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22 October 2017

Movers & Shakers

Meet Tijana Milanovic, diabetes youth advocate from Serbia

Tijana MilanovicAt 25, Tijana Milanovic from Serbia is a dedicated and enthusiastic advocate for diabetes. She is also no stranger to IDF Europe, as she took part in the Youth Leadership Camp back in 2011, and just joined the rest of team in Brussels to work as a staff exchange for the next 6 months.

Tijana was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 18 years ago when she was 7. “It was a very difficult time for me and my parents”, she recalls. “However my family kept being strong and faced the diagnosis with courage. My parents quickly adapted to this new demanding situation.  From the very beginning, I felt strong support from my family and friends. They never made me feel discriminated against. It made it easier for me to accept diabetes as a part of my life.”

Receiving this support was key for Tijana, as living with diabetes can be a real challenge. “The most challenging for me is keeping up with diabetes constantly, 24/7. That is hard thing to do, but on the other hand you dedicate more time to yourself and care more about yourself. I think everyone should dedicate more time taking care of themselves - whether or not they have diabetes.”

Four years ago, Tijana decided that she wanted to make a change for other people living with diabetes, and make a change to reverse the diabetes epidemic. “I realized I didn’t know anyone my age living with diabetes. I really wanted to be more involved in raising awareness, and share my experiences with other young people,” she says. “I heard that a group of young people were setting up an association called “Blue Circle” in Belgrade. I decided to help them for the first activity they organized, and stayed involved with the group ever since.”

Tijana’s motivation to work with the diabetes community comes from children. “They give me strength, and they inspire me to do more and be a real activist.” Taking part in the IDF Europe Youth Leadership Camp in Slovenia in 2011 was also a stepping stone for her. “Before that camp I didn’t have any vision of what I could do to help other people with diabetes. The other young people I met there made me think about the situation in my country and how can I, as an individual, make things change.”

For these reasons, Tijana wants to focus on helping children with diabetes and their parents.  “I really want to set-up a support group for parents and encourage them to be more active in the diabetes community. From there I hope we can manage to set-up other support groups for children with diabetes and their parents in other cities in Serbia, and then at regional and national levels.”  

On 1 July, Tijana joined the IDF Europe team in Brussels as the 4th staff exchange, a programme aiming at strengthening collaboration with member associations of IDF Europe by welcoming a volunteer to come and work on the organization’s project. In return, the staff exchange also shares their own experience and helps identify areas where IDF Europe can improve its work towards its members. “I think I still have so many things to learn, and I believe the next 6 months are going to help me bring my knowledge of diabetes and public health issues to the next level,” she says. “I’m really interested in learning how I can influence policy and what we can all do to make sure that the voice of people with diabetes be heard and taken into account.”

As for the future, Tijana has a lot of plans: “I’d definitely like to find a paid job! Ideally it would combine all the things that I’m passionate about: diabetes and health, children but also social media. It’s not clear where I can find a job that will combine all of this, but I think the staff exchange at IDF Europe can help make have a clearer picture of what I want to do. My second personal objective will be to continue to support what I call my “sweet family”, all the people I work with at Blue Circle. I want to continue be involved with the association, and contribute to achieving our vision and our goal.”

Favourite quotes: “The world is changed by your example”, by Paulo Coelho, and “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”, by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Favourite movie: One film I saw recently that I really liked is the French film “The Intouchables” – it directly made it to my top 10 list. The story gives you hope in today’s society and shows that when we help each other out, we come out stronger and happier.  I also can’t imagine my days without music. I like different kinds of music, but old rock music really carries me away!