The EU has designated 2011 as the European Year of Volunteering. The year celebrates the millions of people across Europe who volunteer in their communities, making a huge difference to those communities and the people who live in them. The year also offers a challenge to the three-quarters of the European population who do not volunteer, to think about how they could do so!
As many readers of this blog know, I volunteer with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. I patrol a section of the river every Monday and record the wildlife I see, pick litter and report on graffitti, pollution and vandalism. I also make friends with a lot of dog walkers and their pets.
Today's highlights were two excellent views of dippers (one of my favourite birds) and making friends with a very young black fluff ball of a dog (before I started this volunteering I wasn't really a dog person at all, which just goes to show volunteering can change you in unexpected ways!).
Other activities you can get involved with at the Water of Leith Conservation Trust include large scale litter picks, planting native species and dressing up as a pirate to help on the annual treasure hunt.
Conservation volunteering is great! Since getting involved with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust, not only do I feel I'm doing my bit to protect an important part of the local landscape and wildlife habitat, but also: my plant identification skills have improved, I've met lots of new people (not to mention new dogs!) and my experience there has helped me get work as an adult education tutor with City of Edinburgh Council and the University of Edinburgh Office of Lifelong Learning. The trust are an excellent organisation to volunteer with - they treat volunteers very well and always have meaningful work for us to do and give us plenty of opportunities to get more involved with the trust, if that's what we're interested in. It's very worthwhile and I can definitely recommend it, if you're looking for conservation volunteering in Edinburgh.
For an American perspective on volunteering, Michelle of Rambling Woods has a good article here about how volunteers are helping nature to recover from Hurricane Irene.