Dudley couple are finalists in national health awards
A married Dudley couple are celebrating after being named as finalists in the MS Society's annual Volunteer Impact Awards.
Nikoma and Simone Bell are among 20 volunteers shortlisted for their amazing impact on people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS).
As part of the awards ceremony, the two will attend a virtual awards ceremony together on November 30 at 7pm, hosted by MS Society ambassador and comedian Ivo Graham.
The couple were shortlisted for their amazing work in bringing together other sufferers and providing information for those who need it through their support group the 'Brothers Support Hub'.
Nikoma has been nominated in the 'Connecting' category, whilst Simone is nominated in the 'Informing' category. The pair were shortlisted by a panel of volunteers, each with their own personal connection to MS.
Nikoma was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2018. His diagnosis initially left him feeling isolated and frustrated by the lack of representation of black men with MS. So he set up the 'Brothers Support Hub' as a community for black men living with MS.
He said: "After my diagnosis, I had to really slow down my work as it was taking a toll on me physically. So it massively impacted my income and mental health.
"I set up the group because I wanted to build a community of Black men and to support them with mental wellbeing. I want to give people the opportunity to talk to each other and share information."
Simone was pregnant with their daughters during Nikoma's diagnosis. She is now using her experiences to coach and support other caregivers, and along with Nikoma, runs a social media account called 'Marriage and MS'.
Simone said: "Through Covid, Nikoma’s symptoms progressed and my role as a carer increased. Now I’m doing a lot more physical things around the house to support him, which takes a toll physically and mentally.
"Before we started volunteering I didn’t know anyone else with MS. We weren’t seeing any representations of MS that looked like us, and we realised we wanted to find other people going through what we were going through.
"I’ve learned that when it comes to volunteering, every little really does help. You might not feel like you’re doing much, but it does make a massive difference. It’s amazing to see MS – something that’s been so devastating – bring about some positivity. We’re making the best of a bad situation."
The MS Society virtual awards ceremony will be live-streamed on the MS Society YouTube and Facebook channels at 7pm on Thursday, November 30.