I started volunteering with the then BTCV in Glasgow in 2003 shortly after finishing a degree in Countryside Management.
I’d previously done a degree in Zoology and nobody had ever mentioned volunteering to me back then, but one lecturer did and stressed that it was the best way to get experience if you wanted to work in conservation. It took my second attempt to actually turn up and get on the minibus after chickening out the first time, but my project officer, Anna (who is now one of my very closest friends!), was so welcoming and reassuring that I’m not sure what I’d been so nervous about the first time. And that was the start of my BTCV/TCV journey, up until September 2016, when I decided on a change of course, and went on an adventure to celebrate my 40th.
Over those splendid 13 years I wore many a hat for B/TCV; I started off as a volunteer, progressed to Volunteer Officer and 10 months later got my first paid position as a Green Gym Co-ordinator in North Lanarkshire. The variety of hats didn’t stop there and had various job titles such as Senior Project Officer, jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, Area Development Officer, Co Leader of Action Breaks and I’m sure one or two others. I will never forget my experiences with B/TCV as they allowed me to follow passions I never knew I had, become me and be me, while mostly having fun!
There are certainly stories to tell, mostly from staff conferences…but perhaps not on here 😉 and very fond memories. The people, colleagues and volunteers, really made it all worthwhile, and looking back, all the things we all collectively achieved brings a smile of satisfaction to my face and a sense of achievement washes over me. I had a short stint in a local authority but it never competed with the warmth, creativity and forward thinking of the voluntary sector.
I feel I have come full circle as one of the first sites I volunteered on with BTCV was the RSPB Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve and I now find myself based on the reserve managing a landscape partnership! I know I wouldn’t have come this far if it hadn’t been for B/TCV and all they taught me, sometimes on one of the many training course on offer or being thrown in at the deep end…both have their advantages! Or on the spot learning and finding yourself in the position of having to make decisions in front of an entire minibus full of volunteers, whether about pond depth and design, what to do when you dig up a school garden and find an old pond filled in with concrete, dropping all the tools between the slats while repairing a boardwalk, what to do if you disturb a wasp’s nest while working, if the minibus will make it up certain tracks, is the stuff on the roof actually secure, is the trailer still attached, have we forgotten anyone, is it too windy to fell trees, are there ticks, where did we park the van, what to do with said volunteers when the ground is too frozen to plant trees or when the rain is pouring from the sky in biblical proportions or you’ve forgotten the milk/teaspoons/coffee/entire tea kit, all valuable transferable life skills I can’t honestly think you’d get from any other job! Very fond memories indeed…