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PARK TALK: Vow to volunteer

20th January 2023

By Xander McDade, Cairngorms National Park Authority Board Convener.

Happy New Year! I hope that 2023 is a prosperous one for the Park’s residents, businesses and visitors.

For those of you who like to make New Year resolutions, I hope that you have considered volunteering as a suitable pledge for 2023. Volunteering comes in many forms. From working in a food bank, litter picking, path maintenance or wildlife recording – the hours that you can spare are invaluable and hugely appreciated.

There are lots of opportunities to give something back and a good place to start – certainly if you are interested in environmental volunteering – is by signing up to the Volunteer Cairngorms mailing list where you will be kept up to date with who is looking for some extra help, where and when.

While thinking about volunteering, I came across this on the internet – the top 10 reasons to volunteer…

  1. It is good for you.
  2. It enhances resources.
  3. You gain professional experience.
  4. It brings people together.
  5. It promotes personal growth and self esteem.
  6. Volunteering helps your community.
  7. You learn a lot.
  8. You get a chance to give back.
  9. Volunteering encourages civic responsibility.
  10. You make a difference.

I think volunteering is as important now as ever so numbers 6 and 10 ring true to me!

The Cairngorms National Park Authority operates a volunteer ranger service, working alongside the professional services in the Park and – while a larger commitment in terms of your time is required – it is a great way to learn new skills and meet new people matching well with reasons 3, 5 and 7.

Another valuable way to volunteer in the Cairngorms National Park is by becoming a volunteer health walk leader. As a health walk leader you lead your local health walk and take turns helping plan or lead walks. It is a very flexible and role and you would be supporting those people whose resolution might have been to get more active in 2023.

Looking at number 1 on the countdown, where it references that volunteering is good for you, studies have shown that volunteering can help to reduce stress and improve a person’s health and wellbeing. Focusing on someone or something else for a time can offer an escape and the knowledge that you are doing something worthwhile improves a person’s mood and emotions.

I cannot think of a single reason NOT to volunteer – even if it is just a few hours a month – your contribution, however small can make a massive difference. If you haven’t already made your resolution for 2023, now is the time to volunteer to do something and witness the difference it can make to you and your community.

Away from volunteering – as it’s a paid role – but another way to really make a difference in the Cairngorms National Park is to stand for election to the Board of Park Authority. Elections are in March and there is lots of information on our website if you want to know more.