Giving is in my DNA

Tue 09 April 2024

Nikki Flynn

Nikki has been volunteering with us since 2019. She tells us how she’s used her professional and personal experience to give back to others.

When I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS at the age of 23, I didn't even know what it was. It was a shock to me. I almost expected them to say it was cancer, as my dad had passed away from it at the age of 41. I was given an information leaflet, but I didn’t want to know anything about it, so I put it to one side. As far as I was concerned, they couldn't do anything about it. So, I ignored it. I didn’t tell anyone except close family and friends.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was working on the counter of a bank. But because of the tingling and numbness in my fingertips, I kept dropping money. I eventually told my manager and was moved to other more suitable roles over the years. Eventually I had to stop working because of ill health around 2019. This was soon after my MS had developed into secondary progressive. But I couldn’t sit around doing nothing. So 2019 was also when I began volunteering for the MS Society.

Joining the Pontio Project in Wales

I was taking part in an exercise class when I heard about volunteering opportunities as part of the Pontio Project. Pontio ran until 2023 and provided people living with MS in Wales with information and support. I got in touch with them. After discussing various roles with a member of staff, I chose to become a Befriending Volunteer.

As a Befriending Volunteer for Pontio, I was paired up with people living with MS for a weekly phone call, which lasted around an hour. The aim of the befriending service was to help combat isolation and loneliness. I didn’t bring MS up unless the person I was talking to wanted to speak about it. We chatted about anything and everything – I can talk for Britain! I really enjoyed it and have kept in touch with quite a few of the people I befriended.

After about a year, I started delivering awareness talks to companies to help them understand the signs of MS. And how they could best support employees diagnosed with it. I found having MS was useful when befriending and delivering awareness talks, as I was able to answer any questions asked from a personal perspective.

Putting my finance skills to use

During my time volunteering on the Pontio Project, I also began volunteering with the Montgomeryshire Group as a Finance Volunteer. Being based all the way in Swansea, it might seem strange I’d volunteer with a group so far away. However, being able to do everything online makes it possible.

I’d heard about the group looking for volunteers through Facebook and they were keen for me to join them. Especially with my previous experience in banking. I probably only dedicate about five hours a month to the role - it’s relatively straight forward when you know what needs to be done. So previous experience is nice to have, but not needed. My experience also helps with making decisions about grants the group gives to support people with MS in financial need.

Giving is in my DNA

Recently, I’ve also been involved in the MS Society’s welcome events for volunteers. I just go along and talk to people about myself and what’s happened to me. It’s interesting because once I start opening up, others feel more comfortable talking about their own connections to MS.

I’m not someone who wants people to feel sorry for them. I do this because I want to help others. Whether that’s giving training, sharing my experience and knowledge or signposting people to information, I like giving back in any way I can. It’s in my DNA.

Volunteering adds structure to your day

Volunteering can help give structure to your day, which is important to me. If I really wanted to, I could just sit here and do absolutely nothing. But I don’t think my dog, Freddie, and parrot, Buzz, would be happy with that either. They need to be fed!

I recently received two nominations for a Volunteer Impact Award, which I found humbling. I've never done anything in my life for a reward. It’s nice to be recognised by others though, because it suddenly feels like everything you’ve been doing is worthwhile.

To anyone thinking of becoming an MS Society Volunteer, I say do it! You get to talk to so many different people and you’ll learn a lot more about MS from them than you ever would from a textbook. You've got nothing to lose and a hell of a lot to gain!

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