Meet our Shop of the Month: T1International

Meet our Shop of the Month: T1International

T1International is supporting people with type 1 diabetes. Learn more about their cause and why it’s so important.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. So, tell us about your cause and why raising awareness of type 1 diabetes is so important.

T1International is a global non-profit organization, run by people with and impacted by type 1 diabetes. We believe in a world where everyone with type 1 diabetes – no matter where they live – has everything they need to survive and achieve their dreams. We support local communities by giving them the tools they need to stand up for their rights so that access to insulin and diabetes supplies becomes a reality for all.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition that people can be diagnosed with at any age and its causes are still unknown. It’s believed that in the region of 40 million people worldwide live with the condition, all of whom require access to healthcare advice, supplies of insulin and other resources to enable them to monitor their blood glucose levels. T1International provides advocacy training and resources such as a toolkit and education guide. The organization has created a global network of advocates in many countries to represent the point of view and rights of those with type 1 diabetes to government, legislators and community leaders.

Sounds like a very important community to support. Who’s behind T1Iinternational and how did your organization get started?

T1International grew out of an online website and community, founded by US student Elizabeth Pfiester during her postgraduate studies in London. The community brought together people living with type 1 diabetes, as Elizabeth does, to share experiences of living with the condition, and the discrepancies in treatment and access to insulin and other supplies across the world. Eventually, the organization became formalized and registered as a charity focusing on enabling communities to advocate for their right to care and medicine.

So how exactly is T1International advocating for people with Type 1 diabetes?

T1International advocates for people with type 1 diabetes, and empowers them to advocate for themselves, in many countries around the world. Hundreds of advocates worldwide receive training and guidance from T1International about educating the wider community and creating greater awareness of the condition, as well as advocacy approaches based on local needs and issues regarding treatment/drug access. Many find a diabetes community of like-minded people dealing with the same things they are for the first time.

T1International has active Chapters in Austria, Bolivia, Canada, France, India, Kuwait, Philippines, South Africa and the USA, and is supporting individuals and groups who have undergone specific advocacy training in over 10 countries. In the USA, there is an extensive network of US state Chapters. Despite being an extremely wealthy country, access to insulin and supplies in the USA is a huge challenge for many with type 1 diabetes, given the insurance-based healthcare system, which in no way guarantees affordable access for those not part of all but the most comprehensive health insurance programmes. T1International has been responsible for getting the issues that people with type 1 diabetes face in regard to lack of access and affordability into the national spotlight in the USA and other countries. We ensure patient voices are at the forefront and push for patients to be involved in policy-making and proposed solutions to the global insulin price crisis.

In addition, we use social media as a campaign tool and knowledge sharing hub to reach our global supporters and partners daily, give tangible advice and encouragement and connecting those impacted by type 1 diabetes in the same territories.

Why did you decide to start a Spreadshop for T1 International?

We were asked to offer clothing and accessories by our community so that they could promote our name and activities while at the same time making a donation. Being a small organization with very limited budget, we could not buy shirts in bulk, so the Spreadshirt made to order model worked well for us.

How does your Shop help your cause?

Of course, our shop has given us some income from sales but more than that has been important in raising awareness through the messaging and unique design of our products.

We have a very prominent campaign called #insulin4all which features across our website, social media and materials. In producing a shirt range displaying this hashtag we have widened understanding of the issue and recognition of what the hashtag term is promoting: a world where access to insulin and supplies is affordable for everyone.

Did you imagine your Shop being so successful and being able to support your cause in such a positive way?

We hoped that it would have impact – in gathering supporters around our key messages and purpose – but you never really know until sales begin just how important the shop can be. We are proud when we see images of supporters meeting or lobbying for change wearing our shirts and communicating our unequivocal message.

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Do you have your #insulin4all shirt? Link in bio!

A post shared by T1International (@t1international) on

Who creates your designs and what is their process like?

Most of the designs were created by Founder Elizabeth and her husband, John, who also lives with type 1 diabetes. Many feature T1International’s logo or some version of our branding. T1International has had some amazing volunteers and partnerships that have led to the creation of certain shirts as well. For example, some of the designs with the cartoon globe and vials were made by TheDiabeticSurvivor, and our very own US Advocacy Manager Allison Bailey came up with the Banting & Best & Collip & Macleod design.

Any advice for other non-profit activist groups looking to start their own Shops?

We would recommend setting up a shop; if you have a strong message which is in use across other parts of your organization and social media, merchandise can be a great rallying call for supporters and reinforces a network of like minds. Raising funds this way has the dual benefit of sharing your mission when the merchandise is in use.

What have been your biggest achievements up to now?

Our greatest achievement, in addition to building the organization and geographic reach, is maintaining our commitment to taking no funding from the big pharmaceutical companies who produce insulin, or any entity that might influence our ability to make change.

It is this commitment to independence and transparency which has helped us have such a real impact across the world.

One more question: what would you like the average person to know about Type 1 diabetes and how can they can help?

We would like the average person to be able to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, understand the different challenges around living with the two conditions and that without insulin, a person with type 1 diabetes will die within days or hours. A person with type 2 can struggle and suffer from devastating and painful complications.  

Thank you for the insights! Good luck with your mission and advocacy in the future.

Support T1International’s good cause by connecting with them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Youtube—and of course, checking out their Spreadshop!

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