Volunteering in and out of the Office

Sam Lightfoot – LEADER Programme Volunteer

I have been volunteering with the North York Moors. Coast and Hills LEADER Programme for almost four months now. The current LEADER Programme is in its final year and is currently undertaking a thorough evaluation to assess how it has performed, and identify its strengths and any areas of weakness that could have been improved upon.

As part of this process I’ve produced, administered and analysed a survey of  Local Action Group members to find out about their experiences of the LEADER Programme, how the Programme here has been of benefit to them and how they feel it has helped to support and improve our rural communities. I’ve also been on a number of monitoring visits and learned about the diverse range of projects that have been supported by LEADER as well as the innovative ways in which the Programme has been helping to address local needs.

During my time as a volunteer I have gained a practical knowledge of the LEADER approach, the issues affecting rural areas and how LEADER seeks to address these. I have enjoyed meeting the interesting and enthusiastic people who share a commitment to improving the quality of life in our local communities.  Over the next few weeks Jo Collins (LEADER Programme Officer) and I will be producing case studies of projects that have been supported by the current Programme, including visiting and photographing many of the small scale projects supported by the five LEADER Small Scale Enhancement Schemes throughout the area.

In addition to the work I have done with LEADER, I have also been out and about with other members of the Conservation Department. I’m really interested in the flora and fauna of the countryside and try to improve my identification skills at any opportunity. I was therefore very pleased to be invited to help with recent botanical survey on Levisham Estate with Alex (Conservation Graduate Trainee), and to assist with the collection of wild flower seeds at Rosedale and Sutton Bank with Ami (Conservation Land Management Adviser) and Alex.

My next new challenge will be to produce a ‘places to visit’ guide for the local BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) community champions to use, which I will be researching and writing over the next few months.

Volunteering has been such a positive and beneficial experience for me that I hope to continue for as long as I can. My role has had the flexibility to suit my personal circumstances and I’ve been able make the most of my available time by gaining practical on the job experience, and also working autonomously from home on suitable tasks when I only have the odd hour to spare. I have gained practical skills and experience that compliment my academic qualifications, and am pleased to be making a contribution to the National Park and wider North York Moors, Coast and Hills LEADER area. The work that I have undertaken so far has given me a sense of achievement and increased my self confidence and self esteem. I have met so many interesting and inspiring people and am very grateful to all who have taken the time to share their knowledge and experience with me.

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