Volunteering with Forth Environment Link

17 April 2019

Fancy getting creative with your colleagues whilst helping your local community? Then read how a group of volunteers from the Department for Work and Pensions got together to make planters for Forth Valley Sensory Centre’s new Kitchen Garden.

Group Volunteer Case StudyLocal charity Forth Environment Link opened its doors to five volunteers from the Department of Work and Pensions last month (March 2019): Ally, Anne-Marie, Fraser, Sam and Alex.

Their challenge, alongside volunteers from Zero Waste Scotland and the Sensory Centre, was to make 16 planters for the new kitchen garden – enabling the Centre to grow fruit and veg for its community café.

How did you hear about the opportunity?

Alex: "DWP give staff across UK 10,000 hours a year for voluntary work. Volunteering opportunities are emailed out to staff every couple of weeks and are also put on the internal communications page."

Ally: "There’s a good variety to the types of volunteering we get to do. Last year I helped with a charity art auction with MacMillan. I’ve also done fencing for Camphill Blair Drummond, a residential facility for people with learning disabilities."

What made you volunteer to take part?

Sam: "A lot of opportunities come up and this one was in Falkirk, so I thought that would be really good as I’m from Falkirk. It’s just up the road, so it’s handy. I wanted to give back to my community."

Ally: "My Mum used the sensory centre, because her vision was going, so that’s what attracted me to volunteer. I sit in the office all day, so it’s good to get out and do something."

Fraser: "My job is completely desk bound and it’s not too far to come from Edinburgh to do this. It’s just a real change from the day job."

Anne-Marie: "Most of the opportunities tend to be in the East, but this one is local and on my doorstep. I just live a few miles away and I know the sensory centre quite well and people who have used it. I hadn’t heard about Forth Environment Link before, so it’s great to find out what’s going on locally."

Alex: "I make rustic planters in my free time, so this opportunity was of real interest to me."

What types of projects interest you?

Ally: "I tend to volunteer for projects that I have a connection to, like the sensory centre for my Mum, or MacMillan for friends who have had cancer. I’ve also done things like mock interviews with high school kids, to give them interview experience."

Alex: "The more manual the better, I like to be outside. But that doesn’t suit everyone! Some people in the office don’t like worms, so they’ll do something like sort clothes in a charity shop. DWP try to come circulate a wide variety of opportunities so there’s something for everyone."

What do you think the benefits are for an employer?

Alex: "When you back to the office you feel refreshed and ready for work. We get time off and charities get the benefit. It’s a win, win."

Anne-Marie: "It helps the profile of the DWP as well. It shows we’re happy to get out and help communities. It’s nice to get out there and do a bit of good. The first time I volunteered, it was with Poppy Scotland and I met the old gentleman who stands outside Jenner’s in Edinburgh. He has raised over £1million. I was fascinated by him and I’ll never forget that experience. I got as much out of it as I put into it."

What have you been building today?

Ally: "We been making the planters in two teams, measuring and screwing the wood together. It’s quite simple really, especially under Richard’s expert tutorage."

Over to you

Forth Environment Link offers a variety of volunteering opportunities, from helping with textile workshops and community cooking classes to cycle ride leaders and events. For more information click here.  Volunteering opportunities across Scotland can be found here.