Maurice Maso from Belgium is the winner of the 2013 Evelyn Nicholson Award for international caregiver. This annual award recognises volunteer caregivers to people with MS who have demonstrated outstanding commitment and devotion in their support.
This award is a reminder of the remarkable work being carried out by caregivers all over the world, and gives the MS International Federation and national MS organisations the opportunity to acknowledge carers’ importance in the global MS movement. Maurice was nominated by the French-speaking Ligue Nationale Belge de la Sclérose en Plaques (Belgium) and the Belgian National MS Society.
Maurice cares for his wife, Josiane, who has had MS for 27 years. Six years after she was first diagnosed with the illness, Josiane became wheelchair-bound and gradually slipped into depression. Maurice is a fighter and wants to believe that a normal life is possible.
While continuing to work, he spent his free time looking for ways to help improve his wife’s everyday life. He takes Josiane to play table tennis, which is accessible to people with limited mobility, and encourages her to swim in special swimming pools. He also oversaw the renovation of their house to accommodate his wife’s disabled needs.
“Maurice’s perseverance knows no bounds,” said Christiane Tihon, Secretary General of the Belgian National MS Society. “He wants to make sure that other people with MS can benefit from his efforts and has worked tirelessly to make sure that everyone can easily access and enjoy many public places, including churches, swimming pools and his municipality’s events venue.”
Maurice’s MS support work doesn’t stop there. He founded a cyclodance (wheelchair dancing) group and helped set up regular classes and a dance troupe that travels throughout Belgium.
Maurice also co-founded and is active in the “La Montagne Intérieure” group, which provides monthly outings in ‘joëlettes’ (small manual cars carried by volunteers for people who cannot walk. He also organises holidays for severely disabled people who have MS.
Since his retirement, Maurice has become even more active. He makes regular visits to people with MS in his region, offering his assistance with transport, wheelchair repairs and advice, encouragement and support.
Christiane added: “Maurice has been a stalwart of the local and national MS society for many years. He stands out among others and can always be counted on. Maurice is sensitive and empathetic. He is concerned about others, always ready to lend a hand and to be available on every front. Thanks to his unstinting devotion and unconditional support, Josiane lives life with a capital L, despite the limitations of her illness.”
The news about his win was announced to Maurice at a special performance of cyclodance on World MS Day. He said, “I am very touched by this recognition, especially as I did not expect it. But this award is a tremendous opportunity to advance projects for the greatest happiness of the people affected by MS. It will offer them the occasion to push the limits of their everyday life, to create links and attend meetings, and even more importantly, to give meaning again to their life.
“On behalf of the ‘asbl la Montagne Intérieure’, my wife and I thank again the whole team of the Belgian MS Society for their support. Our organisation will make good use of this large contribution”.