A DUDLEY couple have been named finalists in a national charity awards scheme celebrating the impact of volunteers on people affected by multiple sclerosis.

Nikoma and Simone Bell are among 20 volunteers shortlisted for the MS Society’s annual Volunteer Impact Awards.

They will attend a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday November 30 at 7pm, hosted by MS Society Ambassador and comedian Ivo Graham, which will be livestreamed on the charity’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

Nikoma, aged 45, has been nominated in the ‘Connecting’ category; and Simone, aged 38, has been nominated in the ‘Informing’ category.

Dudley News: Nikoma BellNikoma Bell (Image: MS Society)

Dudley News: Simone BellSimone Bell (Image: MS Society)The pair were shortlisted by a panel of volunteers, each with their own personal connection to MS which affects the brain and spinal cord, impacting on how people move, think and feel.

Nikoma was diagnosed with relapsing MS in 2018 and was left him feeling isolated and frustrated by the lack of representation of black men with MS, so he set up the ‘Brothers support Hub’.

He said: “After my diagnosis I had to really slow down my work as it was taking a toll on me physically. It massively impacted my income and mental health. Then the Covid pandemic made a bad situation worse. I felt very isolated. Looking around there was a lot of literature with people who didn’t look like me, which made me feel even more isolated.

“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 daughter during Nikoma’s diagnosis. As his condition progressed, she increasingly took on caring responsibilities and has been using her experiences to coach and support other caregivers, and along with Nikoma she runs a social media account ‘Marriage and MS’.