Parks for People – volunteers make it happen
Since taking on the role of the Westgate Parks Officer for Canterbury City Council’s Heritage Lottery Funded project in November 2013 I have spent my time with some amazing people and have most definitely learnt as much from them as they have from their involvement in our project. Many of the volunteers have also become my friends, including Lauren Baker who was a volunteer, then apprentice and is now my job share!
I have worked alongside volunteers of many different ages and abilities. Some who have physical, developmental and/or mental health conditions. I have worked with Canterbury residents, college, university and school students on their work experience placements. I have worked with volunteers of different ethnicities and national identities. Some of our volunteers have just taken part in one activity as they were passing through on their travels around the globe or were just interested in taking part in one aspect of our project.
Several of our volunteer’s enrolled to gain new skills, training and experience to assist with employment or reached retirement age and were looking for a new way to fill their time and/or give something back to their local community. A couple of our volunteers have also experienced homelessness and were looking to volunteer to develop new skills, meet new people and many other reasons (refer to the list below). I have also managed to recruit my family members, my husband, mum, dad and mother-in-law!
Working alongside such a diverse group of volunteers has been an absolute pleasure and I cannot thank them enough for their dedication to the Westgate Parks. It is their commitment, enthusiasm and can-do attitude, sometimes in the face of adversity, which has made the project such a success.
I feel this blog post would not be complete without saying a massive thank you to Clive Salmon who has volunteered (stuck with me!) from the very start of the Westgate Parks project and is now the official Westgate Parks ‘Quality Control’ Officer! Clive is my hero as he has always supported me, turning his hand to butterfly monitoring, river monitoring, assisting with the delivery of school visits, helping with the set-up and delivery of a multitude of different events and conservation activities!
As it’s Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June 2018) and this is the final year of our project, I just wanted to say a MASSIVE thank you for the fantastic contribution every one of the volunteers has made to the Westgate Parks. I am sure that over 8,000 hours of site-based voluntary work is right up there with the very best examples of ‘Parks for People’ Heritage Lottery Funded projects!
Below are some of the reasons people choose to volunteer for the Westgate Parks project:
Give something back to their local community
Make a difference to the lives of others
Help the environment
Feel valued and part of a team
Spend quality time away from work or a busy lifestyle
Gain confidence and self-esteem
A route to employment, or a chance to try something new which may lead to a career change.
From this perspective, volunteering can be a way of:
Gaining new skills, knowledge and experience
Developing existing skills and knowledge
Enhancing a CV
Improving one’s employment prospects
Gaining an accreditation
Using one’s professional skills and knowledge to benefit others
For others, volunteering appeals because of its social benefits. These include:
Meeting new people and making new friends
A chance to socialise
Getting to know the local community
There is lots of anecdotal evidence that volunteering has a positive impact on health.