Sometimes things happen in life you never saw coming. And sometimes, you feel utterly defenseless because you simply couldn’t step in to help.
But what if you create something good out of something so bad?
The 1980s natural disasters, like the drought in Ethiopia and Armenia’s earthquake, left a permanent imprint on my teenage brain, making them still easy to recall. From then on, helping others is something I’ve always been keenly interested in. Anything that happened since, still makes me want to pack my suitcase and jet off to volunteer where help is needed.
At the time of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and unbeknownst to me, MS had already taken refuge in my brain. When I talked to my parents about wanting to go to Thailand to help search for people, they very wisely talked me out of doing so. Physically, it would simply be too tough, mentally a struggle between my heart and my strength.
With multiple sclerosis, you don’t get to be the 100% CEO you want to be of your physical body. Jetting off to help people in other countries will remain an unfulfilled ideal, but there are plenty of other ways you can help. Although not physically out there with and for those I volunteer for, it does serve as a major source of mental and emotional satisfaction.
Volunteering and/or advocating can be as easy or difficult as you want it to be, you either become an imaginary warrior spitting venom, or you turn on positive vocabulary where needed. Over time, you develop new skills or strengthen those you already had. I found out that I am slightly blessed with the Irish gift of the gab, and when positive reactions started arriving, I realized I should well… just do some more of it.
With a recession that left Ireland half crippled, it’s usually vulnerable parts of our communities that get hit hardest. Elderly people, those with illnesses or children with disabilities lost out on valuable services in Ireland.
Giving back to communities that cannot have enough volunteers, is an important part of why I dedicate my time to advocate. So, when it becomes clear that action is needed for people with neurological illnesses, I am more than happy to get my writing hat on.
While being a continuous work in progress myself, when I write my blog or advocating projects, I completely forget I have MS. It’s about the person I’m talking for or about, or talking with. It’s about their fears, their pain and their life. It becomes very rewarding when you realise people appreciate the time you took to support them. It becomes even more rewarding when your volunteering/advocating creates hairline cracks in otherwise strong foundations.
In a world as fast-paced as ours, sometimes the only thing people want, is someone to sit down with them, and just talk over a cup of coffee or tea. It brings people together, can be the basis for good friendships and makes a difference, no matter how small.
In fact, for anyone interested in volunteering, research shows it can be beneficial in improving mood, self-esteem and quality of life, and in reducing stress, pain and depression. It also shows that ill people who volunteer, become better at managing their own illness in turn and volunteering can strengthen their immune systems.
The top reason for many to volunteer means you make a difference, because every person counts.
If interested in volunteering in Ireland, why not here?
MS Society of Ireland (MS Ireland)
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner are strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.