17/08/2009
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Sleeping on the job saves charity millions

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The RSPB is celebrating 30 years of its residential volunteering scheme this year. And the wildlife charity says that volunteers staying on site has saved them millions of pounds and allowed them to carry out work they could never dream of paying for. Since official records began in 1996, there have been over 8,199 volunteers on the scheme, and they have achieved 33,808 weeks of work. This is valued at almost £7.5 million. It is the equivalent of having an extra 55 full-time members of staff each year on RSPB nature reserves.


Original residential volunteers at Abernethy (Photo: RSPB)

The RSPB's residential volunteering scheme began over three decades ago, and it was born from a few dedicated individuals wanting to protect the endangered Osprey in Abernethy, Scotland. Back then, volunteers endured extremely basic conditions to provide 24-hour surveillance for the birds of prey, often camping in flimsy tents in inclement weather and cooking on tiny stoves. Nowadays, there are over 40 RSPB residential volunteering sites in the UK, and many have state-of-the-art accommodation and facilities.

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Residential volunteers dedicate a minimum of one week to the RSPB, but many volunteer for periods of six months or even more. Residential volunteers get involved with the whole spectrum of the RSPB's conservation work, such as creating and managing habitats, monitoring wildlife, surveillance work and showing people round nature reserves. Practical tasks could include anything from scrub clearing and burning, nest surveying, porpoise counting or mowing grass, to repairing walls, creating paths, working in the visitor centres or taking visitors on guided walks.


Today's residential volunteer accomodation at Abernethy (Photo: RSPB)

Kate Tycer, RSPB Residential Volunteering Manager, says: "We genuinely couldn't do much of the work we do across the UK without our residential volunteers. These individuals have given us almost 1.3 million hours of work since we began recording it in 1996 — and doubtless millions more since residential volunteering began in the late 1970s. The RSPB offers residential volunteering opportunities all over the UK, from remote island sites to busy nature reserves. It is an opportunity to work with fantastic wildlife in beautiful settings, coupled with a chance to meet like-minded, friendly people."

Anyone aged 16 or over is eligible to take part in the RSPB's residential volunteering scheme and it is free. Participants just have to provide their own food for the period they are staying on site.

Written by: RSPB