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MS Central Districts


A Little Background


The Manawatu Multiple Sclerosis Society (trading as MS Central Districts) is a non-profit organisation employing a full time Field Worker and part time Office Administrator who provide support, education and advocacy for people with MS, their carers and their families in our community.  Our current membership is 172, and we service a large region crossing five districts being Rangitikei, Tararua, Manawatu, Horowhenua and Kapiti Coast.


Our Society was incorporated in June 1969, is registered with the Charities Commission, and is also GST registered.  Our management committee has seven members with our Patron, the Honourable Nathan Guy MP, and Medical Advisor, Dr Jurriaan de Groot, elected at the Annual General Meeting in March 2009.


We receive approximately 15 percent of our operating costs from the Ministry of Health, the remaining 85 percent we must source ourselves.  We rely heavily on the goodwill of the public through donations of money and/or time, and on various Trusts and other organisations such as NZ Lotteries, COGS, Eastern and Central Community Trust, etc.  We also hold fundraising activities including an annual street appeal, raffles, and collections at other events such as rugby matches.


The majority of this funding is used to provide a free Field Worker service to people with multiple sclerosis, their families and their carers, and includes:


  • working with people newly diagnosed with MS on a one-to-one basis;
  • offering up-to-date knowledge of MS and its management;
  • providing advocacy and support;
  • offering counselling and referrals to appropriate agencies;
  • supporting partners, carers, families, friends, health professionals, employers and workmates;
  • facilitating groups for people newly diagnosed and their partners, carers, children, workmates;
  • offering assessment facilitation;
  • providing social contact, for those who want it, with other people with MS, on either a group or individual basis;
  • liaising with other services such as home-based care providers, community health services, counsellors, health professionals and Work and Income to coordinate interventions to meet client needs;
  • carrying out Total Mobility assessments.


MS Central Districts has developed maintenance therapy programmes which include weekly art, yoga and exercise classes, and a recent partnership with Massey University has seen the development of a “one-on-one” personal training programme which is facilitated by supervised third year students in Palmerston North.  We are also building partnerships with organizations such as Sports Manawatu, Manawatu Arthritis, Horowhenua Art Society and Feilding & Districts Art Society, to give our members the opportunity to join activities such as Hydrotherapy classes, art classes and Green Prescription classes in Dannevirke, Feilding, Foxton, Levin, Otaki, Pahiatua and Palmerston North.


In December, 2009, we successfully applied through the Palmerston North City Council Major Grants Fund to fund a part-time Physiotherapist for three years.  We can now offer our members a free Physiotherapy service by a fully qualified physiotherapist.

We continue to work on improving our partnerships with health professionals, community groups and NGOs in our region, and to increase and enhance the services we can provide to our members.


What is Multiple Sclerosis


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system " the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.  The central nervous system is responsible for our conscious and unconscious functioning including movement and the response to sensations such as sight, touch and hearing.  It directs these functions by sending its instructions in the form of electrical impulses to the appropriate sites along nerve fibres.  Nerve fibres are coated in a protective insulating covering called the myelin sheath that serves a very similar function to the coating around electrical wires.  Myelin is important in speeding electrical conduction along nerve fibres and in insulating nerve fibres from one another.


The term multiple sclerosis refers to multiple areas of scarring (sclerosis) that occur in the central nervous system.  These scars are the result of healing patches of inflammation.  These are the basic cause of damage to nerve fibres and of the suddenly appearing symptoms that are referred to as an attack or relapse.  Patches of inflammation heal spontaneously over several weeks or months when symptoms may resolve completely or residual impairment may result.


The inflammation causes damage particularly to the insulating myelin sheath covering nerve fibres but also damages the nerve fibres themselves.  In MS the typical damage is often referred to as “demyelinating”.  The nature of the symptoms and their severity depends partly on the site of the patch of inflammation (or lesion) and partly on its nature and intensity.


The course of MS varies widely from person to person.  Some people only ever experience mild symptoms over their lifetime, others will have relapses followed by incomplete remission, and some will experience progressive worsening of disability.


Common symptoms include:


  • Weakness or in-coordination of the limbs
  • Impaired balance or instability walking
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Blurred or double vision, and sometimes blindness
  • Impaired urinary or sexual function
  • Cognitive dysfunction such as impaired memory or concentration
  • General fatigue


NB:  A person with MS will usually experience more than one symptom but not necessarily all of them.


(Sourced from “Beginner’s Guide to Multiple Sclerosis”, MS Society of New Zealand)





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