Give it up!

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Working for the National Trust means you can do your bit for the environment and make friends at the same time

Andy Elliott, 26, is a physical education teacher at Ringwood school near Bournemouth, Hampshire

Volunteer role

Leader of National Trust's Youth Discovery holidays for 16 to 18-year-olds Who inspired you to volunteer?

A friend had been on one of the trust's Active working holidays and suggested it would be right for me. As I didn't have a lot of money and it was a cheap holiday, I decided to try it out. I really enjoyed my week in the High Peak district, doing what is called consolidation work, with two days off for activities. The second holiday was just as good, and I decided to become a youth holiday leader.

Did you receive any training?

I was given formal training to become a leader. There were seminars on how the holidays run, problem-solving exercises and advice on dealing with young people.

What do you enjoy the most?

The social side is fantastic, as you meet many different people from very different backgrounds. I have made some good friends. Added to that, you are outside all the time in beautiful parts of the country.

...and the least?

Travelling to the sites; there are not that many mountains round Bournemouth.

Has the experience changed you?

It has made me far more aware of the issues of access and conservation of the environment. I used to walk or climb for the challenge; now it is more about enjoying the nature side. It has been fascinating to learn from the wardens; the experience has helped me in the way I interact with children in school.

Has volunteering affected your working life?

Ringwood takes part in the Eco Schools and the Duke of Edinburgh gold award schemes and I can help direct those taking part to the National Trust. I have developed a personal ethos which has altered my approach in school.

Will you volunteer again?

Definitely. The leaders' training course was in the same place as my first holiday. It was just great to see how the hedgerows were starting to grow up around the fences we had made to support them. It felt as if I had achieved something.

Do you encourage others to volunteer?

Yes. I don't go around preaching, but if I think someone would enjoy it, I do mention the holidays.

Volunteers@nationaltrust.org.uk 0870 609 5383. www.yearofthevolunteer.org

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