We feel extremely lucky to be working within the Community Engagement team at Overcoming MS. We regularly see first-hand, the optimism, hope and passion that our community has, both for the Overcoming MS program itself, and in sharing it with each other and new audiences.
At the beginning of the year, the Overcoming MS charity recognised the need for two full-time posts in Community Engagement, to be better placed and committed to supporting our global community. Both myself (Liz, Community Engagement Programme Manager), and Jake, Community Engagement Administrator joined Overcoming MS in March 2022. From the start, both Jake and I have been committed to identifying as many opportunities as possible to give a platform and a voice to our community, to celebrate achievements and to offer more spaces to meet, learn and connect.
Reflecting on a busy year, we are proud of what we as a community have achieved so far. Our first priority back in March was to establish a regular space for the Overcoming MS community to share news, and to date, The Friday Shout Out has showcased over nineteen stories from our communities across the globe. We also established a new social media slot to celebrate our Circles too!
Feedback is critical
We have spent time looking at how we can obtain regular feedback. As well as holding regular check-ins for our Ambassadors, we also set up a regular Ambassador Vision Board which invites our Ambassadors to anonymously share their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.
We are passionate at Overcoming MS about listening to this feedback and developing co-designed services. To maximise these opportunities, we recruited seven members of our community to take part in a series of focus groups. This is helping us to understand how to make our services relevant, authentic, and user-led. We have also seen our community grow. At the start of 2022, there were 94 Circles and 100 Ambassadors. We are finishing the year with 98 Circles and 108 Ambassadors, which is impressive given that Ambassador recruitment was paused for the first 5 months. We wish to further this growth during 2023.
Celebrating our Ambassadors and volunteers
We celebrated the work and support that all of our Ambassadors and Volunteers offer in their roles during National Volunteer Week in June by offering four self-development sessions run by Yasmin Neves. These sessions covered resilience, balancing emotions, and stress management techniques. Following the success of this, we wanted to broaden our offer and deliver a further session with Yasmin for our Ambassadors and Circles members in December, with a time slot offering further global accessibility. The session focused on techniques to help people negotiate the holiday season whilst protecting precious energy.
Meeting the community face-to-face
During this 10th anniversary year of Overcoming MS, we began an exciting new calendar of face-to-face events starting with the Delamore Arts event. We met thirty of our South-West Circle members and celebrated the hard work of Tessa Jane Miles who raised a whopping £11,000 for Overcoming MS. We took information stands to Clacton, London, Hinckley, Leamington Spa and Manchester, bringing with us OMS Facilitators, Circle members and Ambassadors and sharing our new branding and merchandise. We spoke to such a wide range of people and organisations, from GPs, neurologists, and physiotherapists to people newly diagnosed with MS, their friends, and family. Wherever we have gone we have been received warmly and positively.
Supporting our communities
We created and delivered three new programmes to support our communities. The first of these was a partnership with HelloSelf, offering online psychological group support for family and friends of people with MS who are following the Overcoming MS program. Participants engaged in topics like adjusting to life changes, communicating in relationships, and caring for yourself while caring for others. We also created and ran the new Pathway to Overcoming MS course for anyone wanting to learn more about the Overcoming MS program. Our fabulous team of facilitators took twenty-seven people on a four-week course encompassing all the elements of the programme and we achieved 100% satisfaction rating during the feedback and evaluation process. In addition to this, we created a pilot Safeguarding module for our Ambassadors, which enabled five of our volunteers to upskill their Safeguarding knowledge and skills allowing them to feel more equipped when supporting their Circle members. The pilot module was a huge success with all Ambassadors scoring their confidence to approach a potential Safeguarding issue after the course at 80% or more.
What a year! We endeavour to build upon 2022 and continue our commitment to supporting and celebrating people living with MS and following Overcoming MS in 2023. Thank you to each and every one of our OMS Community, for their encouragement, involvement, and support.
Liz Waters, Community Engagement Programme Manager