Empathy is a quality that helps people relate to others and their experiences. Volunteering provides an opportunity to develop empathy and see the world through the eyes of others. MS Society volunteers connect with people in the MS community from all walks of life, with diverse backgrounds and different life experiences.
This National Volunteer Week, we are celebrating our many MS Society volunteers that exemplify empathy in action.
Sara began volunteering with the 1:1 Peer Support Program after her MS diagnosis in 2019. Sara’s motivation to volunteer with the program stemmed from her empathy for others facing the same challenges she experienced. What she found was not only could she help others, she could also benefit from the mutual connection and support.
“I was always volunteering when I was younger, but I had to stop for a while when I had my kids. Once they got older, I was able to look into volunteer opportunities with the MS Society.
Volunteering has opened me up more to the MS community. My family is originally from Newfoundland, so it’s helped me meet more people [in Saskatoon and beyond]. People in the MS community are more likely to understand what you’re going through. It’s important to find a good support system to talk about your MS journey.
Through the 1:1 Peer Support Program, I was able to help a woman who had kids around the same age that mine were when I was diagnosed. I shared tips on how to simulate some of the symptoms she experienced in a way that her kids and husband could understand – like putting weights around your ankles or simulating optic neuritis, which affects your vision.
Living with MS can be challenging, but by joining the 1:1 Peer Support Program, you can get perspectives from others who have gone through similar experiences. Don’t think of this disease as a death sentence because it’s not. There are great treatments available that weren’t an option 10 years ago. Don’t think that you’re disabled, and you can’t do anything. Your life is not over.
This is the message I hope to give as a volunteer, and this is what volunteers do at the MS Society—give comfort and hope to people who sometimes really need it.”
– Sara, 1:1 Peer Support Volunteer, diagnosed in 2019
Originally from Iran, 25-year-old Bruce is now living in Prince George, BC and is a student at the University of North British Columbia. He is involved with a peer support program at the MS Society and is currently the founder and head of his university’s MS Student Support Club.
As Bruce’s story shows, you don’t have to be directly affected by MS to be passionately involved in the fight against the disease.
“When I first started volunteering with the MS Society, I didn’t know anyone who had MS. I didn’t even know what MS was. It was the summer of 2019, and as an undergraduate student who had just landed in Canada, I was looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity, and I was ready to get involved in the community.
I came across a position to be an MS Ambassador, and I thought it would be an honour to get the job, as I’ve always had an interest in health care and love to help people. I was offered the position and was introduced to the peer support group and a group of volunteers who were doing a tremendous amount of hard work. I found a renewed sense of passion.
In the long run, volunteering is beneficial to everyone who is affected by MS. I know if I can get people to care about this cause, the better the MS community will be and the sooner we can find a cure.”
– Bruce, MS Society Volunteer
Barb, a former teacher who was born and raised in Winnipeg, was diagnosed with MS in September 2011. After her diagnosis, Barb became active in the MS community, taking on numerous advocacy and training positions.
“In the spring after I was diagnosed, I decided to volunteer for MS Walk. That’s how I met and became involved with the MS community. It was really gratifying for me because I felt that I wasn’t alone– there were people who knew what MS was all about and I could learn from their experiences.
I was asked to do media interviews, articles, and speeches. In 2016, I was the MS Walk Ambassador, which came with a lot of public speaking. After I stopped teaching two years ago, I joined the Leadership Council in Manitoba and then the Ambassador Executive. I am now the Ambassador Lead for Manitoba.
Volunteering has become a bigger part of my life than I could have ever imagined. Being an active member of the MS community is really important to me. I’ve met a lot of great people, and the most empowering part of it is what we can do when we’re all together. That’s when we really make a difference.”
– Barb, MS Ambassador and Volunteer, diagnosed in 2011
David was first introduced to the world of multiple sclerosis (MS) around 1980, when his wife was diagnosed with it. This led him to get involved with the MS Society, where he has volunteered for three decades and is now the volunteer lead of the Simcoe-Norfolk MS Walk.
“There wasn’t much information about the disease that we were aware of when she was first diagnosed, and she didn’t need the services that she needs now. When I saw a small group of people selling Christmas cakes and raising funds for the MS Society, I realized there was a need for volunteers and for raising awareness.
Volunteering in general makes people feel like they’re part of something—a lot of people have a cause and ours happens to be MS. Many people don’t have a connection to MS, they’ve just seen the degree of disability caused by the disease and want to help.
Being able to support people living with MS and make their lives better is what we want to do.”
– David, MS Society Volunteer, wife diagnosed in 1980
Christine, from Thunder Bay, who currently lives in Spruce Grove was diagnosed with MS in 1999 and runs a support group for people in Edmonton living with MS.
She has a long history both as a schoolteacher and a volunteer in the MS community. These are roles which, as she will tell you, often intersect with her current work within the MS community.
“I kept experiencing relapses and my neurologist said, ‘that’s it, you’re done, you’re not working any more [as a teacher]’. I was 38 years old when I stopped working and I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I felt I had an obligation to give back to a community that I’m a part of. I started working with the MS Society for that reason, especially in a role where mentorship, like teaching, is so central.
Volunteering has allowed me to stay connected to the two communities that I feel so passionate about. It’s also helped me feel connected to myself, as someone who has a disease that will impact them for the rest of their life.”
– Christine, MS Society Volunteer, diagnosed in 1999
Has a volunteer from the MS community made a difference in your life? Visit our KudoBoard and help us celebrate the many contributions volunteers make in our community.