As part of National Volunteers’ Week, today’s blog was written by 19-year-old Dominik Reynolds, who started volunteering with the RSPB at just eight years old. Read on to find out why Dom thinks volunteering helped him get a place at Bristol University to study Zoology. My volunteering journey began at the age of just eight, kick-started by a chance encounter with some RSPB staff at the Reptile Centre in the New Forest. It seems rather funny now, looking back at the oddity of such of a young person showing people of all ages around the centre and teaching them facts about native reptile, amphibian and bird species. It also feels strange to be receiving a 10 years’ service badge at the age of 19, when the award is usually given out to people a bit older. But I can safely say that the years of volunteering with the RSPB have been wonderful, I have worked alongside some fantastic, fun and inspirational people and have certainly had some unique experiences.
The face of the RSPB At the time of becoming a volunteer in 2008 I was the youngest ever volunteer for the organisation. This led to them using me as a face for some of the RSPB campaigns at the time. In early 2011 I was lucky enough to knock on the door of 10 Downing Street to hand in the signatures of the Letter to the Future campaign, and speak at a subsequent conference attended by Kate Humble and other big names. I was also featured on a CBBC show called Wild, which involved me talking about my role with the RSPB at the Reptile Centre, and I have done several radio interviews about my volunteering.
I have always felt extremely humbled by the things that have happened to me through my voluntary work, especially as it has all stemmed from me simply doing what I enjoy, educating and enthusing people about wildlife and helping the public take something away from their experience with British nature.
Challenges along the way Through my decade of voluntary work, it hasn’t always been easy. Due to my age while working for the RSPB, I was always seen as a bit different in school, at football practice and more. There were constantly the comments like “You’re hanging out with the wrong kind of birds” and many more similar. I hesitate to use the phrase bullying, but at some points it did almost drive me to the point of giving up volunteering.
But looking back I am so glad that I kept my passion and focus, as it has brought me much joy over the years, and has even helped enhance my personal statement enough to land me a place in Bristol University, to study Zoology. However it is certainly a consequence of volunteering at that age, and being ‘different’ to other kids, that caused such responses from others around me. And I can see how it could stop other young people interested in volunteering from giving it a go. If I could give some advice, and I know this sounds cliché, I would say get out there and go for it. The benefits, joy and experience I have gained from volunteering have made it all worth it, and it is an incredibly rewarding thing to be a part of.
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