I’ve started volunteering to answer phones for the MSFriends Hotline. This is something I’ve found that I can do from home. It is a “peer support and referral service” for people who have M.S. or are suspecting a diagnosis of M.S., their families and friends.
All volunteers have M.S. so it makes me feel uniquely qualified to participate in society in this way. And I find that it gives me something to look forward to when I wake up in the morning. I love it.
The program has some baseline requirements (see the web page: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Resources-Support/Find-Support/Connect-with-Peers-One-on-One; link still works as of 01-27-2019) so I had a phone interview. Then I was provided a cell phone to be used solely for this purpose and I was given training.
Now when my assigned time comes, I call in to be placed into the queue of volunteers who answer the MSFriends toll-free number which rings through to my cell phone.
I am required to volunteer for a minimum of five hours each week, so for May I originally signed up for one hour each day during the week. But the traffic for calls seemed very light so I conferred with my trainer then increased my sign-up times to two hours.
Since I’d already signed up for a daily slot during the weeks of May, the result is that I’ve now added five additional hours per week. As a team player, I didn’t want to be deleting any times I’d already signed up for, so I’m a bit overextended for the rest of this month.
It turns out that my employer has a program to give employees company time off to do volunteer work and to match employees’ charitable donations. So I got approval to use my work computer and to use company time to sign up to answer the hotline during work hours.
So next month I’ve signed up for one contiguous five-hour chunk each week during work hours and plan to continue to experiment with my schedule until I’m satisfied.
One of the purposes of the hotline is to provide 24-hour support to the newly diagnosed, but every call I’ve taken so far has been a repeat caller. So what I realize is that we also serve as a sort of telephone support group to augment the local support groups that people with M.S. are encouraged to attend.
Putting my own, unique stamp on this service, I add callers to my cell phone contact list so that when they call again, their names pop up on my phone and I’m able to greet them by name. And I’m now listening to people with M.S. all over the country!