Here are the stories of Ben Taylor and Sarah Cowley who were lucky enough to win placements working with their favourite charities through the Vodafone Foundation’s World of Difference 2010 programme.
Established to encourage people to do more for charity, the scheme selects 500 people from across the country and provides them with salary and expenses, allowing them to donate their skills and experience full time for two months to a cause they are passionate about. These stories were included in a feature I secured in Wiltshire Magazine as part of a regional media campaign.
Ben Taylor – Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
My wife and I moved to Wiltshire in 2004, searching for a better quality of life and finding it in a charming little cottage in Burbage. Skirting the Savernake Forest and within a short walk of the Kennet and Avon canal, it provides us with a wonderful home to bring up our two beautiful children, Harry (5) and Bea (3), and the recent addition of a much loved lurcher.
Established in 1962, the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is supported by its loyal members and many, many volunteers. For the last two months I have been one of those volunteers through the Vodafone World of Difference programme. My placement has been a precious opportunity to give something back to a local charity doing amazing things for our local environment.
At its heart, the Trust works to create a sustainable future for both wildlife and people. It approaches this in a unique way, combining the management of 42 nature reserves with the work it does with local communities in promoting sustainable living.
Using my skills as a communications professional, I have been working on a huge variety of projects, from the Sarsen Trail (a yearly fundraising walk from Avebury to Stonehenge), to Climate Week and plans for the Trust’s 50th birthday in 2012 – something you will be hearing more about very soon!
If you live in Wiltshire you have probably enjoyed a walk on a Trust nature reserve, or your children may have learnt about sustainable living through its extensive schools programme. In 2010 alone the Trust worked with more than 15,000 pupils.
It encourages people to reduce food waste through composting, demonstrates the benefits of real nappies, tackles invasive plants, protects endangered species and works with military communities to provide the opportunity to enjoy nature to name but a few of their projects.
My work here has changed my perspective on many things – especially my attitude to waste. The passion of the people here and the work they are undertaking has ensured that I will continue to volunteer whenever I can and help in the spreading the good work of the Trust and the ever present need to grow its membership. If you’re not a member already, maybe you should consider it. It’ll help us all enjoy the beauty of Wiltshire long into the future.
To find out more about the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, visit www.wiltshirewildlife.org.
Sarah Cowley – Wiltshire Heritage Museum
Wiltshire has been home for myself, my husband and two daughters for three years, since we returned to England after five years in France. We live in Roundway, a hamlet on the outskirts of Devizes, surrounded by farmland yet a ten minute bicycle ride from the centre of town along the old ‘Quakers Walk’.
Our old farmhouse looks out onto the millennium white horse and it is said that, in the Civil War, the Cromwellian general had breakfast here before being defeated in the Battle of Roundway Down.
Ever since our first visit to the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes, it has been a firm favourite for me and my daughters. Behind an unassuming Georgian facade, it is a hidden gem, with a nationally recognised Bronze Age collection.
Every day I am there I visit a different case, and each time something new catches my eye; a small but beautifully formed gold knot ring, a perfect Iron Age pot, not to mention fulfilling my childish desire to put on the (replica) centurion’s helmet which sits on top of one of the many dressing up boxes.
The idea of applying for a Vodafone World of Difference placement came from a chance discussion with David Dawson, director of the museum and a powerhouse of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. Although my normal working world is as a change and leadership consultant for large organisations, I was delighted to be able to take up the opportunity to become immersed in another world.
Like all independent museums, the museum’s financial position is not guaranteed and, at times could be best described as fragile. My work has been to help the museum become more sustainable, looking at fundraising, publicity and sponsorship.
Too many are unaware of the breadth and depth the museum offers and I have particularly enjoyed introducing people to the museum for the first time, each time to be greeted with “I hadn’t realised what a wonderful place it is… I must bring my children/mother/great uncle!”
Although I have been able to do a lot of work from home, every time I am at the museum I feel great pride in being part of such an inspiring place. The lead times for my work tend to be long, and I will be working with the museum throughout the year to do my bit to ‘make a difference’.
The museum itself is going from strength to strength and, through the efforts of David and his team, has just been awarded a grant towards the first stage in building new Bronze Age galleries.
Being able to contribute even something small has been immensely satisfying, and an experience I will always value.
To find out more about the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, visit www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk
Photography by Ryan Tabor