1. What does your volunteering involve? I have and still do volunteer across a number of roles with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, both locally in Northern Ireland and across the UK. I began volunteering by undertaking farmland bird surveys, which involve getting up at dawn and walking around farms recording the birdlife that you hear and see. I volunteer regularly as a Reserve Assistant at the organisation’s Portmore and Belfast Lough Reserves, where I undertake a variety of wetland habi
2. When did you first begin volunteering?
In May 2011.
3. What inspired you to get involved?
I have been an RSPB member since I began secondary school and was passionate about wildlife and the environment for many years before that. As I got older I became more aware of the threats and pressures facing our natural environment, and felt compelled to do my part. A short length of time into my voluntary experience I was enjoying myself so much that I decided the nature conservation sector was that within which I wished to build my future career. This aspiration to attain a future career saving nature is what keeps me so keen and involved to this day, gaining valuable experience as I go. As well been driven towards gaining experience to help me on my career path I simply enjoy the work, feel like I am doing my part, am developing my interests, and find it all incredibly rewarding.
4. What skills and qualities are required for your volunteering role?
Communication skills are very important, as on a daily basis while volunteering I am communicating with a range of staff, volunteers, and members of the public verbally. Or as has been the case with my campaigning work, communicating in writing and speech to the public and politicians. However, as I have passed through my volunteering journey I have greatly developed and enhanced these skills. With regard to essential qualities you need to be someone who is willing to accept a challenge, doesn’t mind undertaking simple or repetitive tasks, and isn’t bothered by working in bad weather; as in practical reserve work you will regularly encounter all of the above. I have used, and as with communication, greatly developed teamwork and leadership skills.
5. How often do you volunteer?
Between one and three days per week.
6. What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I’ve really enjoyed the chance to learn new skills and develop existing ones. I have seen the positive impact that the volunteering actions of myself and others are having on special places and public perceptions of nature. Then lastly, I have met some incredible people along the way; some of the friendliest, funniest, most passionate and inspirational I know.
7. Why would you encourage others to get involved?
The experiences that you have through volunteering for the RSPB are just fantastic. Getting access to places that are normally out of bounds to the public means you get the opportunity to see some truly amazing things, often without prior warning. If you have any interest in nature conservation or the environment at all the things you learn and the people you meet are invaluable, with several of my volunteering colleagues having went on to secure employment in the sector. Finally, as an organisation the RSPB are fantastic at providing you with all you need to be a happy and effective volunteer. Making provision for training, support, and feedback, and maintaining good standards of communication
8. What advice would you give someone starting to volunteer?
I would highly recommend that you really get stuck in to your chosen role. It might be a cliché, but the more you put into it the more you get out of it. If you are at all interested in working in the sector I would say that you should fully immerse yourself in all the volunteering opportunities available, covering a variety of aspects of the organisation’s work and a variety of sites. In doing this you will see what you enjoy best, and the potential to learn is incredible. In future you don’t know what doors and opportunities could be opened to you, but embrace them.