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"Volunteering has changed our lives"

Chris and Anne Todd

Chris and Anne met through their local group. They’ve been married for over six years and both live with relapsing MS. They tell us how volunteering with our Hull, Beverley and Holderness group has given them purpose.

Chris: My MS nurse was the one who suggested I start volunteering. She knew the local group needed someone to make the newsletters. And that I was interested in computers and did a lot with graphics.

Anne: I had to give up my job because I was physically unable to do it anymore. I thought “I've got to do something”. You've got to keep going, don't you?

Chris: Not being able to work due to illness felt terrible, like I was just wasting away. I'd already lost almost all my pre-diagnosis friends because I couldn't keep up with them. Being involved with our local group has enabled us to make lots of new MS friends.

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Chris: Anne and I met on a social night at a pub with other members of our local group, and things just went from there. With us both having MS, we understand each other well. We've got different symptoms but still have lots in common. We’re lucky to have found each other, we’re really happy.

Our volunteering roles have changed over the years. Anne was once the Vice Chair of the group but due to a bad relapse is now a Fundraising Volunteer (as well as helping out with other things). I’ve always been a Communications Volunteer but I’m now also a Support Volunteer.

Anne: It’s hard to get out of the house these days because neither of us can drive anymore. But we do what we can.

Even though we've been at home for the last two years because of the pandemic, we’ve managed to help lots of people.

Chris: Many of our members lived alone and couldn't see anybody. They were really isolated.

I'd used Zoom for work, and also to attend meetings with the MS Society before the pandemic. It seemed like the obvious choice for us to keep in touch with our group members.

At first, people weren’t sure about Zoom. They weren't familiar with the technology. So I would help them install the app or set it up on their computer. And then I'd host a meeting with just them so they could see how it worked.

To begin with, our group didn’t know what to talk about! So, we did some research on team and community building exercises and games. We started hosting quizzes and online plays which were run by a brilliant local theatre company, Hull Truck Theatre. We also held dance and music sessions.

Everyone began to really enjoy the sessions and they grew from there. We hosted four sessions every week and up to 45 people joined them during the pandemic. It’s been a great way for people to connect.

We all looked out for each other. We could tell if there was something wrong.

Chris: If somebody had a problem, there was a good chance somebody in the group also had a similar experience. We could all share stories. And if we didn't know how to help somebody, we'd find out.

Anne: The MS Society has also been really helpful with support and advice.

Chris: We’ve spent so much time together on Zoom and have formed strong friendships. We learnt a great deal about one another. And about MS from each other. There's no judgment in the group, everyone's equal and accepting. We’ve been shown so much gratitude for the Zoom sessions we hosted during the pandemic, but people don’t need to thank us.

For anyone thinking of becoming an MS Society volunteer, we'd say go for it!

Anne: We’ve never looked back!

Chris: I’ve got so much self-worth from it and I feel useful. I‘m helping myself as well as other people. I've learnt so much as a volunteer which has helped us in our own lives.

Without being a volunteer, I wouldn't have as much knowledge about MS. We've been able to do a great deal of good and that makes me feel very warm and rewarded. Volunteering makes us feel like we can still be useful and valuable to people.

Our volunteering won’t stop here. We’ve recently had local campaigning training and we’re looking forward to bringing about change in our local area. Watch this space!

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Our volunteers make a big difference for people affected by MS. Find out how you can volunteer with us today.