Friday, 31 January 2014

Volunteering for the RSPB

I started volunteering at the RSPB Pulborough Brooks nature reserve back in October, working once a week in the visitor centre. I applied for a number of reasons; my interest in wildlife and conservation being one and the fact that I work from home another.

I don't commute to an office or a studio and I don't have colleagues in the traditional sense (unless you count the two cats!) At times, this can become a bit isolating and every so often it gets to much, so I do really enjoy the days I can get out of the house, even if it's for a supplies run or a brief trip to the post office.
In my role as a volunteer, I feel as if I'm doing something really worthwhile, while spending time away from my studio and giving my brain a change of scenery. The best bit by far is having the chance to speak to like-minded people who share my interest in wildlife, particularly the visitors. I've had some lovely conversations with customers about the birds in their gardens, the animals on the reserve etc. and on a few occasions I've been able to share information about wildlife from my limited knowledge-base and people have genuinely been grateful for what I've told them. That makes me very happy!
My employment background is retail-based so working in the centre allows me to use my merchandising, till and customer service skills but being the first port of call for visitors, I'm also picking up valuable information about the reserve, wildlife and the RSPB as a whole. It doesn't hurt that the staff are pretty lovely too!

It's funny; when I first looked into volunteering, I had no idea that there was an RSPB site just 20 minutes from my door. I finally got the opportunity to walk the reserve itself a couple of weeks ago (only 3 months after starting work there!) and spotted some wonderful species of bird, including long-tailed tits, cormorants, canada geese and a kestrel, as well as my very first sightings of wigeon, lapwings and greenfinches. I'm slowly learning about the site and it's inhabitants and meeting wonderful people too; I even had the privilege of meeting Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of the RSPB on Wednesday!

I'm really pleased I've found a way to balance my work with my other interests. With the amount of time I spend on portraits, I often forget it's important to step away and allow myself time to refresh. There are definitely pros and cons to working for yourself!

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