‘It saved my sanity’: Woman with Parkinson’s pays tribute to local group after national award win

Parkinson’s UK Cymru. Julie Evans with her granddaughter Erin

A woman has paid tribute to the group that “saved” her “sanity” when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, after it won a top national award. 

Julie Evans, who nominated Parkinson’s UK Cymru’s Newport branch for the charity’s annual volunteering awards, is thrilled that the group has been honoured for its commitment to supporting people affected by the condition.

The 56-year-old, from Newport, who was diagnosed with the condition aged 49, has hailed the group for the “warm welcome” it gives to everyone who attends its meetings and its cafe, and the way in which it supports carers as well as those who have Parkinson’s. 

Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world with approximately 7,600 people living with it in Wales, and an estimated 145,000 people living with it in the UK.

With more than 40 potential symptoms, everyone’s experience of Parkinson’s is different. 

These symptoms, such as lack of sleep, anxiety and stiffness are always there and can impact everyday tasks.

Though there is currently no cure the charity believes it is close to a major breakthrough in research to deliver better treatments,

Julie, who is now a volunteer with Parkinson’s UK Cymru’s Newport branch, said: “The Newport branch of Parkinson’s UK Cymru gives a warm welcome to all who wish to attend the group meetings and cafe. 

“Both carers and people with Parkinson’s are supported alike. Whether someone is newly diagnosed or has progressed more with the condition, everyone is supported and involved. 

“It arranges for many types of entertainment during the meetings and arrange social events outside of these meetings too. 

“The committee also ensures any venues are accessible and safe, and a cafe runs regularly where people can chat and meet other like minded individuals. 

“It works to dispel myths and to alleviate loneliness. The branch  fundraises for both the local branches as well as nationally for Parkinson’s UK, as well as focuses on raising awareness of Parkinson’s and the effects it has on members of society. 

“Speakers including Specialists in Parkinson’s  have been invited to come along and give talks. 

“The branch has shown interest in issues related to the Senedd (Welsh Parliament), and has invited local politicians to visit the group to discuss the things that matter to people living with the condition. 

“This group of people saved my sanity when I was diagnosed and I started to help during the lockdown. Somehow the branch members managed to welcome and support me and others even during a worldwide pandemic by keeping in touch.”

Rebecca Lydon, Community Development Officer at Parkinson’s UK Cymru, said: “Volunteers are at the centre of everything we do and we simply could not do what we do without them. 

“We had more than 170 volunteers nominated for awards across the UK this year, our biggest ever response. 

“It truly shows how creative, driven and vital volunteers are to the Parkinson’s community and I’d like to thank the members of the Newport branch for everything they do to help those affected by Parkinson’s.”

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