Volunteer views from Kew Gardens
Read accounts from Kew's volunteers. Find out more about their experience and how individual volunteers are helping to make a difference at Kew.
Claire McGough (2002 - present)
I first started volunteering at Kew in 2002 when I was ‘between jobs’, working in the Plant Records Office. At the time, hand written wildlife records about the plants and wildlife found in the Gardens were being added to a database so that information could be collected centrally. I worked with a great team of people and felt that I was making a small contribution to finding out more about how climate change is affecting the environment. The highlight of my time with this team was being taken to see a wild plant that not been recorded for over 50 years!
On the volunteer induction day it was interesting to find out what motivated other volunteers to give up their time to work at Kew. The common view was that it provided a learning opportunity to find out more about plants; some wanted to move into the horticultural field, but many said that they welcomed it as a complete change from the ‘day job’. What is certain (as I was soon to find out), is that Kew is unique in having such a wide range of expertise amongst its staff. From scientists to educationalists and horticulturists, they all share a common passion for plants. I think this ‘passion’ soon rubs off on the volunteers and it is one of the reasons why volunteers keep returning! I am constantly amazed at how knowledgeable the volunteer guides are and how keen they are to update their knowledge.
When my full time job became part time, I jumped at the chance to do some more volunteering at Kew. This time I am working in the Volunteer Co-ordinator’s office. The work is varied and it is exciting to feel that you are involved in building up one of Kew’s important resources. I also recently helped out with the Tropical Extravaganza display which included exotic plants such as orchids, Bromeliads and Anthuriums. The camaraderie amongst volunteers and staff at these one-off events is great. There is also a sense that you are all pulling together to create something wonderful for the public to see.
I haven’t mentioned the location, but that goes without saying! Nothing beats walking through the Gardens on a crisp Autumn morning, when there are few people around, or looking out from your office across the lake to the Palm House and working in an historic building. Very different benefits from those of the ‘day job’!
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