Building skills and communities through conservation action

In our latest blog Peter Gilbert, Volunteer Development Officer at the Scottish Wildlife Trust writes about the European Solidarity Corps project which was funded by Erasmus+ and is our final funded project through the programme.

The project ran from November 2021 until October 2022 and received 168 applications; we worked with 6 volunteers from 3 countries; France, Spain & Belgium.  The average age of volunteers was 25½ years.

The objectives of the project were:

  • to enhance biodiversity and community engagement,
  • give up to 10 people opportunities to boost life chances,
  • disseminate learning and results.

Volunteers were recruited to work with our Reserves Project Officers in 2 locations; Castle Douglas and Inverness, with 4 volunteers placed in Castle Douglas.  In total they were on placement with us for 42 months with an average placement duration of 7 months and lived as part of the local community in each location.

Boardwalk repair at Knowetops Loch

Volunteers wanted to boost their practical skills, learn more about nature reserve management and improve their English.  They wanted to improve their CV and aid their professional development.

Volunteers undertook 43 different work tasks on 24 of our nature reserves. Tasks could be split into 3 broad categories: reserve maintenance (strimming footpaths, repairing footpaths, boardwalks or bridges) species or habitat protection (removing non native invasive species, control of birch regeneration on peat bogs), surveying (badger, otter orchid surveys).  Altogether volunteers donated 557 days or 3899 hours to the project.  One volunteer even built a moth trap.

They learnt new skills and acquired new knowledge; all volunteers undertook brushcutter training and through daily work on reserves were able to consolidate skills such as tool use, team working, health & safety awareness.

Volunteers felt their biggest improvements had been made in knowledge of Scottish habitats, knowledge of Scotland and use of English.  They had a clearer idea of their educational and career paths.  They felt more employable as a result of their placements.

Water course management at Dalmellington Moss

Two volunteers have found work within 2 months of the project ending, another two volunteers are studying Masters Degrees and one has moved to a new country to look for work.

The Reserves Project Officer North also undertook community engagement work through 10 community volunteer days at Ben More Coigach, Spey Bay and Loch Fleet, engaging with 23 local volunteers.  Our ESC volunteer also helped at our 10th Birthday celebration for our tree nursery attended by approximately 20 members of the local community.  These events gave a platform for our ESC volunteers to mix with local volunteers in a shared passion for conservation.  Notably we worked on a non Trust reserve which helped boost the scope of our engagement work and helped the volunteer group build their capacity building along with the acquisition of skills and knowledge.

Water course management at Dalmellington Moss

As ever, we have enjoyed working with our European volunteers along with the enthusiasm, and willingness they bring to the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Some personal highlights from individual volunteers were;

“seeing minke whales and dolphins on the return from Eigg”

“visiting the North of Scotland”

“meeting people socially at weekends”

 “I also gained a lot of knowledge about nature and wildlife in general”

“It gave me strong skills to put on my CV and motivation to search for work outside France, for the internship and after my studies. It was very helpful on the practical skills and also to meet new people.”

This is our final Erasmus+ project and we thank Erasmus+ for funding the project.

We would like to thank our volunteers for working with us and for all their hard work!

Check out our other volunteer roles with the Scottish Wildlife Trust.


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In our latest blog Peter Gilbert, Volunteer Development Officer at the Scottish Wildlife Trust writes about the European Solidarity Corps project which was funded by Erasmus+ and is our final …

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