Recently I took early retirement from my job as a marine engineer, due to MS and post cancer issues.
At an MS Society event I got chatting to Mark, one of the fundraising staff in Scotland. He suggested volunteering on the MS Helpline. It was something I could do from home, which would be easier for me to cope with.
At first I wasn’t sure
Later, I thought about it seriously and felt it wasn’t for me. I felt that I was too reserved and lacking confidence, and I didn’t have enough knowledge and experience to give people the answers they may be looking for.
But sometime later, after speaking to Mark again, I decided to go for it and applied.
Applying and growing in confidence
When the day came for my interview I was very nervous. I did my best to be as truthful and open as possible about myself. The role play was the most nerve wracking part! Following the interview I was very pleased to be selected to go to the two day training session held in London.
I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the training. We had a fantastic group of tentative volunteers which made it so much better. Abi, Nee and all the staff involved made us extremely welcome and provided a very structured and interpersonal experience. I found it to be a huge help and my confidence was bolstered for moving ahead.
Once home we started our weekly training sessions via conference call which allowed us to continue learning and improve our skills.
Taking my first calls
Once I successfully completed the training and my assessments I was ready to take my first call. I was nervous, but it was straightforward and I was less nervous for the second call.
MS affects my memory and word recall during conversation but I hope with time this may improve. I’ve developed a system which appears to be working for me, and as many calls require mainly my listening skills it becomes less of a problem.
We have excellent support during our shift and access to a large amount of background information so we’re up to date and prepared for callers.
Enjoying talking to different people
The range of call types has really surprised me. I’m now taking calls on my own and really enjoying talking to so many different people, and hopefully being of some use to them.
I remain a bit nervous at the start and during each shift, which I believe is a good thing as we should never become complacent.
A thoroughly rewarding experience
Being part of the MS Helpline is something I would never have considered myself doing. It goes to show that if I can do it then anyone can. It’s something entirely new for me and initially took me right out of my comfort zone.
Here I am now fully involved and thoroughly enjoying what can be a very challenging, but thoroughly rewarding, experience.