by Stephanie Palmer.
“I firmly believe that you do volunteering totally for your own benefit.” That’s the self-deprecating start to my conversation with Marguerite Rayner, volunteer for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
Retired housing officer Marguerite has spent nearly every Monday morning for the past four years supporting the charity’s pre-school forest school at Testwood Lakes in Totton, helping children under the age of four years old, use tools, start fires and foster a love of the outdoors which will hopefully stand them in good stead for the future. Each week, the youngsters get crafty with items found in the woods, toast treats around the camp fire and learn about the nature that surrounds them.
Benefits of volunteering
“This is nice because it’s working with children, which I love and it’s totally different from my original career,” says Marguerite. “And the environmental aspect; it’s not the reason I do it but it makes it more personal, it fits in with my ideology. There’s no conflict with what I believe.”
Marguerite has lived in Totton for seven years and says volunteering has been a great way to find her place as a retiree in her community. “I think it’s important to recognise that and the benefits you’ll get from it,” she says. “You feel really good about yourself. I’ve never suffered from depression but what I understand from it is that what we as human beings need is a sense of purpose and a community and volunteering gives you both of those. When your retire you lose a good part of your identity and you lose your water cooler moments, being part of a group and it’s good to get that back through volunteering.”
Marguerite had previously volunteered in a charity shop but found the work difficult for a surprising reason. “It was the waste,” she said. “I would have to sort through the donated books and most would have to be thrown away. That didn’t sit well with me.”
Now, working with the young wildlife warriors of the future, Marguerite seems to have found her fit. And thanks to her efforts, and those of the rest of the forest school team, pre-school children get to experience nature in a way many parents wouldn’t think possible without their help. Now surely that’s a very nice side effect of Marguerite’s volunteering ‘for her own benefit’.