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Camosun College student raises over $10k for diabetes research

Motria Iwan, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 11 years ago, uses tech training to help out
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Motria Iwan shows her continuous glucose monitoring device as she stands next to a poster for her fundraiser in a local restaurant. (Courtesy of Motria Iwan)

A Camosun College student with type 1 diabetes has raised more than $10,000 for research into the disease, and she’s using her digital skills to make the project shine.

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Motria Iwan is in her final year of Camosun’s interactive media developer program, which prepares students to work in software development. Now, she’s planning for a future after college while reflecting on the decades of diabetes research that helped get her here.

Iwan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 14, shortly before moving from Winnipeg to Victoria. Adjusting to new surroundings and a new diagnosis at the same time was daunting, she told Black Press Media.

“It was difficult to navigate throughout my time in high school,” Iwan said. “I was even bullied for having type 1 diabetes.”

After entering college, she started volunteering with JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, as a graphic designer. Combining her passion for diabetes advocacy with what she’d learned at college was a no-brainer, she said.

“I developed more skills as both a graphic designer and a (digital) designer, and I wanted to utilize those skills to give back to something that really means a lot to me,” she explained.

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That’s where Iwan’s JDRF fundraiser came in. The organization recently encouraged local building owners to “light up blue” on Nov. 14 for World Diabetes Day and National Diabetes Month, but Iwan wanted to go the extra mile.

“Because of the timing of this being my final semester, and (Canada marking) 100 years since the discovery of insulin, I wanted to do something really special.”

Her online fundraiser supports UBC researchers who are exploring potential cell therapies for diabetes. While insulin is an incredible tool for managing diabetes, she said, there’s still more to be done.

“Insulin is not a cure for diabetes, it is a treatment,” Iwan said. “I think one of the most common misconceptions is that (there is a cure) for type 1 diabetes.”

She posted fundraiser details through JDRF’s donation portal, but also designed compelling graphics to help spread the word on social media. On Nov. 14, she braved the rain in downtown Victoria to watch City Hall, the legislature and the Royal BC Museum light up blue for the cause.

As of Nov. 22, Iwan’s fundraiser had raised just over $10,000, with a week left until National Diabetes Month ends. She said collaborating with the nonprofit and hearing from loved ones has been a highlight of her project.

“It’s just it’s been a huge honor,” she said. “I really do hope to make a difference.”

Those wishing to contribute can visit Iwan’s donation page online at bit.ly/3xqLabn.

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