A NEWPORT volunteer who helps people like herself who have Parkinson’s Disease was one of five people to be given an award yesterday.

Jenni McCabe, from St Julian’s, has had the disease since she was 51 and has been involved with the Newport branch of Parkinson’s UK for a decade, including seven years as secretary.

She is also a Parkinson’s UK Champion for Newport, campaigning Aneurin Bevan Health Board and politicians so they understand the challenges facing people with Parkinson’s.

Yesterday, she was one of five people to receive the Volunteer of the Year (Wales) Award from the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, at a ceremony in Cardiff from Jeff Cuthbert AM, minister for communities.

Overall there were 17 award winners across six categories, including Gail Jones from Machen in the “Green” category, a retired teacher who volunteers at the RSPB visitor centre at Newport Wetlands, and the group New Pathways, nominated by Gwent Police for their counselling to victims of rape and sexual abuse.

“Parkinson’s Cymru has an office in Pontypridd and they put me forward for the award,” said Mrs McCabe, 64, a retired key account manager and associate director in the insurance industry.

Around 30 per cent of people with Parkinson’s have a recognisable tremor but not everyone does, and some like Mrs McCabe instead experience ‘freezing’ when they are trying to walk through doorways, loss of smell or speech and the ability to write.

The chairman of the Newport group has now lost his speech so Mrs McCabe does most of the talking at meetings and organises speakers and cups of tea, she said.

She’s also an educator at care homes helping staff recognise Parkinson’s disease.

“Gwent desperately needed a second Parkinson’s specialist nurse and through our campaigning we finally got one last year,” said Mrs McCabe, a former dancer and singer who is now wardrobe mistress with the Christchurch Musical Society. “Myself and lots of other members put up a good fight. We need four, so it’s a work in progress.”

Practical steps can be taken to help cope with symptoms of Parkinson’s such as wearing kneepads due to the likelihood of having a fall; rails installed throughout the home; walking with your hands behind your back to improve posture; and importantly, a positive mental attitude, said Mrs McCabe.

The Newport branch of Parkinson’s UK has a monthly meeting at Stow Park Church Centre on Stow Hill, on the last Wednesday of the month from 2.30pm.

For details call Rebecca Jones, branch and volunteer support officer on 0844 225 3714 or email bvso.southwales@parkinsons.org.uk