Yesterday I helped out at our local MS Society’s flag day collection in town after receiving an email pleading for more volunteers.
The orange stand was hard to miss and I was kitted out in a yellow sash, an ID card and collecting tin. I’m still not back to full speed energy-wise, so I sat on a picnic chair and spent the time chatting to people who came over to donate money.
It was a fascinating but disheartening snapshot of the public perception of MS. The consensus seemed to be that MS is an ‘old person’s illness’, that we all end up in wheelchairs and there’s no treatment for it. Maybe having three pensioners and me at the stand just reinforced this myth.
Strangely, younger people were more willing than older people to come over and donate and a good few stopped to talk about people they knew with MS and the impact this had had on them and their families.
The other volunteers told me donations had dropped significantly in the last few years, perhaps not helped by the fact that so few society members were willing to help on collection days. Out of over 250 members in Cardiff, only five were out yesterday. Surely it’s not asking too much to give up a couple of hours once or twice a year?
And there’s the nub. We all want good, local groups and most of us need the support of other people with MS at some time or other. These groups need donations to exist. Yet a lot of us complain the groups are old fashioned, depressing and full of ‘old’ people, even though MS is mostly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. So why aren’t we joining these groups, bringing in new life, fresh ideas and extending a helping hand to newly diagnosed people?
What’s the point of complaining about something yet refusing to be part of the solution? If we want local support groups to be more open to change, we need to begin at the grassroots level and get out there, be visible. If we expect the public to dig deep in their pockets, how about we give generously of our time too…