Volunteer role: Gardening/ smallholding volunteer at Green Dragon Eco Farm (Hogshaw, near Quainton), Thrift Farm (Waddon, near Milton Keynes), and Animal Antics (North Marston), Bucks
How long have you been volunteering? I have been volunteering at three different farms – Green Dragon Eco Farm, Thrift Farm and Animal Antics – now for nearly a year. They are all smallholdings with both plants and animals so my days are very varied as I do a wide range of gardening work – from digging, weeding to planting – as well as helping with the animals whether it is cleaning out pens, feeding the animals or collecting the eggs.
My roles were set up by Nclude, which provides training and support to people with a learning disability, and, as I show my managers I can do certain tasks, I am then given other trickier activities to do. This means I am always learning!
Why do you volunteer? I enjoy being outside, working with both animals and plants, and would like to get a paid job working on a smallholding one day. By volunteering at the three farms, I am getting lots of everyday experience which is helping me to achieve my goal.
What attracted you to these roles? I had completed two vocational courses at the Berks College of Agriculture – Level 1 in Horticulture and Level 1 in Animal Management – and volunteering on these smallholdings gives me a chance to use my knowledge, practise techniques and build my confidence. The various roles give me a wide range of work experience which I hope will lead to paid work on a smallholding.
What are the best bits of volunteering? Farming and working with animals is a lot of fun and it is very varied: I really like the physical work, such as digging, as well as collecting the eggs. I have really enjoyed meeting lots of people and making new friends – volunteering is very social.
What are the most challenging bits of volunteering? Trying to catch the animals! In terms of gardening, there is a lot to learn and remember – for example, when sowing seeds, I need to remember the different spacing needed for different plants.
What do you gain either personally or professionally from volunteering? I have been able to build on my Horticulture and Animal Management college training, putting things I have learnt into practice as well as learning new things. My volunteering roles have given me lots of experience and helped to build my confidence; hopefully I will be able to get a paid job in a smallholding one day. I have also met lots of new people working in my different volunteering groups so it is a great way to make friends.
Would you recommend volunteering and if so why? Taking on a volunteering role is a great way to find out more about something you are really interested in and to get an idea of what it is all about. You can have fun while learning and helping someone.
Quote from Harry: “You might be unsure what volunteering is about but, if you are interested in something in particular as I am interested in gardening, it is a really good way of finding out more about your interests and getting more experience. Give volunteering a go!”
Quote from Coral Simpson, Nclude: “Volunteering can be a fantastic opportunity for a person with Autism and/or a learning disability. Social isolation can be a big problem so it can offer them a chance to get out of the house, interact with people and make new friends. It can also help them to learn new skills, build their confidence and perhaps be a stepping stone in to paid employment and independence.”Back