My volunteer journey started many years ago when I didn’t even consider myself a volunteer, I was just someone helping out in my local community. From a very early age I helped out at the local Gateway Club and then when I was older a helper on the annual Mencap holiday. I also used to take individuals from the local school with a learning disability swimming.
During my placement year in university I worked in an office full time and realised that it wasn’t for me! What I realised whilst working there was that it was the working with people out in the community that I enjoyed the most. Consequently when I finished college, I started on the hunt for a job working in the community but with a focus on the outdoors. However, I soon realised that without the 12 months experience and a driving licence it was going to be difficult to get a paid job! So I started to look for volunteering opportunities working outdoors.
During my quest I came across an organisation called BTCV Cymru (a practical conservation volunteering organisation) and that is where my adventures began………..
In late 1994 I was interviewed for a volunteer position with BTCV Cymru as the Community Liaison and Development Officer, and with much delight I was successful at gaining the position.
Part of my role was managing the ‘Clwyd Community Green Scheme’ this was a scheme funded by Clwyd County Council to provide native trees & hedging for community groups and schools in the area. My main tasks were to promote the scheme, organise the tree selection for each group and often the planting schemes and sometimes even offering practical help to plant the trees and hedges.
Many of the requests for help came from the local schools, so myself and a small team of volunteer officers would go and work with the children taking their school assembly talking about the importance of trees and nature. From assembly we took the class out in to the school grounds to plant the trees.
Many entertaining moments ensued including planting a hedge at St. Giles Infant School in Wrexham with a group of 30 4 year olds, when asked to put the trees into the trench we had already dug, I looked up to find the children holding the trees upside down with the roots waving in the wind!
This was in the late 1990’s when the interest in developing school grounds as an educational resource was coming to the fore. From this work came designing and constructing nature gardens in school grounds. The project was funded by what was British Steel in and around their plant in Queensferry. I worked with 6 schools including Northop Hall Junior School, working with the children to develop plans and then myself and a team of volunteers would construct the nature area and the children would then help with developing the planting scheme and then help to plant the shrubs and trees.