Empowering BIPOC Communities to take charge of their health: TD Zone recipient Type Diabeat-it shares their story

January 09


Mystery Furtado’s passion for diabetes management and prevention was sparked at a young age. At only nine, she was responsible for administering insulin for her diabetic grandmother. Hailing from a remote area in Belize, travelling for medical treatments was difficult and Furtado played a critical role in her grandmother’s care. Being a caretaker for her grandmother, and later losing grandparents on both sides to diabetes, would become the major driving force for Furtado to create her non-profit, Type Diabeat-it.


Type Diabeat-it is a Canadian non-profit organization focused on educating and supporting Canadians and Belizeans living with diabetes. When Furtado started the organization, her goal was to do relief work for folks living with diabetes in Belize, where diabetes is one of the top three causes of death. Her mission quickly evolved to improving the diabetic reality in both Canada and Belize.


“As I got into the meat of incorporating the origination, I was also getting my nursing education accredited while working at St. Thomas hospital. I then realized that there was so much for me to do, right in my very own backyard, in London,” said Furtado. “It’s funny because…I've never felt that a developed country like Canada needed someone like me, but it was quite the opposite. That's when I adopted a twofold mission that I also want to support BPOC Canadians, because Black Canadians…are affected [by diabetes at a rate of] over six per cent higher than that of other races.”


In Belize, the organization works to “[bridge] the gap in service and funding for Belizeans affected with diabetes.” There, the focus is delivering events that help mobilize knowledge and increase education, and programs that raise awareness and help those with diabetes access proper nutrition. In Canada, the organization works to ensure that Black Canadians, and minority groups, are able to access care and are provided with resources to help them manage and prevent diabetes. In London, their programs include awareness events and recreation programs, nutrition education, a community garden and a food box program.


Furtado has big plans for Type Diabeat-it in 2023. In March, they will launch a local greenhouse project and will be hiring their first grant-funded staff member. The upcoming greenhouse project is an extension of their community garden collaboration with London Food Bank that supported over 30 families.


The organization also worked with Brescia University College nutrition students to develop The Greenhouse Project Guide – a culturally competent toolkit for the BPOC (Black and People of Colour) community that includes produce growing guides and nutrition information. These projects are critical to supporting both prevention and management of diabetes within BPOC populations, who are often disproportionately affected by food insecurity and lack access to culturally sensitive nutrition education.


“Right now, over 13 percent of Ontarians suffer some level of food insecurity, ranging from severe to moderate. The BPOC community, we are at higher rates likely to have low income and report poor health. And we have lesser access to quality produce due to how the city is set up,” said Furtado. “This greenhouse is huge, because not only are we going to be providing access to quality produce, we're also looking at the cultural competency because culture is a social determinant of health.”


Looking ahead, Furtado is working towards charitable status for Type Diabeat-it, a designation that she hopes will improve her eligibility to apply for much needed grants to help with the growth and sustainability of her business. Like many racialized nonprofit founders, Furtado has faced many systemic barriers while trying to access the information and capital needed to establish a sustainable enterprise.


Some of these barriers include intensive applications, unrealistic revenue and staffing requirements, and a lack of access to support in navigating the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Innovation Works and Pillar Nonprofit Network team have benefitted from Furtado’s openness about the barriers she has experienced as a racialized female entrepreneur navigating these systems and spaces, including our own.


“It's more difficult for, you know, equity-seeking and marginalized organizations because we don't fit into these requirements and guidelines, because your business model or structure is slightly different. Or we're not able to achieve the milestones as quickly because of lack of funding,” explained Furtado. “So, there's a lot of systemic barriers, because I feel that [many funding application] guidelines are systematically put in place to, maybe not intentionally, but just for them not being aware [of the challenges they present].”


For Type-Diabeat-it, the opportunity to receive complimentary space at Innovation Works’ TD Zone, generously sponsored by TD Bank Financial Group, has been greatly beneficial. Having flex-desk space and the opportunity to hold meetings at Innovation Works has helped the organization by reducing costs and providing an enabling environment to focus on their mission and build community.


“There's been a lot of positive in terms of me participating in pop up markets, me connecting with staff [who] show me different resources, us having a place to call our own that other organizations and companies are going to respect,” said Furtado. “This is a professional address, professional working space…when I have to do meetings, when I have to bring volunteers, it looks better, to come to a beautiful setting. It's certainly given me the leverage, the confidence and the support to continue doing what I'm doing.”


The organization is currently accepting volunteers, particularly in support of social media, email marketing, content writing, and grant writing. To learn more Type-Diabeat-it and how to support and connect with their organization, visit their website.