How far can you volunteer?
How far can you volunteer?
There are numerous ways to get involved in the natural world, and they enable you to reach out and make a difference from sitting at home to helping an animal on the other side of the world. Wherever you are, you can make a difference.
Home and Garden
This is often the least obvious place to start – and yet it’s a great location to begin making a difference! If you have a garden, you can make it as wildlife friendly as possible. You could allocate a particular place for wildlife, such as a corner, which you allow to become untidy. You could give a hedgehog a hole in a fence to get through (13cm diameter please, says Spike). You could plant wildlife friendly flowers, put out a bird bath and feed for wildlife.
Home is an important place to make a difference. Turn off power where you can. Use renewable sources of energy if you can. Have a vegetarian meal or sandwich instead of meat.
Think about what you’re buying and look for the impact buying it in the first place will have on wildlife and the animal kingdom. Do you really need it? Would life be dramatically worse without it?
Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs, and the Quest to Find Them All Homes, via Amazon
Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World (Lonely Planet) from Amazon
Your local area
There are a lot of local charities right under your nose, but they can be harder to find. If you’re looking to volunteer, a good vet should be able to recommend one. It’s amazing how many charities spring up as a result of one or a couple of people taking an animal in and finding they soon take on more and more. Even if you don’t want to do the hands-on stuff e.g. handling the animals themselves and caring for their daily needs such as mucking out, there will always be things to do. If not today, there could be next week. From starting wildlife hospitals to rescuing unwanted pets, it’s incredible the work that goes on in most localities now.
Many charities have a national body, acting as umbrella to a good many regional off-shoots. The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts is a very good example – it has 47 Wildlife Trusts throughout the UK operating under its wing. The RSPCA, Cats Protection, Blue Cross and Dogs Trust all have local branches or rescue centres around the country. The Brooke has 22 local fundraising groups around the UK plus one in New Zealand and in Australia, raising money for working animals in very poor countries around the world. So there’s plenty happening around your region, as well as in your locality.
One way to help is to support those businesses which are animal friendly. An example is Green People. They sell organic beauty products, and they work in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society to ensure the products they make are marine friendly. You can join in national campaigns – such as the Marine Conservation Society’s Don’t Let Go campaign and then see what you can do to raise awareness of it in your local area. There’s Responsible Travel who list ethical holidays. Both organisations have taken part in environmentally active team building days. As an election approaches, ask your MP or local political parties what they will do to help wildlife and animal welfare. And there are plenty of petitions (or you can start one) putting pressure on businesses and government to do the right thing for animal welfare.
It’s far easier now to make a difference to animals on the other side of the world, thanks to the internet, but also because the world is a smaller place and what goes around, comes around. Give up plastic, and that’s one less piece to potentially end up in our oceans. Give up plastic bags in Brighton, and they are less likely to drift off in the sea and end up thousands of miles from home. Leave the car behind and you’ll help the polar bear. It’s back to lifestyle habits again.
We all need to do what we can but we can surely be encouraged by the fact there are a lot of collective efforts we can also join in to make a difference.
Volunteer on holiday
Of course you can also head off on a volunteer holiday, helping bears in Romania, cheetahs in Namibia, preserving rainforest in Brazil. You can go on a wildlife holiday, showing governments and locals that you want to go and see their wildlife, so it’s important to preserve it.
Making a donation
And of course, we can all donate. We can give our support to petitions and campaigns, donate money to causes, give a gift of an acre to save the rainforest, support an appeal. There is no doubt about it, every donation really helps to save wildlife and you can’t get around that fact. Even £2 will help. It’s important to remember that while £2 or $2 isn’t a lot in the UK or US, it is a huge amount of money in other parts of the world.
You may never see those you work to help…
A key part of looking after wildlife and doing your bit through volunteering involves looking after the places in which they live. You may not even see an animal when you volunteer – they may be a bit shy and elusive, or only come out at night. They maybe on the other side of the world. Becoming a nature detective can be a great way to discover who has been visiting your garden while you’ve been asleep in your bed or watching TV.
And finally, there’s nothing like the feel good factor when you do something for somebody else. It makes you want to do it again, and again, and again, and each time you get a warm glow inside.