It has been really interesting following the Conservation Intern Diary and I’m really pleased to introduce one for the Lodge Reserve. Carol Waller works full time in the Volunteering Development Dept and still finds time to volunteer in a variety of roles including being a Love Nature collector and an Events Assistant for the Lodge Reserve Team. Here she tells us about some fun and festive face painting with children at The Lodge Reserve...
Children’s Face Painting ‑ Kiddies Christmas Kracker event
by Carol Waller
I have recently volunteered by helping with children’s activities at RSPB events at UK HQ and I thought I would share some of my experiences. Most recently I helped with face painting at the Kiddies Christmas Kracker event. This was an event for the under-tens which combined a music and movement activity, face painting, a ‘merry meerkat’ trail and, of course, a visit to Father Christmas!
There were three of us in the face painting team. We have all been recently trained and are still a bit daunted about practising our newly acquired skills. There was no time to get nervous, however, no sooner had we set up than we had our first influx of children.
My first recipient was unsure what she wanted so I suggested a snowflake. We had decided to confine ourselves to small images on the backs of hands or on cheeks given that the children were young and we didn’t think they would want to keep still for very long. Also, we intended to get all the face painting done before the music and movement activity started so we were on a bit of schedule.
A lot of the children had their own ideas so the snowflake was followed by two snowmen and then two reindeer (just the heads!) in quick succession. Then I tried my hand at holly and berries. Eventually, it could no longer be avoided ‑ a request was made for a Father Christmas! I think it’s true to say I made a game attempt at a depiction of Father Christmas. The problem is really one of scale since there isn’t a lot of space on a small child’s cheek!
Most of the children seemed pleased when shown the result in the mirror and, more to the point, so were their parents! The golden rule of face painting is that everything looks better at a distance than it does close‑up!
In what seemed like no time the children’s music and movement kicked off and the face painting team could relax a bit. We were well-placed to observe the singing and dancing. The children seemed to have a whale of a time. They were all given a tambourine and were encouraged to join in to a selection of children’s classic songs and some more contemporary numbers.
Once everyone had walked the ‘meerkat trail’, had Christmas cookies and visited Father Christmas the event drew to its conclusion. The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves and I got a lot out of it myself. It was a good way to get into the festive mood! I have helped with a number of children’s activities now as a volunteer and I find them thoroughly entertaining! I always come away feeling richer and that I’ve made a real contribution to the event’s success.
Micro volunteering is the buzz word in our office at the moment, little steps that make a massive different to our conservation work. Coming up at the end of January is our fantastic BGBW, don’t forget to get involved for an hour by counting birds in your garden!
How about taking a bigger step and get involved with our Saving Nature collection? Here’s a day in the life of Dana Rock, Community Fundraiser from our Midlands Office.
“If I was a chicken,” I explain, grinning through my feathers, “then I would probably have been filleted and frozen by now!”
I am a goldfinch, not a chicken.
I’ve lost count of the number of times when someone in my local supermarket has mistaken me for a chicken. I invariably correct then by joking about what’s in their shopping basket.
You can imagine my delight when a young mum comes up to me and my friend Eleanor, drops a pound in my bucket and then turns to her daughter and says “this one’s a goldfinch and that one’s a tree sparrow.” I could hug you! We then spend a few minutes chatting about the birds in her garden – yes, we’ve seen the occasional goldfinch (usually after the nyjer seeds) but never a tree sparrow.
This is what I love most about fundraising for the RSPB – talking to people about what they’ve seen. I get to hear some great stories from people who love to watch wildlife. We’ll talk about what comes to their feeders, the pet name they have for their regular robin visitor, and the red kites circling overhead that we didn’t see ten years ago (I grew up in South Oxfordshire so there are plenty to see now!)
Of course, you don’t need to dress up in a silly costume to raise money for the RSPB. It’s just that whenever given the opportunity I will always make a tit (or finch) of myself.
The next time I will be preening my feathered costume will be at the end of January – and I’m really looking forward to it. For the first time, the RSPB has organized a series of fundraising collections to tie in with the Big Garden Bird Watch and is currently looking for volunteers to help.
I know plenty of people who can talk about birds for days – so standing in a local store and chatting about chaffinches as a charming ‘chicken’ for 3 hours is really not too strenuous!
These collections aim to raise vital funds for the RSPB and to encourage more people to take part in the Big Garden Bird Watch. If that isn’t reason enough, then do it just for the charm of goldfinches and the fun of chattering about birds…
To find out where you nearest collection is go to: Save Nature
The next morning a crack team of keen Old Hall volunteers were assembled to assist our RSPB colleagues at Wat Tyler Country Park in Pitsea, South Essex. We set about loading the truck with all the necessary equipment and after much head scratching and plenty of expletives we got the trailer set up correctly and the boat securely hitched. After arriving fashionably late at Wat Tyler, we all had to undergo the most amusing Health and Safety induction ever. After which, work could finally begin brushcutting the islands to encourage further bird activity.
“Ahoy there” Johanna being whisked off and held captive on Treasure Island
The finished article, a little bare now, but soon it will make ideal habitat for the birds
When Springtime comes around? It seems strange to be talking about March already but here in the Residential Volunteering Office the preparation has begun for the latest round of recruits for the Residential Volunteering Internship programme. All around the country our fantastic Volunteering Development Officers are finalising role descriptions, booking meeting rooms and placing adverts – then standing back and waiting for the phone to start ringing! The Residential Volunteering Internship programme runs in every country – and usually offers 9 – 12 month placements at reserve “pairs” with a built in training programme to boot. So you get double the fun and twice the experience – two different habitats, two sets of star species and two management plans. Alongside the practical Volunteering Internships there are People Engagement opportunities too – a chance to use your skills to inspire people about our work as they visit our reserves or out in the community at events to let others see how they too can step up for nature and make a real difference for conservation and wildlife.
The Residential Volunteering Internships are advertised on our website and in other environmental recruitment publications, so have a look and see – it could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. And don’t forget to read about Mark Groves’ experiences as a Volunteering Intern at Diary of a Conservation Volunteering Intern for a humorous taste of the real thing.
3.6 billion seconds a year, 61 million minutes a year count it how you like 2010/11 was a really great year for volunteering at the RSPB. Why? Because our volunteers gave the RSPB a gift of time of over 1 million hours. Yes you read that right, 1 million hours in one single year for the first time ever – what a truly fantastic achievement! Whether you gave us a gift of time of 5 minutes or volunteered full time - thank you.
We've come a really long way since those ladies in Didsbury, volunteers themselves, started the RSPB way back in 1889 fighting the use of egret feathers in ladies hats. Even then the RSPB was a campaigning organisation with people donating their time and talents to the cause. Those ladies would no doubt be extremely proud to know their legacy lives on as the organisation they founded now enjoys the support of over 17,000 regular volunteers, who like them, want to step up and save nature. And what a contribution our volunteers, people like you and me, make each year. One million hours equates to an extra 591 full time staff, 12 people spending their entire working life with the RSPB or one person volunteering 24 hours a day 365 days a year for a 116 years!
Volunteers are involved in almost every aspect of the RSPB's work from volunteer wardens on reserves to undertaking surveys of farmland birds, raising money in the local community to repairing and recycling binoculars for use by our Birdlife partners across the globe. These are just a few examples of the hundreds of ways volunteers support and enhance our work.
You name it volunteers are doing it with and for the RSPB right now across all of our work, in the UK and internationally. We have doctors, translators, IT specialists, health and safety experts, carpenters, quantity surveyors and even a burlesque dancer (don't ask) all donating their time and talents to the RSPB.
There is a Greek proverb that for me really sums up what volunteering with the RSPB is all about and why people want to step up for nature with us and it simply says:
'A civilisation flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit'
Volunteering really is flourishing in the RSPB and here's to the next million.
If you’d like to know more about how your time and talents could help save nature check out the volunteering pages of our website at www.rspb.org.uk/volunteering