local JDRF chapter has become a family to me and when they asked me to attend Government Day, I was nervous at first. As a minority, I was aware that I might be one of the only volunteers with South Asian roots. However, when I arrived in Washington, I realized that what united me with this group was what I felt following my type 1 diagnosis two years ago – we are all in this together.

Following my introduction the first night – where I shared my feelings about the need to increase awareness about JDRF and its resources in minority communities – dozens of other JDRF volunteers approached me to let me know how impactful that was to hear.

The days that followed were full of meetings with elected officials who listened and learned and vowed to consider supporting our type 1 diabetes community. I left Government Day feeling enthusiastic and incredibly fulfilled with the way our new members of Congress reacted to hearing my story. I truly felt that I played an important role in asking them to lend their support, along with the rest of my New Jersey advocacy volunteers.

This piece was written by JDRF advocacy volunteer, Om Savargaonkar who is studying Political Science at Rutgers University.