Maria laughing with her mum

“We’re all part of a community, both on and offline.”

Continuing our celebration of Volunteers’ Week, we talk to Niki Michael who volunteers for Scope’s online community. Niki is mum to 10-year old Maria, who has Dystonic Quadraplegia, as well as two younger children, aged 7 and 5. Here she talks about what motivates her to volunteer and why she enjoys it.

When my daughter was first diagnosed, the Scope forum – as it was then – was a great source of information and support for me. Ten years’ later, when I found out Scope was launching an online community, I wanted to be a part of it, as I felt might have something useful to give back.

Being a ‘community champion’ involves welcoming new members, keeping an eye on conversations that I might be able to contribute to and promoting the online community to people who may not be aware of it. I log in a couple of times a week, and reply to posts on topics ranging from education to medication. They’re always quite varied!

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Niki and her daughter Maria

My daughter is about to go into a mainstream secondary school. She uses a wheelchair and a communication aid, so I’m happy to offer any insights I’ve gained through raising her and championing her rights.

We all have something to contribute

I think it’s really important for families of disabled children to look out for one another, support each other and impart their knowledge. Parents on the community understand completely the stresses and challenges of raising a child with complex needs.

For me, being able to support other parents is incredibly rewarding, and introducing new people to the community – knowing it will be a great resource for them – is great.

We don’t live in isolation, we are all part of a bigger community, both on and off line, and if we want that community to be more tolerant, compassionate and fair to disabled people, then we all have a responsibility to be part of changing it. Volunteering your time for something you feel passionate about is a great of doing that.

My experience as a community champion has shown me that collectively we are stronger , and we all have something valuable to contribute. The community is a really positive space. Even when someone is struggling, the responses from others are always solution-based, which is really important. When you ‘re having a bad day, having someone there to lift you up emotionally or with really solid advice may be just what you need.

You can see Niki in our online community here.

Meet our other community champions and find out more about Scope’s online community.