It’s Volunteers’ Week again- a time to celebrate our volunteers and all of the incredible work that they do for us. As Volunteer Coordinator, I thought it would be a great idea to chat to some of our wonderful volunteers to find out what they get out of volunteering and why they keep coming back! Over the course of the week, we’ll be posting the insights of various volunteers so keep an eye out for more coming up.
First up, I spoke to Stewart and Eithne- two regular volunteers who have both been helping St Nicks for 5 years! Eithne joined us initially as a work experience student at the age of 14 and Stewart found us after retiring in 2013.
What is your role at St Nicks and what does that involve?
Eithne: I’m the Greenspaces volunteer, I work at different sites with different groups to help manage and look after the sites.
Stewart: I just do what I’m told! I guess we’re making Nature Reserve Manger, Jonathan’s dreams come true, I know he has big plans for the nature reserve and it’s getting there slowly but surely.
Why do you volunteer?
Eithne: I started volunteering to get experience to one day enter into work in the conservation sector.
Stewart: Initially it was just to get out of the house and after a week I was hooked. I’ve never worked outside in my working life so it was nice to experience that. It also keeps me healthy, I’m keeping busy and active instead of sitting at home with a beer.
Do you enjoy volunteering at St Nicks and why?
Eithne: Yes, I love it, the work we get to do is amazing and the people we work with, even more so. I really enjoy the feeling of being a part of something that makes a difference. I always look forward to coming in.
Stewart: It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s nice to get out and about and learn new skills.
Have you learnt anything through volunteering?
Stuart: Yes, you learn so much and you could learn a lot more if you wanted to like plant identification. People often ask what different species are and I don’t have a clue. There’s a lot to learn and it’s up to you how much and what you want to learn. I’ve picked up a lot of practical skills from volunteering.
Eithne: I have learnt loads, I’ve been to additional training sessions for identification and surveying. The Wildwatch group are amazing as well and have really helped me with species identification.
Stewart: Eithne has really grown in confidence since she has been here. She was really quiet when she started and now she’s leading groups. It’s great to see that.
What has been a highlight of volunteering here?
Stewart: To see the improvement in the site. I’ve been here for 5 years now so I’ve been able to help and watch it change.
Eithne: I’ve enjoyed seeing the site improve too. I also really like getting to know the people that we work with and their stories. It might sound a bit cheesy but I feel like we’re like one big family.
How would you describe St Nicks to someone who has not been here before?
Stewart: A nature reserve that, for the most part, grows naturally and has improved and developed into a beautiful site.
Eithne: It is a wonderful nature reserve that has community at its core. Everyone is welcomed here from the volunteers to the dog walkers on the reserve. There is so much going on- there is something for everyone.
Stewart: Yes and there’s that Ecotherapy aspect- or at least for me there is. I had a health check recently and I’m doing really well, keeping fit thanks to the work I do here. Apparently being outside can help prevent dementia too. I’m not sure how true that is but it’s definitely improved my health and well-being.
If, like Stewart and Eithne, you would like to gain experience, learn new skills, improve you health or just be part of the St Nicks community, why not get involved? To find out more about our volunteering opportunities you can visit our volunteer page or email email@example.com.