Guest Blog: An international perspective on volunteering

Matt Cox, Youth Engagement Officer at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has written about his experience of working with Coventry University students at Claybrookes Marsh in October 2014. A link to his blog can be found here: http://wkwtyoungpeople.wordpress.com/ 

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Freshers week is a busy time at any university campus and this year the Coventry University volunteer team took advantage of this by arranging a ‘give it a go week’. Its aim was to introduce students to new volunteering opportunities around the city and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust agreed to lead a conservation day with a group of international students and post-graduates at Claybrookes Marsh Nature Reserve. It was a special opportunity to welcome people from around the world onto one of our reserves and take the time to talk to them about the environmental issues affecting not just Warwickshire but the country as a whole. Many of the participants’ previous experience of wildlife conservation was very different, like the large national parks in Nigeria for instance, but the recognition that it is important to care for our natural environment was something we all shared. Of particular interest were the reasons why these people had come together to volunteer with the Trust for a day. No one had met before and everyone’s previous experience of volunteering was different. So what were the motivations? I felt that this would be really interesting to explore in a blog post, so with their support I chatted throughout the day to every person to gain an insight into how they saw volunteering. I have transcribed and included a few of the conversations below.

Mehmet
Mehmet is an Engineering Management student from Turkey who at the time of volunteering with us had only been in the UK for one week. He was enthusiastic to get involved in the practical side of the work we were doing and also sees volunteering as an opportunity to try new things and meet new people. His interest in volunteering began when he volunteered with the the American Field Service. During some time spent in Germany on an exchange program a flood took place close to where he was living and the local council recruited volunteers to help the people affected by the flood to move damaged furniture out of their houses. This has helped to build Mehmet’s view of volunteering as something worthwhile beyond any personal gains.

Amaku
Amaku from NigeriaI’ve been speaking to Amaku a lot in the afternoon about his experiences of being outside as child in Nigeria, helping family members harvesting crops at their farm. Being at Claybrookes Marsh today as the sunshine is finally punching through the clouds reminds him of these memories and he is happy. Amaku has just finished a MSc in Petroleum and Environmental Technology and now that he has some free time he is doing some more volunteering. He hadn’t done volunteering before until he came to the UK to study and helped out at the Coventry Food Bank. Working with other volunteers left a strong impression on him because he saw people working hard out of passion rather than for money and has since felt compelled to do more. Amaku has been particularly interested in how nature conservation operates in the UK so it has been great to inform him about the challenges we face over here.

Noemie and Kerttu
Noemie and Kerttu are friends and the only two to know each other before coming today. Noemie is from Finland and is on a nursing placement here for one year. She has never volunteered before until today and its Coventry Universities commitment to volunteering that makes it easy for people like her to get involved. She finds it great to be outside in nature and is enojying the opportunity to socialise with others. Kerttu is from France and has done summer camps in over there as a volunteer. She enjoys spending time outside which is what made today appeal to her.

Yousef
Yousef is here for the workout. He has been stuck into the physical stuff all day and he feels good. He is a Construction Project Management student from Iraq and is in the UK for one year to get the kudos associated with the British construction industry. I spend some time talking to him about the importance of developing sustainable practices in the construction industry and its clear that the future well fare of the environment is important to him. He tells me that we take a lot from others and the environment so its only right that we give something back. I can’t agree more. Its inspirational to be able to spend a day talking with such a diverse group and find that a passion for the environment is common amongst us all. Working for a local charity its easy to forget that the challenges we face ahead are global and will require involvement from everyone if they are to be overcome. Today has certainly made me think this is possible.

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