The Portuguese MS Society (SPEM) will soon launch an innovative new Support Line, which will offer information and support for people affected by MS in addition to providing employment opportunities for people living with the condition.
SPEM is currently training 10 people with MS to provide the Support Line service, ready for its official launch on 4th December – the Portuguese National Day of people with MS. Employees will work four-hour shifts in adapted, flexible conditions, in order to ensure that the workload is manageable and to avoid any issues with MS-related fatigue.
The inspiration for the project came from a volunteer training exercise in 2015, which involved checking and updating the contact information of people associated with SPEM. During this exercise, SPEM recognised that many people affected by MS connected with the society wanted to communicate their feelings and experiences, but did not feel confident about contacting the organisation to ask for help. In order to change this, the society decided to expand their support service. Rather than continuing to rely on volunteer support alone, SPEM instead chose to create new job opportunities for people with MS as part of the new service.
In order to develop the service, SPEM visited the UK MS Society to learn from their experiences and consulted with an external company on budget and training.
SPEM hopes that Support Line will help the society to reach the 8,000 people living with MS in Portugal as well as their families, friends, caregivers, and medical staff.
Several people with MS who are currently in training to work on the service have expressed their appreciation for this unique opportunity.
“In a world where people with chronicle illnesses are so easily set aside due to prejudice, it is recomforting that SPEM trusted us on this work opportunity and trained us on a job with great market demand.” – Eduardo Pinto
“The days of training made me feel very proud and renewed since I was chosen to be part of this pioneer service team. The information exchange and effort sharing of the participants, plus the assertiveness of the instructor energised me. I believe my best attributes have been stimulated and I see new horizons ahead of me.
Thank you SPEM for showing there is a world beyond MS and there is success in a life with MS. I look forward to help other people with MS and their caregivers in a professional manner.” – Andreea Tican
Portuguese National Day of People with MS
The Portuguese National Day of people with MS coincides with the date on which SPEM was established, 33 years ago. Each year, the National Day is marked with a variety of events across Portugal, including largescale advocacy events in Lisbon in which SPEM appeals to the Portuguese Parliament for improved services and funding to help people with MS.