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Unsung hero: Campaigner who "yells and bang on tables"
‘We’re here to yell and bang on tables really’
A campaigner who works with people affected by multiple sclerosis has been nominated as an unsung hero.
Ray Stonehill, 70, from Bookham in Surrey, has chaired the Richmond and Kingston branch of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society since 2004 – and has been involved with the group since 1968.
He said: “My wife spotted the branch was after a transport officer and I went to see what it was all about.
“I remember my mum had [MS] and she coped – the society was only just starting.
“There were no MS nurses and there really were no developed social services – people just coped at home.
“People get used to coping – one of the great British diseases I think.”
Mr Stonehill has become involved with individual cases and helps sufferers fill out forms like benefit claims.
He said: “There is always more to do – I never think ‘What shall I do today?’
“We started taking an advocacy approach – we are there to yell, scream, and bang on tables, really. “We are there to represent people’s interests, helping them to fight their battles.
“Now I am not working I have the opportunity to throw myself into it at a time when disabled people need help.
“MS sufferers can have trouble filling out forms, especially with new, stricter rules around benefits, because the disease affects people differently.
“They have all got totally different stories, different symptoms, different hopes and fears. “MS can be tricky because a lot of the symptoms are not visible – MS fluctuates.”
Kingston disability campaigner Jane Young said: “Ray works tirelessly for people with MS in Kingston and Richmond, and has done for years.
“He just does what he thinks people with MS need and is always going with people to tribunals and all sorts of meetings with the council.
“He is always everywhere doing everything, which I always think is very impressive.”
l Do you know an unsung hero? Call 020 8744 4273 or email newsdesk@surrey comet.co.uk.