Lucy Macnamara discovered the joys of volunteering as a Community Engagement Voluntary Intern...
Out of all the amazing things I’ve done, experienced and had the pleasure of being involved in this is by far the most challenging.
How do I sum up six incredible months in only a few hundred words? The short answer is I cannot, not completely. This internship has been an experience that I will never forget.
If six months ago someone told me I would be engaging wide eyed children with nature by letting bugs and minibeasts crawl and slime across my hands; that I would be auditioning volunteers to operate a giant 8ft heron puppet in Bute Park in the falling snow; or that I would be leading nature based outreach sessions in primary schools, I would have probably laughed. Yet this is exactly what I have been doing plus so much more and I have absolutely loved every minute. I have been given the opportunity, as a fairly fresh-faced newcomer to the conservation world, to learn, grow and thrive.
Through my internship I’ve been helping children from toddlers to 10 year olds, in both school settings and pop-up events across Cardiff, to build a connection with nature that I believe is there in all of us. I’ve worked alongside Cardiff Council’s Community Park Rangers on habitat management tasks using muscles I never knew existed. I’ve worked on internal and external RSPB communications, formed part of project teams building new homes for nature in Cardiff and exploring new ways to engage even more people with our brilliant urban wildlife and Cardiff’s fantastic greenspaces. Through all of this perhaps most importantly I am constantly learning new things. Whether it’s about birds and identifying trees, new opportunities for community engagement, the RSPB’s wider work beyond Cardiff, or simply learning more about myself and what I can do.
As Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff’s fourth Community Engagement Voluntary Intern, it’s interesting to see what my predecessors are now up to and how this experience has shaped them too. Bethan, the first in post, used this opportunity to develop skills and confidence engaging primary school children with nature. By the end of the internship Bethan was independently delivering school sessions to whole classes of children; something she almost didn’t think she could do, but she did and with great feedback from schools. Sue, was second in post and the success of her internship is clear as Sue is now RSPB Cymru’s Community and Volunteer Development Officer. Finally Esme, third in post, has successfully secured a place on a PGCE course following the experience and success she gained through her internship in designing and delivering learning experiences for children. Bethan, Sue and Esme were all influenced and shaped greatly by this internship as I have been too. And in all cases, we’ve found the experience to be so much more than we expected.
As my internship comes to a close I’m starting to think about my future and where to go next. I feel that something has been ignited in me and I want to continue engaging children with nature and help them to make that all important connection with the natural world around us. This internship has enabled me to understand my strengths and what is important to me. I know that from here I will continue to have many wonderful experiences and develop both professionally and personally and I look forward to meeting the next intern, whoever that may be, and know too that they can have an experience as amazing as I did.
RSPB Cymru’s Community Engagement Voluntary Intern