"It’s nice to feel part of a community"

Fri 05 April 2024

Yasmin Taheri

Yasmin is a Support Volunteer in our West Central London Group. She tells us about helping the group to organise and run a Living Well with MS Day.

My connection to MS is my mum, who was diagnosed when I was in my late teens. I’m an actor and facilitator and have always enjoyed meeting and working with new people from a range of backgrounds.

I joined the MS Society’s West Central London (WCL) Group in 2022. I decided to volunteer primarily because of my mum. She lives up in Yorkshire and was thinking of reaching out to her local MS Society group. I realised that I could reach out to one here in West London and support local people — so that’s what I did!

It’s nice to feel part of a community and work alongside all our lovely WCL volunteers.

Diverse and active

The WCL Group was established in 2018 as a merger of three boroughs. We’re a multi-ethnic group of volunteers and members from all across London, which represents the city’s population well. There are more than 1,000 people living with MS in our three boroughs but we have a membership of just over 100 people. We’d love to welcome some more. We have a mailing list and a WhatsApp group which everyone can use to stay in touch.

The group keeps pretty busy! We’ve just been lucky enough to secure a fourth year of National Lottery Funding to help fund our weekly online classes: Pilates, Neuro Enhance, MS Movement and sessions with a wonderful Laughter Yoga guru! 

We also have a monthly Coffee Morning in Hammersmith, where volunteers and group members get together. Conversations span from schools and kids to MS and medications — and everything in between!

Looking ahead

We’re currently making plans for a sponsored zipline challenge in June and the London MS Walk in September. We’re planning a members’ lunch in the early summer and our annual Christmas trip to the London Gospel Community Choir concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

As a Support Volunteer, I try to attend as many of our in-person events and sessions as my schedule allows (the unpredictable fun of being a freelancer!). I’m on the other end of our support phone on Thursdays, and I’m on email too, responding to any support queries. 

Our local support phone line is available twice a week for anyone wanting some information on the group, advice or just a chat!

A day of learning and positivity

WCL Group got the idea for hosting a Living Well with MS Day from events run by the MS Society in Northern Ireland and Scotland a few years ago. The concept is to have a day of learning and positivity that focuses on all the ways people affected by MS can live their lives as fully as possible. 

We promoted the day through email and social media to every MS Society group in London. More than 90 people from across 24 London boroughs attended with partners and family members. To help overcome any barriers to attendance, we provided daycare for young children. 

Our day started with refreshments and the chance to check out display stands from eight general disability and MS organisations. We then had two lectures on new research and on dietary and nutrition guidance. To get everyone moving after lunch, we presented four sample exercise classes. The afternoon lectures were on disability legal rights and two fatigue programmes. The event closed after a Q&A and thanks to all of our great presenters.

Well worth doing

It was an invigorating, informative and friendly event. Everyone who filled in our evaluation form gave it five stars for everything — even the food. We're currently making plans for our second Living Well with MS Day, in spring 2025.

Helping with our Living Well with MS Day is my greatest volunteering accomplishment so far.

The day was completely free for attendees. And with all the information, activity and experts on hand it really felt like everyone got a lot out of it. My lovely mum was there, and said, “I had a fantastic day! It was so informative and well organised. It was so nice being around other people with MS.” It made me feel really proud, and also in awe of all our volunteers, especially Susan and Penny, who put so much work into making the day happen.

Be part of something important

Volunteering has had such a positive impact on me as a person. Firstly, the sense of community I’ve felt — both from working with other volunteers and getting to know more of our members. And I’m constantly learning from others too – from life advice to MS treatment tips to report back to my mum.

So, if you’re thinking about volunteering for the MS Society — go for it! You’ll meet so many new and interesting people, be part of something so important and have some fun along the way!