From Hawaii to the Nene Valley
I am just about to complete one year as an Education and Community volunteer for the local Wildlife Trust in the Nene Valley in Northamptonshire. As an American who grew up in Hawaii, I knew when I arrived in the UK I had a lot to learn about the UK’s wildlife in order to be able to educate communities and school children about it. What most people considered everyday plants and animals were like foreign species to me. I could talk your ears off about how to grow pineapple and what creatures you’d come across while snorkelling, but stinging nettles were a whole different story. It took me two weeks before I realised what people were talking about when they spoke about brambles! Conkers and even hedgehogs were alien to me. Needless to say, I needed a bit of a crash course on British wildlife and volunteering for the Wildlife Trust seemed like the perfect thing to do.
I will walk away from this volunteer position with invaluable skills and experience that I will continue to apply
By working with the Nene Valley Education and Community team, not only do I now know the difference between a peacock and a comma butterfly, but I’ve also learned methods of interacting with the community and educating people about the value of wildlife. Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows, where my project is based, is a fairly new site and therefore links with the surrounding communities are still a bit tender. It has been fantastic to help build up relationships with the local community by hosting various wildlife themed events, assisting with site visits from groups of all ages, as well as uncovering the local history through memory gathering sessions with local people who’ve lived through the variety of changes the area has seen.
I will walk away from this volunteer position with invaluable skills and experience that I will continue to apply toward environmental education in the UK as well as the satisfaction of knowing I invested a year’s worth of my time in a worthy charity. And hopefully, just hopefully, in a few months’ time, I will even be able to tell the difference between a swallow and a sparrow!