I sit on the empty trailer eating my packed lunch partway through the work day; sat there with me are a retired GP, a graduate on a gap year, someone between jobs, a geologist, a retired refinery worker and a retired computer scientist. Our conversation covers some really random topics as you may expect from such a mixed bunch of people. We have been dragging and stacking logs, timber cut through the winter habitat management season that we’ll turn into Gower Charcoal through the summer. We are all united through our enjoyment of what we are doing, we have all put in the same amount of toil and graft but I am the only member of the team being paid. This is the volunteer team and I love working with them; here in Swansea & Neath-Port Talbot we have a dedicated core of volunteers and others who come along less frequently but bring the same enthusiasm (and different conversation topics!).
Earlier this month (1st-12th June 2016) was national Volunteers Week, a period when the fantastic contribution of volunteers is celebrated across the country, so I feel inspired to write a soppy note of thanks to our volunteers. I am sure I speak for my colleagues across all counties & departments when I say how much the volunteer effort is appreciated. I have not forgotten the Local Groups or the organisations Trustees either!
The following is from my observations as WTO for Swansea & Neath-Port Talbot. Over the past near decade of employment with WTSWW I have watched the volunteer team help us double our habitat management outputs through each autumn and winter and they have been the driving force behind the more labour intensive (or some may say mundane) summer tasks such as balsam pulling & litter-picking. The charcoal project wouldn’t exist now without their efforts. But the work of the volunteer team has not been all about practical on the ground efforts; the team dynamics are brilliant as they welcome and encourage new volunteers. I have seen them help encourage and build confidence and “help along” members of our own staff team. They have welcomed new employees and supported apprentices and trainees giving them the confidence to build their careers. I have also seen them follow former WTSWW employees, volunteering with them and a new organisation until they are “settled in”. It has to be said that all of us have benefitted as people through working so closely with volunteers and of course with such a diverse bunch of people there’s always someone prepared to offer advice on any challenges that are thrown up by work or life.
It seems there’s little we can present the volunteers with that they don’t take in their stride and embrace with enthusiasm – thanks all.
Paul Thornton (SWTO Swansea & Neath-Port Talbot)