I’m 33 and live in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. I was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2009 and started volunteering for the MS Society a few years later.
After I was diagnosed, I went to an MS Society course to help people self-manage their MS. It helped me think of tips and tricks to adapt and live with MS and be more confident in asking for help.
I got a lot from it, so when the MS Society asked for volunteers to help lead the course I thought, why not? I really enjoyed meeting other people with MS and sharing my experiences with them.
How volunteering online has benefitted me
The courses have developed into wellbeing sessions, which you can access online. This means I can do everything from the comfort of my own home.
I don’t have to stress about getting to a location, getting parked, getting around and finding toilets!
It’s a more flexible volunteer role. I don’t have to commit to a full day as I don’t have to travel anywhere. It’s also allowed me to meet more people from all over the country, not just the area I live in, which has been really great.
Thinking about something other than COVID-19
During lockdown I’ve been able to keep volunteering. As well as the wellbeing sessions I’ve been volunteering to deliver webinars.
I’ve helped run one on managing fatigue, which is one of my biggest invisible symptoms. And also one on returning to work after the pandemic. In this I shared my experiences of asking for reasonable adjustments in the office and while working at home.
Volunteering has given me something else to think about other than COVID-19. It’s been nice to still meet and help lots of different people.
I also joined my local MS Society group as a volunteer. During the pandemic we’ve changed all our meetings to online. We now have our committee meetings using Zoom, which we also use for quizzes and social chats for group members. And we’ve started up our Facebook group again so we can keep everyone up-to-date with what is happening.
But there will be benefits to getting back to face-to-face volunteering. You can sometimes get a better connection with people when you meet them in person. It can also be less distracting when you’re out of the house (where there’s kids/pets/spouses) and focus on just having some time to yourself.
Volunteering’s a tonic
I got involved with a completely different project during lockdown too – I helped create a gin!
One of my friends, Jane, who is also in our MS group owns a local distillery with her husband. During the small period we weren’t in lockdown last year we went for a tour of the distillery had a few tasters of the gins.
We got talking about how we could fundraise during the pandemic and I said why don’t we make an MS Society gin? From there the 1953 gin was born! It’s called this because that’s the year the MS Society was set up.
I got in touch with the fundraising team, who were really enthusiastic. We launched the gin at an online tasting event at Christmas. The event sold out and we had to add more places, which was fantastic.
It was a great experience seeing the gin in a real life bottle. It makes me feel very proud that I was part of it and is a great way to raise funds and awareness of the MS Society.
Getting involved as a younger person with MS.
MS is a condition that affects a lot of younger people, and getting a diagnosis can feel really scary at any age.
Seeing people of a similar age to me volunteering does make a difference.
But whatever age you are, everyone has different experiences, both of life in general and specific to MS, to bring to a volunteer role. Being a volunteer has helped me so much, and I still learn so much from it.
I would say to anyone thinking of volunteering to just do it! You get to meet and work with so many nice people and can make friends for life.
Volunteer with us
Whether it’s offering support, raising money, managing social media accounts or volunteering for the MS Helpline – there’s lots of ways you can help us be there for everyone with MS.
Will you join us?