WHEN the coronavirus pandemic hit, groups up and down the country were forced to cancel weekly events and meet-ups.

It was no different for the Colchester MS Society group.

Before lockdown and social distancing came in, members would meet for a coffee morning every Friday. But overnight the vital lifeline for many people living with multiple sclerosis was gone.

For Vicki Hammond, 43, from Colchester, it was hard to adapt to how life had changed.

Concerned how others were coping, she decided to set up a virtual coffee morning on Zoom.

She said: “My family are lovely and they are caring, but they don’t live with MS and they don’t get why I can get frustrated sometimes.

“Being part of the group means you are no longer alone, and you can feel alone when you have MS.

"I know without coming to my MS Society group I wouldn’t be where I am with my MS now – comfortable and with a network of friends who really understand me.

“It really bothered me that we weren’t seeing the people from our Friday coffee morning. For some we are the only people they get to see all week and everyone was so happy that the Zoom coffee morning could reconnect us while we are in isolation.”

For Vicki the group changed her life and she now works as a volunteer to help others stay connected and never more so than now in lockdown.

MS damages nerves in your body and makes it harder to do every day things, such as walking, talking and eating.

She admits it felt like her world had closed in after her diagnosis and before she met the group.

“A volunteer at the group reached out to me and I really don’t think I would have gone otherwise,” she said. “But I felt completely welcomed and supported when I got there.

Vicki, who lives with her wife, Claire, and their two teenage children, organises the group’s social events – from theme nights to weekly coffee mornings. She is one of more than 3,500 MS Society volunteers.

This week marks Volunteers’ Week and the MS Society is celebrating the invaluable contribution its volunteers make.

Vicki added: “If I only help one person, then that’s one more person that didn’t feel like that before.”

For more information on volunteering for the MS Society visit: www.mssociety.org.uk.