On Wednesday Jan. 23, a number of locals were invited to gather and learn more about multiple sclerosis (MS) from Melissa Colbeck, an Occupational Therapist.
Tara Mamchuk, Coordinator of Community Connections with the MS Society of Canada - Manitoba Division, says the event held at Boundary Trails Health Centre was a chance for people who have MS, or know someone with MS to "mingle and meet other people who you're not necessarily encountering."
Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with an estimated 1 in every 385 Canadians living with the disease. While it is most often diagnosed in young adults aged 20 to 49, younger children and older adults have also been known to be diagnosed.
She notes that MS is often seen as an invisible illness, which can make it difficult for loved ones to understand what they're going through, and make it hard to know how to best support them.
"I think it's very important to know that there are people among us who have MS and you may not even know it. When I met my support group in Morden for the first time, I did not find it obvious that they would be dealing with MS," Mamchuk adds.
The evening gave people the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Colbeck, and ask questions that can help them gain "increased knowledge, [and] maybe more patience, more compassion, more empathy. I think those would benefit communities as a whole, and I'm hopeful that would happen in Morden and Winkler."
This event was the first of its kind in the area, but Mamchuk hopes this pilot project will lead to more events like it in the future.
"As much as it's about the presentation and the information and raising awareness, it's about connecting, and also meeting some people who can relate and who can potentially be supports in some shape or form," she says.