The Down to Earth project (D2E), based in Swansea was awarded £716,529 funding from the People and Places funding programme for their ‘Building Community’ project. Judith Thatcher tell us what volunteer with the project has meant to her:
“My involvement as a Volunteer with D2E came about at a time when I had made a significant change in my life. I had chosen to take voluntary redundancy from a very well paid job that was occupying more and more of my time and causing me a lot of stress. It was a huge decision as I saw my job as a large part of my identity.
My background is in environmental studies and when I was not working long hours or managing data on the computer at home on weekends, I would spend as much time as I could outdoors, dog walking, gardening. After three months off work I started looking at volunteering opportunities to identify what area I want to re-focus my career into. I had already decided that I was not going to work for a year and take the time to find me again. The opportunity as a volunteer mentor with D2E seemed positive and ticked the boxes of being outdoors, working constructively, taking care of the environment and most of all working back in contact with the people who needed some support in their lives. As a manager I had lost my contact with learners and missed out on seeing individuals succeed and grow in their confidence and well-being.
Having supported two groups of participants at Little Bryn Gwyn, I feel that I have benefitted personal in the following ways:
Realistic pace to life – having come from a very busy further education environment I was constantly on the go, pushing, striving, meeting deadlines. Being in the D2E environment helped me calm down, start finding the reality again and taking on board that to be a successful person I did not need to have a massive list of accomplishments
Personal well-being – I feel that without the links with D2E staff, other volunteers and participants I would not have maintained such a positive state of mental health during a very difficult period in my life of changing job and significantly ending a long term personal relationship. Just being out in the middle of nowhere for a couple of hours a week, helping others and contributing to a fabulous build has just grounded me, kept me sane
Learning sustainable building methods – there has been so much that I have learnt about the build, the processes and the range of materials used
Achievements – I feel a great sense of pride in that there are parts of the roof that I helped lay, part of the decking that I screwed down, hidden bits of sheeps wool that I put in place that will keep users of the building warm, parts of the walls that I coated with a reveal layer of clay mix and areas of the land that I have worked with others on to maintain
Supporting participants – it has been a great pleasure to work with two very different groups of participants. I have benefitted from seeing individuals achieve outcomes that they did not think they were capable of – climbing onto the roof, using a hammer for the first time. To know that the work that I did helped someone achieve is very rewarding and uplifting. To see individuals leaving the site tired but energised has been a brilliant. The second group of participants ABMU set me a new challenge, I was well versed in working with people with additional learning needs but this was very different. I was working alongside people who were had the skills and the support that I had to offer really made me think, it’s hard to describe how challenged I was. I could have been one of those participants if I had carried on working the way that I was.
Friendships – I have been really fortunate to meet some wonderful people during my times at Down to Earth, both staff and volunteers. I have shared time with so many people with such great life stories and wonderful information to share.
And lastly I think the work that I carried out at D2E has stood me in good stead for the new role as Safeguarding Officer that I have just started at Llys Nini Animal Centre. It has given me a different outlook to be realistic about achievements and also to be thorough about the plans in place to support participants.”
If you would like to find out more about volunteering with the Down to Earth project, visit their website.