Ethan Greenfield heads to Washington D.C. for the 2023 JDRF International Children’s Congress

July 24, 2023

Ethan Greenfield has been living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) for seven years, after being diagnosed at just four years old. Since then, Ethan, mum Kylie, and the Greenfield family have been fiercely advocating for the T1D community on behalf of JDRF Australia.

After years of involvement with JDRF and raising the profile of T1D, Ethan was selected to represent Australia at the JDRF International 2023 Children’s Congress in Washington D.C. Earlier this month, he headed along to the U.S. where he met with Ambassador to the United States of America and former Prime Minister, The Hon Dr Kevin Rudd AC, brushed shoulders with some of the top decision-makers in the U.S. government atop Capitol Hill, and connected with fellow T1D advocates from across the globe.

We chatted to Ethan about this amazing experience and what it meant to him. Read on to find out more…

Hey everyone! I’m Ethan, and I can’t wait to share my amazing adventure at the 2023 Children’s Congress in Washington DC with y’all! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that left a lasting impact on me and everyone I met there.

First of all, being chosen to represent Australia at the Congress was such a huge honour for me. The event focused on two critical areas of JDRF International’s Advocacy Agenda: Renewing the Special Diabetes Program (SPD) and the insulin affordability crisis. These issues are so important, and it was an absolute privilege to be part of advocating for them.

The journey to D.C was long, and I mean REALLY long. Three flights via Auckland and Houston before reaching Washington D.C in the early hours of the morning. The fatigue from the 27 hours of travel quickly disappeared after a short sleep and I was ready to explore! Our first stop was the JDRF Headquarters where we received an unexpected and heart-warming welcome from the JDRF team. I collected my Children’s Congress t-shirt and a few other goodies before gearing up for my next stop the Australian Embassy. Together, my Mum, Dad and I visited the Embassy, where we got to meet the Ambassador, former Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Kevin Rudd. He was very supportive, and he made me feel right at home. Ambassador Rudd had a warm and friendly approach and asked me what is happening with Type 1 Diabetes research back home. He also questioned the role that my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitors play in helping me manage my Type 1 Diabetes.

After giving Ambassador Rudd a scrapbook that I had made of my diabetes journey and taking some photos he took me by surprise and asked if we could video a little interview. I was a bit nervous about this, but thankfully he just asked me some questions to get me to share what I would be doing in Washington during my time at Children’s Congress. I was really excited to see him share the Interview on his Facebook page that night!

In the following couple of days, we enjoyed visiting iconic tourist attractions in Washington D.C, such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, War Memorials, The White House and more!

The JDRF Children’s Congress event then kicked off with the registration process and a delegate meet-up. Imagine being in a room filled with young advocates from all over America and 5 international countries, all united to make a difference. I quickly made friends who shared the same passion for advocating for T1D. Before leaving Australia, I was buddied up with a girl named Aurora, from the US State of Vermont. Unfortunately, her flight had been cancelled on the first day that she was due to arrive, and she only just made it in time for breakfast on Day 2! I was very excited to finally meet Aurora in real life after months of communicating and getting to know each other on social media.

One of the most exciting parts of the Congress was the Town Hall event, where we got to interact with celebrities living with T1D or closely connected to it. Delegates were asked to submit questions before the event, and I was lucky enough to have my question selected.  I got to ask it to none other than the JDRF CEO, Dr. Aaron Kowalski! I was very excited to share my thoughts and ask my question to someone who can make a real change.

These moments were very memorable, but the real magic happened when we went to Capitol Hill to attend a Senate hearing, talk to Senators, Representatives and Staffers about the SPD and insulin affordability. The Senate hearing was an unforgettable experience, where delegates sat on the floor at the front of the hearing room in front of Vice Chair, Senator Collins who led the hearing. We got to listen to many people testify including: Dr Griffin Rodgers (Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institute of Health), celebrity Jimmy Jam, JDRF delegates, JDRF CEO Aaron Kowalski and also many Senators and US Representatives. Once again, the focus was on Insulin Affordability and working towards a commitment to The Special Diabetes Program for $170 million.

Following the hearing, my buddy Aurora and I walked many miles around Capitol Hill to attend our meetings with Members of Congress from the State of Vermont (where Aurora lives). Aurora found it very nerve-wracking at first, because this was her first experience advocating about Type 1 Diabetes. However, we were both determined to make our voices heard. By the last meeting Aurora was super confident and we were so proud of her. We had totally nailed it! We attended one meeting with Senator, one meeting with a United States Representative and one meeting with a staffer. I felt like we really made them understand how crucial these issues are for people with T1D.

Throughout the entire Congress experience, we learned so much about T1D in the United States and the research happening to find a cure. It made me even more grateful for the accessible healthcare system back home in Australia. But at the same time, I realised the struggles that people living with type 1 diabetes have to deal with, and it made me more determined than ever to fight for a better future for all of us living with T1D.

As the Congress came to an end, I felt a mix of emotions. I was sad to say goodbye to my new friends, but I was also so proud of what we accomplished together. We made lifelong friendships, we shared our stories, and we fought for change. This was a huge stepping-stone in my advocacy work, and I can’t wait to continue advocating back in Australia.

I want to thank everyone who supported me, my family, my friends, and also Mel Eveille, Mike Wilson and all the amazing people at JDRF who made this trip possible. Without them, I wouldn’t have had this incredible experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

So, here’s to a future of working towards making T1D history. Let’s keep advocating, let’s keep strong government support to fund research, let’s keep pushing for a cure, and let’s change the world together! Together, we can accomplish great things. 💙

To learn more about JDRF Australia’s advocacy program, click here