Young volunteers develop work skills for future
East Lothian Junior Rangers is a group run by the East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service for local young people aged between 11-18 and who are interested learning about the natural world. They meet twice a month in term time, and go out exploring East Lothian wild places. Through this they gain not only knowledge of local wildlife and the Countryside Ranger profession, they make new friends with similar interests from across the county. The Junior Rangers in East Lothian were set up as part of a pilot project developed by the Scottish Countryside Ranger Service (SCRA). The development of the pilot project has now meant that there is a network of Junior Ranger groups run by different Ranger Services across Scotland.
This is Matthew’s story - a Junior Ranger from East Lothian.
Matthew joined East Lothian Junior Rangers in September 2013. In the beginning, he was shy and nervous joining an already established group; however he soon made his mark. Matthew has Additional Support Needs, which can affect his initial understanding of instructions. Despite this, he was able to flourish as a member of the Junior Rangers, fast becoming a well liked and integral member of the team.
Matthew threw himself into the many tasks that he was a participant on from hill navigation in our local Lammermuir Hills and developing his survival skills by learning natural fire lighting skills. He also worked on learning about using different hand tools and how they are applied in conservation management of countryside sites. Matthew says: “I have been at the Junior Rangers for about 2 years plus and have taken away from my time with them skills that I would never have thought I would have been able to do like cutting down unwanted plants, dead trees which I carry on to help my Family in their gardens especially myNana and my Cousin Claire in her new house”.
Some of Matthew’s best work was assisting in the RSPB’s Big Nature Festival at Levenhall Links. Matthew considers his time at the event invaluable: “My overall favourite times were at the RSPB days at Levenhall Links working with Jen and Richard two of the Countryside Rangers, meeting the public and explaining to them what we did”.
He was able to show visitors to the East Lothian Countryside Ranger’s marquee all about the wildlife and landscapes of East Lothian and assist children in a willow weaving craft area.
The Junior Ranger Award is a scheme open to any SCRA affiliated Junior Ranger group. The Award was developed to compliment a Junior Ranger group that would be working to develop a young person’s knowledge of the countryside profession. It was designed to fit in with SCRA’s Continuing Professional Development Ranger Award. Therefore, a Junior Ranger would develop skills that are directly linked to a Countryside Ranger’s job profile.
Over the three years that Matthew was part of Junior Rangers, it was evident that he was a great example of how long term work with the Countryside Ranger Service could benefit an individual. He is now enrolled in a local college and intends to come back to volunteer with the East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service with one of the local Friends of volunteer groups.
And the final word goes to Matthew himself.
“Best of all was working with all the other Junior Rangers and the Rangers themselves, learning outdoor skills that I would never have done otherwise, but also having fun”
If you are interested in any aspect of the SCRA Junior Ranger programme please contact Jen Newcombe at email@example.com
First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering Groundwork on 19 September 2016