17th June 2011

Highlights from World MS Day 2011

Year Highlights 2011 Employment
The third World MS Day was the biggest and most successful to date. Hundreds of events took place in more than 71 countries worldwide reaching millions of people on city streets, online, on television and in other media. People with MS took the lead in raising awareness about the disease and advocating for change with policy makers and employers.

A human chain in Mumbai


The MS Society of India (MSSI) reached hundreds of people through events across the country. The aim was to reach out to the public, policy makers, and other key decision makers to raise awareness, promote change, and raise money for the society.

MS advocates took to a busy shopping mall in Delhi to raise awareness of MS. Activities included games, face-painting, short talks and discussions, and entertainers. Mrs Sushma Seth, a famous Bollywood actress, attended the event as a guest of honour and the MSSI raised more than Rs45,000. In Calcutta community events filled the streets of residential areas and drew the attention of local politicians and representatives.  In Mumbai community events aimed to dispell myths about MS and raise awareness amongst employers. A Human chain was organised at every event to show solidarity with people living with MS around the World.

'I walk for MS' in Malaysia
People living with and affected by MS walked to raise awareness in Malaysia

In Malaysia a walking event in the park saw more than 300 people taking part. All wearing striking orange t-shirts. Participants took the opportunity to talk to passers by about the event and the global movement to end MS. In Tokyo MS advocates took to the streets to promote the campaign and talk to passers by about the disease.

Australia and Oceania

The theme of Work and MS formed the backbone of the campaign in Australia this year with a roundtable on employment kick starting future work in this area. Participants came from a number of backgrounds including specialists from the MS Society, government policy advisors, and directors of key government departments,

people with MS, and employers. Points for discussion included current policies that prevent or enable people with MS to access or stay in work, both in the public and private sectors, misunderstanding and discrimination, and care and support for people with MS in the workplace.

Shoppers in Queensland, Australia Kiss Goodbye to MS
Shoppers in Queensland, Australia Kiss Goodbye to MS

Alongside high level discussion and communications with MPs came the launch of MS Heroes, an annual awards program to raise awareness of Employment and MS, and to celebrate the contributions of Queenslanders to the multiple sclerosis cause. The 2011 winners were awarded at the Governor’s Reception in celebration of World MS Day. Griffith University and the Women’s Legal Service were both recognised for the high standards which they have met in supporting employees with chronic illnesses like MS.

Kiss Goodbye to MS continued to be an eye-catching, fun way to raise awareness of MS amongst the public. Beauty therapists at department stores in Queensland painted lips red and shoppers were invited to join in the campaign.

Central America and the Caribbean

In Cuba people with and affected by MS joined with health workers to celebrate World MS Day in Havana and Cienfuegos. A number of lectures were held with participants ranging from representatives of the Cuban Red Cross, the Pastoral Care of Persons with Disabilities Council of Churches, the patron of the MS Foundation in Barcelona, and the Swedish actress Ewa Harring, who is living with MS herself. Entertainment included a number of well-known comedians and the screening of a film entitled The Girl Who Believed in Dreams which is based on a screenplay by Ewa Harring, who took questions from the audience.

In the Dominican Republic people with MS were

Hundreds of people ran for MS in Spain
Hundreds of people ran for MS in Spain


Activities in Europe ranged from public awareness raising in France to street performances in the Czech Republic, meetings with MPs and MEPs in Belgium and Poland to a marathon and mass paella eating in Spain.

The meetings that took place in Belgium, organised by MS Steunactie (MS-Support Campaign) yielded real results. One of the organisers said

Belgium lags behind in its fight against MS and the impact it has – socially and financially – on the patient’s life. There is no national register, financial support remains insufficient and there is not enough coverage from the media.’

Advocates met with key parliamentarians including the Minister of Health,  Minister of mobility, equality and discrimination, and the Minister of interior affairs, to put forward a list of grievances and potential solutions. The Minister of Health, Mr J.M. Delizée committed to a number of actions including the introduction of a parking card or pass that would enable people with MS to park for free or at a reduced rate in the city, the assessment of all public buildings to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities following the introduction of a law to this effect earlier in the year, and to investigate the benefits of a system of financial support to make adaptations to peoples’ homes to make them wheelchair, or disability friendly when necessary.

The campaign continues in Belgium and MS-Steunactie is keeping the pressure on the government with their facebook campaign for change.

Middle East and North Africa

A busy programme of activities took place in Iran including media campaigns, public awareness raising and rug weaving. MS advocates also met with the Minister of health to discuss the issues that most effect people with MS in Iran.

In Egypt people with MS and health workers came together to learn about the latest findings in MS research, care and treatment. The founder of MS Care in Egypt spoke with Deputy Minister – Ministry of State for Administrative Development Mr. Ashraf Hassan Abdel Wahab about the difficulties that people with MS have in finding and keeping their jobs in Egypt.

People with MS celebrate with shoppers in a busy mall in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi
People with MS celebrate with shoppers in a busy mall in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi

Events took place across the United Arab Emirates to mark World MS Day this year. In Tawam Hospital and the UAE Hospital, an opera was recorded and performed on the 10th and 11th May. The Opera was written by poet Ahmed Ibrahim Al Zarouni and music by Saeed Al Nuaimi. The message is one of encouragement to people with MS to continue striving to achieve their goals and to support each other. In Merdif city centre a group of people with MS took part in iFly Dubai, again to show that having MS doesn’t necessarily prevent you from participating in activities like this, below is a photo of one the participants.

On the 25th May MS advocates in the United Arab Emirates mingled with shoppers in a busy mall to raise awareness of MS. There were various performances and interactive sessions, including poetry by a person with MS, interactive games and a Magic show. Members of the public in the mall were also encouraged to join in.

North America

Clayton Miller raises awareness at Chesapeake Farmers' Market, Oklahoma
Clayton Miller raises awareness at Chesapeake Farmers' Market, Oklahoma

In the USA Starbucks employees raised thousands of dollars for the National MS Society (NMSS) through sponsored walks across the country whilst one of the most famous natural landmarks in the world, the Niagara falls changed colour to mark World MS Day. The NMSS also launched their MS= campaign inviting people with MS to share what MS means to them.

MS advocates in the USA continue to be amongst the most enthusiastic in the world with volunteers taking the lead in raising awareness in their own communities. William Khazaal from Seattle brought more than 70 private businesses on board to raise awareness of MS and money for the NMSS.

South America

MS societies across South America took part in the campaign this year. In Chile the MS Society took to the streets to raise awareness of MS, the society, and the global movement with their trademark green apple give-aways, in Brazil and Peru people with MS came together to celebrate World MS Day with Elvis impersonators and meetings with health workers and neurologists, and in Uruguay MS advocates met with policy makers to talk about living with MS in Uruguay.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Uruguay (EMUR) is set to become the first country to have World MS Day officially recognised by their government- and just in time for World MS Day 2012.  A delegation of people with MS and volunteers went to El Palacio Legislativo in Montevideo where a draft law was approved declaring the last Wednesday of every May, World MS Day. They are hoping the law will be officially passed in time for next year’s World MS Day, when they will be holding an event for their friends, members, government, medical officials, and the press.

A second delegation met with a member of the Chamber of Representatives who has been involved with a new law concerning the rights of people with disabilities. They discussed the challenges facing people with MS living in Uruguay including transportation, employment, and treatment. Literature about MS and work was presented to the member of the chamber.

Executive chefs prepare for a gormet fundraiser, South Africa
Executive chefs prepare for a gormet fundraiser, South Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa

In sub-Saharan Africa activities ranged from a book launch in Namibia to national press coverage in Ghana and a gourmet dinner in South Africa.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of South Africa (MSSA) Western Cape arranged a gourmet fundraiser attended by almost 100 guests at Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate in Franschhoek. The event was presided over by Master of Ceremonies Ryan O’Conner, a Patron of MS Western cape and guests were treated to a 5 course feast, prepared by Grande Provence’s Executive Chef Darren Roberts and Michelin star chef Michel Louws.

The guests were encouraged to bid on the Big 5 Auction items, which were donated by the event’s official sponsors, and at the end of the day more than R182,400.00 had been raised in support of the work of the MS Society.

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