By Michelle Dano
Volunteering is a unique and rewarding experience. Managing volunteers is perhaps even more rewarding.
I started in my position as a Conservation Volunteers (CV) event leader without much knowledge of what goes into running a volunteer program. I have quickly learned that it is full of challenges and it keeps me inspired every day.
After finishing my degree in biology from the University of Ottawa, I was feeling pretty drained.
For four years, I had spent day after day studying and researching the myriad environmental issues and challenges that our society faces. I began to believe that the challenge was too monumental; too intense! My hope in a brighter future was dissipating.
This was not okay with me. How could I go through my entire life having such little hope for our environment? These feelings of apathy would often be heightened after reading media stories and scientific literature. When I started applying for jobs in those crazy months before graduation I made a deal with myself that I was going to be the light that I so desperately wanted to see in others. I was going to go out into the world and be a force for change wherever I landed.
I was so excited when I accepted the CV event leader position with the Nature Conservancy of Canada in Regina. It was my chance to get out of my rut and to not only be a source of hope but inspire others to have hope and be agents of change as well. Little did I know it would be the other way around.
My first day in the office I met so many wonderful and passionate people who were actually making a difference every day. I was so inspired that I would get to be a part of this team who was so dedicated to conservation.
My journey continued with the CV events in May. These participants gave up their free time to do manual labour. You know you have amazing supporters when they come out on a cloudy day to roll barbed wire and pick up 50-year-old garbage! I was so honoured to be able to work with these amazing people from so many walks of life.
The residents of rural Saskatchewan continue to amaze me and I hope the following story puts a smile on your face as it did with me:
Saskatchewan was very rainy this spring, and I am new to the province so I am not completely familiar with how rain impacts this type of landscape. One very wet Friday, we went to scout out the entrance to a property. We were planning on hosting a CV event there the next morning and were worried the road would be too wet. When we got there it was not only too wet to drive, but the road had transformed into what seemed like a fully established wetland!
We had volunteers coming early the next morning and we didn’t want to disappoint. My colleague suggested we call around to see if anyone knew an alternate route to the property. I was skeptical that anyone would be able to help us on such short notice. Fortunately, I was very wrong.
The first man we called immediately went out of his way to help us get across his own property to reach the NCC property. He rearranged his day and met us at his house bright and early. He so kindly led us across his farm in our trucks and opened the gates for us. His only stipulation was to close the gates when we left! This man showed such kindness to us and he left me speechless.
I used to think just ecology nerds like me were interested in ecosystem health but now I realize that there is a wide and diverse group of people who care. I am so fortunate to be in a position where I can meet so many of these passionate people. Needless to say, I am hopeful again. So whatever your cause, whatever your source for doubt may be, I challenge you to go out into the world and do something about it. I promise you’ll be met with the same enthusiasm and kindness you offer. It’s people like the man in my story that make the world a better place.