Volunteering means different things to different people. For some it's about giving something back to the community; for some it's a way to make new friends and learn new things; for some it's a boost of self-confidence; and for some it's simply a way of life. We've had many volunteers come to RSPB Sandwell Valley over the years, and each individual has a special and unique story to tell. Find out what some of our volunteers, both current and past, love about volunteering and working at RSPB Sandwell below...

It’s so nice to see each week how the site changes and continues to change with each season. It’s a very peaceful place – however not so much during the school holidays! – but it makes a nice change to engage with the children and see them learn and enjoy the nature that surrounds them. I’m getting to know the visitors who come on a regular basis; sometimes just for a chat, others for long walks around the trail. Everyone is so nice, friendly and helpful

- Christine, Visitor Centre Volunteer

I started my time as an RSPB volunteer back in September 2015.  Six months prior to this I had taken voluntary redundancy from my job and spent a lovely lazy summer with my teacher husband and 2 boys.  Then they went back to school, and I knew I needed to do something to fill my time. We had visited Sandwell Valley over that summer holiday, shortly after the new visitor centre had opened, and had been a little disappointed to be told that the hide was not open that day as they did not have enough volunteers available to open it.
When we got home later that day my husband said "you should volunteer there - you'd love it".  I wasn't so sure - we now lived a 40 minute drive away - but I had grown up only a 15 minute walk down the road in Great Barr, so I hesitantly got in touch and enquired about volunteering roles.  Two weeks later I did my first shift in the Visitor Centre.  I had never really worked "front of house" before and was terrified and excited at my new little adventure. Almost 3 years later it feels like home.  I still do my Thursday morning shift in the Visitor Centre, but I also help out with school visits occasionally, and help in the school holidays with the Wild Wednesdays/Explorer Thursdays.  I have also talked my husband and 2 boys into volunteering in the holidays too - they all love it as much as I do.
Volunteering at Sandwell Valley RSPB has been a lot of things to me over the last 3 years - it has been a time filler, a hobby, my therapy, my peace and quiet, my confidence booster and my "me" time, and I wouldn't give it up for the world. Here's to the next 3 years ….. and beyond!
- Liz, Visitor Centre Volunteer

When we first came to the RSPB, we really didn’t know what to expect but in time we got to know the really friendly staff & became regular visitors, to all of the events, which were then operated out of the temporary classroom. Since then, I am a few years older & more knowledgeable about the things around me, and me and my sister have become RSPB Volunteers. I can identify most of the birds I see around the valley, as we attend the monthly guided walk & also told what’s around by some of the other Experienced Bird Watcher Volunteers.

- Jake, Young Volunteer, https://buff.ly/2JG8ZFk

I have benefited from being surrounded by so many knowledgeable people; many of them being passionate naturalists who have trained themselves to a level of professional understanding about their favourite creatures. Not only that, but I have had access to a site that boasts levels of biodiversity that never ceases to amaze me. I was taught how to use telescopes for bird watching, micro-scopes for creepy crawlies and how to utilize my own sense of smell for identifying different plants in spring. I developed my own teaching style that helped me gain confidence in public speaking and enabled me to take control of a noisy classroom.

- Aaron Bhambra, Learning Assistant Intern, https://buff.ly/2sOzu0P

I first went to RSPB Sandwell Valley in Tanhouse Ave, Great Barr about four months ago even though I have lived nearby for about three years, it’s a great place  to visit  and meet some great staff and volunteers, who are there to answer any of your questions you may have. Although I have only been a volunteer for a very short time I have always been interested in all of nature. This came about because I am a very keen photographer of which my main subject was birds and flowers, insects, butterflies; in fact anything  to do with nature.

- Graham Vernon, Hide Volunteer, https://buff.ly/2sDVn3X

I have been a member of the RSPB for many years and was familiar with the Sandwell Valley reserve as a walker, and had attended a couple of events at the temporary centre. I saw that the new centre, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, was finally being built and began to follow RSPB Sandwell Valley on Facebook and so saw the announcement of its opening. I visited and loved the new building! At the end of August 2015 I saw an invitation in the Facebook feed for volunteers and responded to it asking if I could pick up litter. Nothing else, just pick up litter.

- Ruth Lawton, Reserve Ranger, https://buff.ly/2sFJqdZ

When you become part of the RSPB, you’re not simply an extra, carrying out mundane tasks. You will be welcomed and encouraged and praised for your hard work by everyone around you. You’ll be given every opportunity to learn something new, enhance your existing skills and thrive at things you love doing.

- Jenny Stevens, Connecting People and Nature Intern, https://buff.ly/2sPguzz

Lastly we'd like to say a huge congratulations to our volunteers Aaron, Andy and David M who were rewarded for their commitment, contribution and outstanding work at RSPB Sandwell at the Sandwell Volunteer Awards last week!

If you'd like to find out more about volunteering at RSPB Sandwell, come and chat to our friendly team at the visitor centre or email us at sandwellvalley@rspb.org.uk!