New year, new challenge

Robert Paterson (left) and Sam McAuliffe students of Oatridge College volunteering in marsh clearing at The Ecology Centre
Robert Paterson (left) and Sam McAuliffe students of Oatridge College volunteering in marsh clearing at The Ecology Centre

are you seeking a new challenge, needing to get work experience or wanting to meet new people and get out a bit more?

Then volunteering could be just what you are looking for.

The Ecology Centre in Kinghorn offers a wealth of volunteering opportunities at its Kinghorn Loch setting for all ages and interests.

From Project Scotland work which enables people aged 18-30 who are looking for jobs to volunteer while continuing to collect their allowances, to straightforward one or two days a week helping out on the various projects the centre is involved in, there’s something for everyone.

Project

The centre’s Enviro-mentors project invites people to try their hand at tool maintenance workshops, cleaning and repairing used garden tools, equipment and even sewing machines under the watchful eye of experienced mentors; or mosaic workshops, helping to design and make their own mosaics; while there are endless other opportunities to help out with the making of bird boxes, clearing pathways, keeping the marshland clear, weeding garden areas and general maintenance.

Project Scotland volunteers can become involved in many different areas from growing and cultivating to helping out in the office with secretarial work, or doing more specialist work in their areas of expertise.

Environment

Claire Reid the centre’s education manager started off as a volunteer herself before being taken on in her current role where she goes out around schools in Fife the Lothians and Tayside teaching them about caring for their environment.

She said: “Volunteering is great here as it gives people the chance to gain valuable work skills in a practical setting while also helping their local environment.

“As a small charity we also benefit greatly by getting help with some of the labour intensive work and other jobs we may not have the time to do ourselves.

“We have lots of volunteers helping out here, of all ages and from all walks of life. We have college and university graduates, retired people, school pupils and unemployed people, so it is also a great way for people to meet new people and socialise while gaining new skills and enjoying their local environment.”

For more information on volunteering opportunities at the Ecology Centre, call (01592) 891567.

>> Stewart Duffin (23), from Burntisland, found himself with time on his hands after gaining a physics degree from Heriot Watt.

His mum’s friend works at the Ecology Centre and suggested Stewart put his knowledge to good use by volunteering there.

“I started coming along to the volunteer sessions on Fridays as I didn’t like sitting around doing nothing and I just mucked in with whatever was going on,” explained Stewart.

“Then at the start of the summer the centre started up the Eco Explorers project with Claire and as I was interested in renewable energy I was asked if I would like to get on board to help with the science side of things, and Claire suggested that I do it through Project Scotland so I could get travel expenses 
and such like.

“It worked really well with Claire being the arty one and me being able to help create things like working models and the physics side. I did that for a few months and gained very valuable experience.

“Now I am self employed and I still work for the centre helping out where I can. It has been a win win situation for everyone and I would urge anyone considering volunteering to do so.

“It is all very well having a degree, but the practical experience can be just as valuable when you are looking for a job, and this is an ideal way to get it.”

>> Sam McAuliffe (24), from Burntisland, and Robert Paterson (36) from Inverkeithing are both students studying for an HND in Countryside Management at Oatridge College near Broxburn.

They are both gaining valuable practical experience volunteering two days a week at the Ecology Centre.

Sam explained: “I volunteer at the Earthship and I thought it would be good to come here as it would help us on our course as well as helping the centre.

“We come here on Mondays and Fridays as we both have an interest in habitat management and love the countryside.”

Sam has been volunteering for around three months, while Robert began after Christmas.

“People management skills is a big part of our course and if we are working with groups of people here it helps that too.”

The students are currently working on clearing out the marshland, removing grass and mud from the pond areas to keep them clear so that the pondlife can flourish. The ponds are used by the Ecology Centre to take school children pond dipping to discover what sort of wildlife lives there.