Finding the volunteers at my local MS Society group turned my life around. Then I met Wendy. It was fantastic.
Finding my MS Society group
Finding my MS Society group transformed my life. I was at such a low point. I’d been diagnosed with MS 16 years ago, but 3 years ago my benefits were stopped.
A letter from the government said I had to move from DLA (Disability Living Allowance) to PIP (Personal Independence Payments). But my application for PIP was rejected and so was my appeal. They took my benefits, my mobility car, everything. I was absolutely devastated.
After my husband and daughter pushed me to go to a tribunal I finally got my benefits back. But the process was horrific. My self-esteem and self-worth was so low. It felt like the government had said to me, “no, you haven’t got anything wrong with you. You’re fine.” It was an awful experience.
I told my MS nurse how I was feeling and she recommended that I go and speak to Ann, a volunteer at the MS Society group in Brentwood and Chelmsford. I forced myself to go, but it was the best thing I ever did. A whole room full of people who could understand and support me! They offered so much information and companionship that I decided to become a volunteer too. I thought “why not help other people like they have helped me?”.
Volunteering has given me a new lease of life. I’ve met so many people, but the best part is Wendy’s friendship. When we were first introduced at our monthly pub social by Ann, I felt like a friend had just walked in and we hit it off straight away. By the summer, 3 months later, we’d booked a road trip to Liverpool and Blackpool together. The first of many adventures!
Wendy is a wheelchair user and I sometimes need one, because my MS affects my legs too. Even so we made it all the way to the top of the Blackpool Tower! We came back triumphant showing our group it could be done.
The best part of volunteering is that you get to share your experiences. Good experiences like the tower, or bad, like my benefits ordeal. I find the positive in everything now, because I can share my experiences with people and give them helpful advice.
Supporting each other through COVID-19
To help us through the coronavirus pandemic we’ve made a WhatsApp chat for all of the volunteers and people involved with our local MS Society group. We check in and help one another any way we can. Wendy lives on her own and, like me, she's quarantining because of her MS. So my daughter does her weekly shopping and checks to see how she is when she takes it over. We also speak on the phone most days - my family are always asking “how’s Wendy today?" - she’s part of the family.
That’s the thing about volunteering, it’s not just me. Wendy has also become a volunteer and my kids and husband are doing their bit too. We’re a community, and even if you don’t have MS there are so many ways you can help.
Volunteer with us
The COVID-19 pandemic means we can’t meet face-to-face right now, but there’s still ways to you can help us be there for everyone with MS. If you can volunteer some time remotely, by phone, video call, or online we’d love to hear from you.
Will you join us?