It’s only week two of the New Year yet somehow the holidays seem a long time ago already. This festive season was very different for so many of us - I personally missed seeing our close family (brothers, sisters, cousins) and some of our close friends as we normally do at this time of year.
I did however manage to have a restful break and I hope you all did too. Last year was tough for everyone. Each of us will still be feeling the impact of last year intensely and personally. And I’ve had a few conversations over the past week or so about how the reality of a third lockdown feels even more challenging than before. Perhaps due to the shorter days, wintery weather and fact we are still recovering from 2020. I’m sure many of you are feeling this as well.
There’s a lot to get our heads around with last year changing almost every aspect of our lives! And the constraints this lockdown brings are challenging for everyone; whether that’s not being able to meet others in person, having difficulty in accessing healthcare, facing shielding for a second time or simply feeling concerned. We also made changes to our structure and the way that we support volunteers on a day-to-day basis, which are still new to us all.
Our focus right now is on being sensitive to how others might be feeling, and on supporting and looking out for each other. While we may not be able to resume face-to-face services or events as quickly as we hoped, we’re running more sessions on using Zoom and our Volunteer Support Team can answer your day-to-day questions.
Our Helpline is available, as always, to support you and your local area. You can also contact your local Support Volunteer.
You can contact the Helpline by calling 0808 800 8000, or you can email them by clicking here
You can contact the Volunteer Support Team on the phone by calling 0300 500 8084 – option #3, or you can email them by clicking here.
We want to support the MS community in the best way that we can. To make sure we’re helping in the right way, we need to understand the things that matter to our community and the issues you’re facing. We can then ensure we are raising your concerns with the UK Government, media and others.
We’d really love to hear your experiences of living with MS during the pandemic, and particularly this latest lockdown. I’m pleased to tell you that there’s a special page available on our website here, if you would like to share your story with us.
While we’re unable to run face-to-face activities, some of you may want to volunteer in other ways this year to help the world get back to some form of normality. If this sounds like you, the Royal Voluntary Service is calling out for volunteers to step forward and give the gift of time to support the most vulnerable in our communities through a difficult winter. To support the NHS, there are lots of roles needed, including NHS Volunteer Responders, vaccination support roles and winter pressure support.
If this is something you might be interested in, you can find out more or apply to volunteer by following this link to their ‘Hour of Need’ page: www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/hourofneed
They are also running a support line ‘Supporting patients in need’. Delivered by volunteers, the service is open for self-referrals throughout the winter through to March. Anyone in England who is self-isolating or limiting contact with others because of a vulnerability can refer themselves to the programme. If you or anyone in your local community would like to register for support, you can contact the helpline on 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm, every day.
Looking forward to 2021
Another feeling I’ve picked up on in the conversations I’ve had, is that of hope. Hope for 2021 on a personal level and excitement about the plans we want to progress. With the days getting longer, the vaccine rolling out, and of course plans we have around launching our research trials platform, a new Digital Health Assistant, and many more, there is a lot of hope for the future and for our community.
I’m also excited about re-starting face-to-face services when the time is right and of course running traditional fundraising events. As a group of passionate volunteers, you really are inspiring and I thank you all for the continued commitment you have shown us.
It’s a marathon not a sprint
As some of you might know, I completed the virtual marathon last year for the MS Society. When you train for one of these endurance events, it’s vital to pace yourself, listen to your body, eat well and focus on your mental wellbeing.
Well, I think the same advice applies to how we approach the year ahead. Let’s pace things right and have health and wellbeing, and how we support one another, front and centre. I think if we can do this together, we’ll be ok.
I am looking forward to our Volunteer Voice events continuing this year. The first is on 27 January and you can find more information below. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you there.