Anwar Boutahar, a 14-year-old diabetes advocate living with type 1, shows it’s never too early to get loud about diabetes, either.
An avid soccer player who recently started high school, Anwar keeps busy like most teenagers—playing sports, keeping up with school, and spending time with family and friends. Unlike many other teenagers, though, Anwar also dedicates his time to being an active and vocal diabetes advocate.
From the time of his diagnosis in early childhood, Anwar has been spreading awareness and encouraging discussion about the reality of living with of diabetes. He started giving presentations about diabetes to his classmates. He is actively involved with JDRF, travelled to Ottawa to speak with MPs at Parliament, shared his story on CTV, Global News, TVO Kids and more, and recently joined the SickKids Children’s Council. Anwar even started his own foundation—Anwar’s Seed of Hope—to help families in developing countries access diabetes supplies.
We caught up with Anwar to chat about his journey and his message.
Q: After your diagnosis for type 1, what inspired you to become an advocate?
I knew I had the resources and the ability to help others who didn’t have as much as me. That’s something I had to understand from a young age. I wanted to help others who weren’t as fortunate as myself.
Being able to spread not just my story, but the story of all children with type 1 diabetes, is something that really pushes me to keep doing what I’m doing.
Q: Why do you feel it is so important for people to learn more about diabetes?
People are so uneducated about this chronic disease. Usually when someone hears the word diabetes, they think, “overweight,” or “too much sugar.” Many people think it’s not an important disease. The more you inform people, the more they understand. People with type 1 diabetes are just like you, they just have a disease on their back.
Q: You play several sports and lead a very active lifestyle. As an athlete with type 1, what kinds of considerations are important to keep in mind?
You have to take into account various things: food, energy, glucose tablets. It’s always important to think ahead. Your blood sugar’s not always perfect. But diabetes can be a setback, or it can just be a part of your life. Soccer is an escape for me. It’s a sport I’ve been playing since I was two, and it’s something that I really love to do. With diabetes, it just pushes me even harder to control it.
Q: What is the main thing that you hope others can learn from your story?
Diabetes doesn’t have to stop you from doing anything. With a big heart, you can do anything. It’s not even half of who I am. It’s just a little part of me that will always be with me until there’s a cure found.
To anyone with type 1 diabetes: you can turn it into a positive. It shouldn’t stop you. If you want to become an athlete, a doctor, the president of a country, it doesn’t matter. You can do what you want to do as long as you try your best.
Click here to watch Anwar’s story.