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Some thoughts on volunteering

Volunteers' Week 2023 has just drawn to a close so I have been thinking a lot about volunteering over the last wee while. Volunteering is where I started, it's how I ended up here and in one sense it is how this website came into being. Initially this job was all about finding out about "green health" volunteering opportunities - mainly outdoor volunteering roles, taking in gardening, walking, practical conservation and sport, then helping health and social care staff to link their clients with them. Of course formal volunteering of pretty much every kind came to a sudden halt in 2020 when the first covid lockdown was announced and so the group of us, working in green health volunteering, who had been meeting regularly since the start of the project, started to look at what we could do to support people to get outdoors in other ways. We started weekly coffee break zoom calls to chat about what we had been noticing on our daily walks, and decided to take things further and share the things that were bringing us joy with other people. We started reading more research about the benefits of connecting with nature in all sorts of ways, not just through being active in the outdoors, and several of us did the online University of Derby course about nature connectedness. That's how the Get Outdoors Lanarkshire webpage and social media came about, as a way to share our local Lanarkshire nature connection ideas.

Over the last three years our Volunteers' Week celebrations have been pretty quiet, it has taken a while for everything to get back to some semblance of normality, which is why it was such a joy that during Green Health Week a few weeks ago I was able to get out with some groups for the first time in ages, to volunteer myself. Of course it helped that the sun shone for most of the week, and what could be nicer than pulling Himalayan Balsam under a shady tree, or helping to survey a hedge surrounded by blossom and birdsong. One of the positive effects of the pandemic seems to have been that there are even more opportunities to get involved in outdoor activity, including volunteering, just check out the amazing work of some of the groups that have come together over the last few years to improve their local greenspaces and outdoor areas, such as the Burn Road Action Group in Carluke or the EK Community Litter Pickers who now have over 1700 members on their facebook group. So is this us at Get Outdoors Lanarkshire saying a big thank you to all the people who volunteer outside, either alone or as part of a larger group, for their commitment to improving our lives through nicer spaces, better biodiversity and happier wildlife.

Volunteering - good for you - good for nature - good for the world. Find out about the volunteering opportunities across Lanarkshire and Scotland, and how you can get involved here.

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