More volunteers are being sought to help stroke sufferers escape from the prison of the disabilities that can cut them off from the world.

Every year hundreds of people across the country are hit by the condition that often renders them unable to read, write or speak.

The Stroke Association has been holding a weekly communication support group meeting at the Nursteed Centre in Devizes for decades.

Members are greeted by group development and training co-ordinator Claire Shuttleworth.

She said: “When I first started here, all the men sat at one table and all the women at another. I felt we should mix things up a bit so members are allocated to a table. There were some complaints at first but they like the set-up now.”

Members take part in discussions with others at their table, based on topic lists supplied to them. It takes time for new members to gain confidence to speak up.

Ms Shuttleworth said: “Because their condition means that their speech is affected, they quite often lose confidence in talking to other people. Here they are in a safe environment, with no extraneous noises, and they can build up their confidence again.”

Central to the running of the club are the volunteers, who sit with members and encourage them to join in discussions. Tony Giddings, from Melksham, has been a volunteer for many years.

He said: “You don’t volunteer for this kind of thing looking for reward, but the reward of seeing measurable improvements in the people you have been working with is tremendous.”

Ms Shuttleworth said even more could be achieved if more people volunteered.

John and Vera Colgan come from Royal Wootton Bassett for the weekly sessions. Mrs Colgan was struck down by a stroke three years ago and is slowly recovering her power of speech.

Mr Colgan said: “She was a wonderful amateur artist but now she is not even able to read. This club is so friendly and the exercises are so stimulating, I can see the changes in her in the short time we have been coming here.”

To volunteer, contact Ms Shuttleworth on (01722) 329053 or email