This week we are shouting about a support group which has supported motor neurone disease sufferers in the town for the past three decades. 

The North Wiltshire Group of the MND Association provides assistance those affected by the ‘devastating’ disease. Last Sunday, Justice Secretary and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland joined volunteers to complete a ‘Walk to d’feet MND’ around Coate Water, recognising 40 years of the national Motor Neurone Disease Association.

“We say ‘recognise’ because we don’t think MND is something to celebrate,” said Barbara Crook, secretary for the North Wiltshire Group.

The local volunteer-run group was itself set up in 1988 and meets twice a month to provide emotional support and information to fellow sufferers in the area. 

“It’s a chance for people and their families and carers to have a chat over a cup of coffee and cake and meet others in similar circumstances,” said Barbara.

“A lot of us have joined the group due to personal experience of the disease, and we feel that we want to give something back. 

“Most of us, when we were first affected, were supported by local volunteers who were trained by the association,” Barbara added. 

 The group also raises funds to support those affected by MND and is involved in campaigning to influence government policy. 

“It’s very rewarding to be able to influence this,” added Barbara. 

“At the moment there’s a big campaign to get the government to recognise that we need more accessible housing. When people become ill they are often stranded downstairs or upstairs because they loose the ability to move. They need to be moved to accommodation that is more suitable to their needs,” she continued. 

This year the group was given the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, for its service to the local community.

“I was extremely proud,” added Barbara. “We don’t volunteer for recognition, but it is nice when you realise your hard work has been appreciated.” 

The group’s vice-chair and campaigns co-ordinator, Heather Smith, was chosen to share her story in a 2016 national awareness campaign ‘Shortened Stories’. Posters were displayed in railway stations and on busses across the country to raise awareness of MND.

“The aim is to see a world free of MND,”  said Barbara. 

“We need to find a cure because it’s a devastating illness and we need more awareness to make sure that those who do have MND are cared for in the best possible way.”