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Unleashing the Power of Volunteering: A Transformative Journey at Celtic Harmony Camp

Logo: Celtic Harmony

By David Leigh-Ellis, Project Manager - Lavina's Legacy

Person in stone age costume standing in front of children inside a replica roundhouse
Lo teaching about the Stone Age in the Chieftain's Roundhouse (Celtic Harmony)

Let me introduce you to Finbar the Warrior Celt. Finbar (who when in the 21st century goes by the name of Lo,) joined the team at Celtic Harmony in the summer of 2023. Following a period of working with the team as one of our Conservation Volunteers, he chose to break off a slightly larger piece of flint and undertake our Education Traineeship, a highly unique volunteering role that combines conservation knowledge with the development of practical, ancient skills and provides valuable experience working with young children in historical education.

To back up slightly, Celtic Harmony camp, a hidden well of tranquility lies at the edge of Bourne Wood, a few miles south of Hertford. Our unique site offers a myriad of volunteer opportunities that not only contribute to woodland conservation and sustainable living but also offer a transformative journey for individuals, encouraging teamwork, and enhancing overall personal wellbeing. Despite being part of the National Curriculum since 2014, the Stone and Iron Ages are not that well known to those who left Primary School before then - leading to a bit of a knowledge gap about this period. Indeed, it seems people don’t realise how interesting a time it was. As Lo said to me, ‘It feels great to be a key part of sharing our history, which is so often overlooked, because everyone talks about the Romans but not the Celts.’

Three people in stone age costume standing on a stage in front of children
Three of our top educators, Fei, Gwen and Lo in action in our Prehistory Centre (Celtic Harmony)

Lo began his work here as a Conservation Volunteer in Spring 2023. When I asked him what drew him to the location in the first place he explained that he had ‘recently moved to the area and was amazed to discover a place that brought together all my interests; education, history, nature and art.’

The joy of volunteering is different for all of us but we seem the same reasons cited for getting involved at Celtic Harmony. For some it’s becoming part of something bigger, for others it’s the social opportunities or exercise that it provides. One of the benefits of volunteering with Celtic Harmony is that it can tick all these boxes, plus being a fantastic venue to gain knowledge and fill up that CV or UCAS application with practical, transferable skills. We work with individual volunteers, inclusive groups as well as corporate volunteers. Our Education Trainees get the opportunity to work with all these varied groups and develop their experience adapting their approach and refining their technique. The community here is close and supportive and our Education team regularly share nuggets of history with our conservation volunteers who return the favour with knowledge the educators can utilise in developing the learning opportunities we offer to our visitors of all ages.

Staff working in a woodland around a wheelbarrow collecting leaves
Peter working in the forest with Celtic Harmony Staff. Peter is a corporate volunteer whose organisation enables its staff to find fulfilling volunteer opportunities (Celtic Harmony)

Lo has since moved on to become one of our prized Education Trainees. The Education Traineeship is a superb volunteer role for the right candidate. It combines the understanding and practice of traditional practical skills with the joy of working with young people and it can appeal to both young people at the start of their careers as well as those looking for a change of pace or scene later in life. Candidates generally commit to complete the traineeship over a period of 3-6 months, usually volunteering one or two days per week. The trainees become proficient in friction firelighting, flint knapping and a myriad of other skills. We support them with regular feedback and mentoring. It is a joy to watch their confidence grow as they progress through the program. Lo’s Manager also mentioned that it has been a joy to watch Lo develop confidence, not only when working with the students but also undertaking practical tasks and working confidently within our 14 acres of forest.

Group of woodland volunteers posing in their high-vis
In partnership with Groundwork East: A group of Woodland Workshop volunteers ready to learn about forest (Celtic Harmony)

As part of our Heritage Lottery funded Lavina’s Legacy project we have been looking into how to widen the scope of our volunteering opportunities. The 2022 Community Life Survey states that 49% of those surveyed avoid volunteering opportunities due to ‘work commitments.’ We are strongly committed to supporting companies and organisations with making volunteering part of their company ethos. We now have several volunteers who utilise company awarded volunteer hours to spend time supporting at Celtic Harmony. We are able to be flexible with providing volunteering opportunities that match the level of time that you or your company are able to offer. We have also had significant success with group volunteering and teambuild days, so if you are looking to offer something extra, different from the norm to your employees then we might be able to support you with that.

Beyond the tangible benefits of team cohesion, corporate volunteers at Celtic Harmony gain a deeper understanding of woodland conservation and sustainable living. Through active participation in tasks like habitat preservation, resource prep and specific projects to develop our site, teams learn how their efforts contribute to a more sustainable way of life in harmony with the natural world as well as contributing to the education of children from Hertfordshire and beyond.

Moreover, the impact of corporate volunteering extends beyond the immediate team. It sends a powerful message to the community, showcasing the company's commitment to social responsibility and environmental stewardship. It's a win-win scenario – the team bonds, individuals experience personal growth, and the community benefits from the collective effort.

Imagine your team spending a day surrounded by thatched roundhouses and native woodlands, participating in hands-on activities that reconnect them with nature and ancient traditions. Such experiences have been shown to have a profoundly positive affect as teams learn to work and communicate beyond their usual context and take pride completing a task in a new setting. If any of this is appealing to you, please let us know via https://celticharmony.org/get-involved/. We look forward to welcoming you back to a world of learning, conservation and nature.

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Posted On: 28/05/2024

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