Volunteering has greatly enriched my life

Thu 09 March 2023

Sharon’s been Groop Coordinator of the Swansea and District group since 2018. She tells us about the positive impact volunteering has had on her and her confidence.

In 2014, I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS. For me , my main emotion was one of relief. I was relieved that there was a genuine cause to all of the strange and bizarre things going on with my body. Like the pain, weakness, fatigue and the changes in bladder and bowel behaviours. And actually, I wasn’t going crazy.

Find out more about MS symptoms

Not long after diagnosis, I had a series of infections which made me quite unwell. Eventually this led to me giving up my role in a primary school and also as Chair Person on a number of committees. So I went from being extremely busy, to basically doing nothing.

I spent a lot of time being home alone, while my husband was at work and my three children at school. This became rather depressing and so I reached out to the local MS community. The emotional support I received was fantastic and it led to me becoming a volunteer with the MS Society. I’ve now been the Group Coordinator for the Swansea and District group since 2018.

Volunteering keeps me busy

In a typical week volunteering, I tend to spend a few hours on a Monday catching up with emails and doing outstanding admin. We've got a fantastic team of volunteers in Swansea, but one thing we do need is an administration volunteer.

As well as coordinating the Swansea group, I organise regular face-to-face social gatherings, a fortnightly boccia session and weekly online seated yoga. These all keep me rather busy!

I get lots of phone calls from people who either need guiding to one of the fantastic resources here in Wales, or just want a general chat. I’ve had one person phone me regularly for a couple of years for a natter. They haven’t told any of their family that they have MS, because they don’t want to worry them. I can’t imagine how lonely that must be.

Find out more about talking to friends and family about your MS

Raising funds and awareness of MS

I’ve taken part in lots of different of activities raising money for the Stop MS Appeal. One of the most challenging events I did was a zipwire in North Wales. I don’t like speed, I’m terrified of heights and I hate not being in control. Yet there I was, trussed up like a turkey hurtling head first down a mountain side at over one hundred miles an hour. I must be mad! Right?

We regularly have information stands at events, including the Wales Air Show. This is really successful in spreading awareness about MS. It also gives newly diagnosed, and people who've lived with MS for years, a place to find out what help is available. One chap last year wanted to take me home with him. The fact that he was about ninety years old and accompanied by his wife didn’t seem to bother him.

Bringing the MS community closer together

I’d like to think my time volunteering helps to strengthen the MS community and bring us all closer together. There are several members who live alone and look forward to our weekly socials. To have a good laugh and company. We do spend a great deal of our time laughing, usually at ourselves. Laughter is the best medicine.

I was really chuffed to be nominated for an Impact Award last year. None of us volunteer to be rewarded, but it does give you a boost when someone goes to the effort of nominating you. I volunteer because it gives me a real sense of achievement, particularly when I see the pleasure our members get meeting with each other.

It’s had a big impact on me, making me a much more confident person. So much so, that when the MS Frontiers event was held in Swansea, I was able to give a five-minute talk about how living with MS impacts my life. So all those scientists, neurologists and other clever people were listening to little old me.

To anyone who’s considering becoming a volunteer with the MS Society, I would say go for it. It’s greatly enriched my life and given me a real sense of pride for the contribution I make to the MS community.