Queen Street Branch

26 November 2014

A view from both sides of the fundraising coin

Eiona Roberts blogs about how MS and a passion for photography led her to be involved in Principality’s charity fundraising efforts.

In 1991 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) after 13 years of medical investigations. It took that long to get a diagnosis because the relevant technology was yet to be available; it was a long, laborious matter of noting clinical history and eliminating other conditions.

The early years were hardest to cope with, mainly due to fatigue and vertigo. I had elderly parents to care for and a young toddler to raise but my husband’s patience and understanding was, and still is, invaluable.

I’m now 59 years young and classified as having Secondary Progressive MS. My life is happy and rich despite the progressing symptoms, because I know how to deal with them.

I’ve volunteered for MS Society UK (the UK’s leading MS charity) and MS Society Cymru (The leading charity in Wales dedicated to beating MS) since 2003. I’ve worn many hats - from a volunteer role on the national website, to my current role in reviewing public information documents and also fundraising. As I live in Swansea, I’ve been involved in both sides of the fundraising coin for MS Society Cymru.

In my personal life I’m passionate about photography and thanks to the technology of a Digital SLR camera which reduces handshake, an adaptable viewfinder and many other gizmos which I’ve bought, I can combine my passion for this with the passion I feel for others like me, who are affected by MS. Most are less fortunate than me with a progression that is so rapid, it has a potential to be totally and utterly devastating. It not only affects the lives of those who carry the condition but those friends, family, work colleagues or whoever happens to come into contact with them on a frequent basis.

When I’m not actively fundraising for MS Cymru, I’m often photographing many of their awareness and fundraising events. In January this year I travelled to Cardiff to photograph Julie-Ann Haines, Principality’s Customer Director and Michelle Mitchell CEO of MS Society UK, together with representatives from both organisations, outside Principality’s Queen Street branch. This was for their official handover when MS Cymru became Principality’s nominated Charity of the Year for 2014.

I rarely get the opportunity to see the end product after an official photo shoot, so I was thrilled when I saw a poster in my local Morriston Branch, featuring the photo I took of the official handover.

I’ve attended several local MS Society Cymru fundraisers organised by Principality staff this year and two in particular stand out most. The first was a fashion show at Morriston Golf club which not only raised money but was a fun-packed evening. I even took my own ‘flavour’ of MS with me when I committed a classic MS gaffe, one where you misjudge where things are (known as a lack of visuospatial awareness). As I went to place my glass of wine on the table, I misjudged the height of my chair and the contents got soaked up nicely by my clothes. Thankfully at my age I can laugh about sitting in alcohol-sodden clothes in a fashion show, of all places!

The second fundraising event that stood out was the concert held at the Stradey Park Hotel, Llanelli. A substantial amount of money was raised and the entertainment was second to none, but what moved me most were the words by the Carmarthen Branch Manager who emotionally finished her opening welcome with “this is for my mam”, who had MS. MS clearly affects far more people than the official statistics show.

Having attended various fundraisers for many years, I’ve noticed two things I really love about Principality, not only from attending their charity events but also through following them on Facebook and Twitter. They plough so much back into the Welsh community, far more than I’d expect from a mutual company. The Principality staff are outstanding in the way they pull together as a team. This is something we rarely see today in other national businesses and is something, which in my opinion, Principality should be proud of.

Published: 26/11/2014