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Houston, we have a problem!


As the MS Society North Durham Group decides next steps for the future of the Group and where to go from here, we’re asking for YOUR help in making those decisions by telling us what YOU want from your local MS Society group.

We’d be very interested to hear your thoughts...the letter below is from Acting Group Coordinator, Alistair Crisp...


I have been Chair/ Group Coordinator since 2011. During that time, your small group of volunteers have organised talks, awareness days, information days, fairs, cake breaks, a brilliant roadshow and Christmas lunches. We also set up Seated Yoga and Dance. The Christmas lunch has always been well supported with upwards of 40 people but numbers of members attending have been dwindling such that at the last lunch in 2018, there were only about 20 people.

However, other events have not been well supported with the exception of talks by Dr Martin Duddy (MS Consultant, RVI). We also produce a local newsletter which has got better and better.

With the coming of Covid a year ago, we have tried to move online, organising a number of Zoom socials, a drop-in and Christmas get together. We’ve also teamed up with York, Teesside and Leeds groups to provide online exercise, yoga and mindfulness. With the exception of our first social, which attracted two people, the remainder though really well publicised, attracted nobody outside your coordinating team. Similarly, use of the local help and information line has reduced and grant applications have disappeared for the last few years.

This begs the question why are we here? Your team comprises of 4 people who, like you, have MS or they care for someone with MS.

Additionally, we have one volunteer based in Middlesbrough working full time. Also our group coordinator Vic has sadly had to step back from this role as she is remaining in Leicester where her work is.

The purpose of MS local groups is to provide practical, emotional and financial help to those in North Durham affected by MS, as well as activities and events. We believe we have fulfilled this. So we are now asking, why the low participation in both face-to-face and online activities? We hear that other groups are thriving online especially where they had well attended pre-covid face-to face activities. After much discussion we are still none the wiser as to whether the group has a role or indeed a future. So unless we are told otherwise, perhaps the time has come for your group to consider whether it is viable any longer. It takes time and energy to put on these events so if there is no demand from local people...

I said in 2011 that communication is a two way thing and I think we have improved our communication (both online and via newsletters) and increased opportunities to do a variety of things which may help people. So please do write to or email me confidentially to tell us:

What you think we are doing right (if anything)? What you think we are doing wrong? How we can improve the offer for local people affected by MS? Most importantly, whether you are able to help us make things happen by giving some volunteering time casually?

We really do want to hear from you warts and all.

Please contact us at: Alistair.crisp@groups.mssociety.org.uk, Mob: 07746 734 811.

Please respond to us by Friday 28th May.

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