I began volunteering with the National Trust at Hatfield Forest in 1998, to rehabilitate from my illness (ME). I began as an education volunteer, starting by sharpening pencils and making coffee, I then went on to lead school groups, design activities, run events etc. I enjoyed the volunteering so much that I knew this was what I wanted to do so asked how I could get into it. I was advised to get a degree and post grad which is what I did: BSc Conservation & Environment PGCert in Conservation Management focussing on environmental education, landscape ecology, biological surveying and sustainable ecosystems. I continued to volunteer during this time and got job with Essex Wildlife Trust (part time) as centre assistant covering events, children’s activities and clubs, general running of centre whilst manager not in etc. During my degree I also sought work experience with Essex Wildlife Trust and Field Studies Council.
Volunteer experience has helped me on many levels including the understanding of the organisation; empathy with volunteers; the ability to identify the right skilled volunteers for the right task; facilitating rather then ‘owning’ projects which are volunteer led.
Now I am a Community Learning Officer for 17 properties across Essex and Suffolk. I work on a variety of projects which are all focussed on deepening the engagement between the properties and their communities … The possibilities are endless! I love my job and am forever grateful to the staff who have helped me to get to where I am today – you know who you are!
Sarah Barfoot – Community Learning Officer at Melford Hall, The National Trust