Nupur Lalvani, a Mumbai resident who has had Type 1 diabetes for 28 years, shares her inspirational journey with diabetes through the work of the Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation. Nupur’s narrative is one of bravery, resiliency, and empathy.
An autoimmune disease known as type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system erroneously kills the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. Insulin, a hormone that aids in controlling blood sugar levels, cannot be produced by the body in sufficient amounts as a result.
Through programmes like Project Isha, which offers financial aid and mentorship to disadvantaged diabetics, the Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation is committed to helping and educating people with diabetes while also strengthening the community.
The organisation also runs awareness programmes and seminars to make a long-lasting difference in the lives of diabetics and their families. It also offers a mobile app and website with useful tools for proper diabetes management.
Nupur, who is now 35 years old, was given the diabetes diagnosis when she was eight years old. She had no notion when she was a child how the illness would alter her way of life. She was more upset by her parents’ tears than she was by the illness.
“It was the first time I had ever seen them weep, and it hurt me to witness it. They started crying, and I thought I must have done something wrong,” she remembers. While her father works in the IT sector, her mother is a lawyer and certified teacher.
“I was told that for the rest of my life, I would need to check my blood sugar levels five to six times a day and take insulin five times a day.”
Nupur didn’t let her health interfere with her academic performance. She persisted in completing her studies and pursuing a corporate career until deciding to leave it in 2018.
Having obtained her BSc in Hospitality and Hotel Administration from the Institute of Hotel Management in Mumbai in 2008, Nupur then went on to complete an MBA in marketing at the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) of SVKM in 2011.
Before switching to the hotel sector, she began her career with a writing internship at The Times of India. As a Corporate Leadership Trainee at Hyatt Regency, Nupur finally rose to the position of department head for Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
“I was succeeding in my job and had just become my company’s youngest department head. I didn’t take a single leave of absence during my career since I loved my job so much, Nupur says.
Nupur experienced a rising sense of emptiness despite her success. “I had no idea what I wanted, but I felt compelled to live a more purposeful life. So, without a plan, I took a hiatus from my profession in 2018 to make sense of things, says Nupur.
She emphasises that people with diabetes are not less capable and can do amazing things. I finished a 100-kilometer walkathon in 2019 with three other diabetic people. For us, this was a huge accomplishment. People had their doubts, but we disproved them. Additionally, we have run marathons.
She went to hospitals at this period to observe how other diabetic people were managing their condition. This provided her a strong understanding of what it was like for the majority of diabetic patients.
“I consider myself lucky that, despite having diabetes, I never experienced financial or psychological hardship. But after speaking with others, I discovered the financial struggles, societal stigma, and ignorance they experienced. At that time, I discovered my destiny.
To meet other like-minded people, Nupur started by planning runs for diabetics. She later created a Facebook community page. Her Facebook community, Diabetes Support Network India, was selected for the Facebook Community Accelerator Programme in 2021 as a result of the group’s growth.
Facebook supported NUpur’s project in 2021.
“Although doing races and running a Facebook page only required a little amount of money, I wanted funding to create a website and mobile app that would better advance my cause. This was made possible by being chosen for the Facebook programme, claims Nupur.
“It gave my initiative $50,000 in funding. Additionally, the eight months of mentoring and training provided by Facebook were a transforming experience.
In 2019 Nupur created a website for her legally recognised nonprofit organisation, the Blue Circle Diabetes Foundation, and in 2021 she released a mobile app with the same name.
“Diabetic patients benefit greatly from the smartphone app. It lets them monitor their blood sugar levels and notifies them when it’s time to eat, take their medications, and more,” says Nupur. Families of diabetic patients can use the app to keep tabs on their loved ones’ health.
Project Isha, another one of their programmes, attempts to help impoverished people with diabetes financially and by offering mentorship.
“Through this effort, a few households in Maharashtra are receiving assistance. We give them guidance and medical supplies in accordance with their needs,” says Nupur.
One of the mentors discovered the mentee’s family didn’t have a fridge at home last year while talking with a mentee. Insulin storage inevitably became a concern. We bought a fridge right away and delivered it to the home.
Another programme, the Buddy Project Helpline, enables patients to speak with volunteers over the phone to get advice and support without feeling judged. The NGO strives to help patients from various regions of the country with the help of volunteers who are spread out across India and speak many languages.
Project Gaia is a unique programme created to provide diabetic women and girls with a secure environment.
“When a guy in a family is diagnosed with diabetes, the entire family helps him manage the condition. But when a woman experiences the same problem, she’s frequently expected to solve it by herself, as if it were entirely her fault,” says Nupur.
“I’ve found that guys are more willing to talk about their diabetes than women are. Our goal with Project Gaia is to eliminate this inequality.
The NGO has been providing free online workshops every Sunday since 2020, encompassing both leisure and academic subjects. Over 200 sessions have been held by Blue Circle with over 20,000 registrations to date.
Additionally, they coordinate programmes for businesses and educational institutions, holding online and offline diabetes awareness and screening activities in numerous locations, in public and private schools, workplaces, academic institutions, and even jails.
“Thousands have been impacted by and benefited from our interventions,” claims Nupur.
In the upcoming months, Nupur wants to reach a million diabetics.
Nupur has seen discrimination against diabetic patients throughout her path, including in the domains of marriage, education, and job. She uses her connections in the community to help people locate kind and helpful companions in order to address these challenges.
Despite the fact that her programmes have assisted about one lakh patients, she feels that her efforts are insignificant given that there are an estimated 77 million diabetics in India.