I’m fortunate in my role as a community project officer at the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to work with many wonderful volunteers. Working with volunteers is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, I enjoy it immensely and never get tired of it. I’m constantly humbled by the dedication and diversity of the people I meet, who work their socks off for free, purely because they enjoy it and want to do something good with their life.
However I feel there is something underlying all of this and I want to tell you a story of an encounter that I had with a group of volunteers recently, which I believe illustrates something rather powerful at work.
A few months ago I led a monthly practical conservation volunteer work party on one of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. On the second Saturday of every month throughout the year, a small group of volunteers attends the reserve to carry out practical habitat management tasks. We’re fortunate to have a lovely mix of people attend this work party; young and old, from a diverse range of backgrounds.
It was as we all sat and talked at lunch that the diversity of the group really struck me. Sitting opposite me was an elderly lady, aged over 80, who had been coming to the work party for years. To her right, a 14 year old girl, who attended the work party on her own. Opposite her was a 14 year old boy who has autism and learning difficulties. Next to him was his middle aged support worker, a lady who also works in a primary school.
As we talked merrily over our sandwiches I began to think about this diverse group of people. We were all getting on so well, it was heartening to see young and old conversing fluently. It felt as though we were all somehow equal, on a level playing field, able to speak with one another without fear, misunderstanding or judgement. After everyone had gone home with smiles on their faces, I pondered why this might be.
It wasn’t until several days later that I felt the explanation dawn on me. It was obvious when I thought about it, the reason why we all got on so well, and felt so relaxed together, was the very reason why we had all come together in the first place. The very thing that brought us together was what was also facilitating the social connections, and that thing was nature; the great outdoors, the great leveller, the great equaliser.
We were all there because we had a passion for wildlife and being outdoors. Such a diverse mix of people being brought together is testament to the power of nature. The strength of its attraction brings people together who might have otherwise simply passed like ships in the night on the street. Outdoors, beneath the trees, we all felt like we had something in common. The trappings of modern day life stripped away, we were able to chat away as individuals, as people should. With the relaxing backing music of birdsong, we bonded.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty remarkable thing to happen, and I like to think that it wouldn’t have been possible without nature. Nature brings people together like nothing else can.