Ten things I get out of volunteering (and you could too)

December 28, 2018

Do you have resolutions to spend more of this year outdoors, getting fit, meeting new people, or giving something back to a place you love? Kirsty Ferris has been volunteering regularly for the National Park since February 2017 and last autumn took on a new role as one of our two Youth Ambassadors so we asked her for some top tips why she thinks you should consider giving your time to a National Park in 2019.

  1. Learning new skills

    How to use a scythe, putting up fences and surveying for dormice are just some of the vast number of new skills I’ve learned since I started volunteering for the South Downs National Park I’m also learning communication skills and putting them into practice – for example in this article!

  2. Developing more confidence

    When I first started volunteering, I was scared to even join in conversations with the rest of the team. Two years later I’ve gone to a conference and spoken to people from all over Europe.

    Kirsty heads off to the Europarc Conference 2018 with fellow volunteer ambassador Cameron (left) and South Downs Learning Officer Jonathan
  3. Fun

    Many tasks involve cutting things down and burning them which I personally find really fun. I look forward to volunteer days as I come home every time feeling exhausted but happy.

  4. Better mental health

    Spending time in nature has helped me to deal with anxiety and depression. Having time to breathe in fresh air and knowing that I’m making a difference has benefitted my mental health. During stressful exam periods volunteering has given me the chance to relax and think about something else.

  5. Gaining invaluable work experience

    Through my volunteering I’ve gained more than just practical experience. I have learnt about working with landowners and stakeholders, learnt about site designations and about working within a team and with multiple organisations. Volunteering has meant that when I leave university I will be in the best position to start my career within conservation.

  6. Feeling more connected to nature and the community

    Kirsty helps to weigh a hazel dormouse (with the support of Assistant Ranger Chloe who has a dormouse licence)

    Seeing butterflies skip around a previously overgrown area after you’ve spent hours scything or enjoying the wildflowers after clearing an invasive species is incredibly rewarding and makes you feel like you’ve helped nature return to the way it should be.
    Whilst we’re working members of the public often walk past and ask us about what we’re doing and thank us, so it feels like we’re also helping people that live in and enjoy the area.

  7. Meeting new people from different backgrounds

    The South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service is open to everybody and through volunteering I have met people from lots of different backgrounds and become friends with people who I would never have spoken to otherwise.

  8. The joy of giving something back

    From a young age I’ve spent many hours exploring the South Downs, from walking the South Downs Way to camping under the stars. Volunteering has meant that I can give something back to an area that has given me so many happy memories. The work I do with the Volunteer Ranger Service helps to keep the park the amazing place it is.

  9. Feeling like a valued member of a team

    Working within a team to complete a task every week has meant that I feel like a real team member. Each member is valued and everyone takes an interest in your life outside of volunteering. If someone misses a session we feel their absence throughout the team.

  10. Helping the environment

    In a time when the environment is becoming more damaged every day, carrying out work that directly helps it is immensely rewarding and gives me such a sense of pride.

How to get involved in volunteering in the South Downs National Park?