Ten Years On
I can’t believe it was 10 years ago that KWT asked me to write a few words about why I volunteer and how I have found it. Well, they have asked if I could update my story, and in doing so, I found that have actually done quite a lot during those years!
Cardiff Rivers Group (CRG) celebrated its 10th anniversary in July this year and has grown from 6 volunteers to a contact list of over 600 people who join our regular activities. We have completed over 200 events and collected hundreds of tonnes of rubbish. In 2015 we were awarded the Queens Voluntary Service Award, regarded as the MBE for community groups – a great honour (and yes, we did celebrate quite a lot!).
CRG is one of the best things I have been involved with. Fantastic people and very good friends. It also allows me to fulfil a childhood dream of selling scrap metal (no, my wife can’t get her head round it either). We are always happy to see new people and you are guaranteed a warm welcome.
Looking back, getting involved with Keep Wales Tidy showed me what communities can achieve when they come together, so I decided that I wanted to get into a position where I could work less and volunteer more. It took me 8 years, but in 2017 I was offered the opportunity to leave paid employment. Quite a risk, but I took it and it has been the best thing ever.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In 2011 I joined the board of KWT as a trustee and stayed until 2018. (In September 2019 I was asked to rejoin and was very pleased to do so.) During this time, I also undertook an MSc in Charity Accounting and Resource Management, helped set up Keep Grangetown Tidy (local litter-picking group), set up The Dusty Shed (a charity based on the Men In Sheds idea) and spent 8 weeks in Lusaka, Zambia, helping charities out there (a real eye opener).
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. 2013 was a dark year and I had a particularly low time. My friends in CRG got the brunt of my issues and anger, but to their credit (and my ongoing thanks) they got behind me, and along with the support of wife, I got through it. I had got everything the wrong way around, everything was building up and it all became too much. I didn’t say anything until it all went wrong – a lesson learnt! Don’t let things build up – talk to someone.
It was during this time that I had to really assess what was important and being a Finance Director (even though looked good on the CV) was right at the bottom of the list. So that’s when I set out to change things round. With the support of my wife, and the real friends that I have made through CRG and KWT, I think I have got to where i want to be.
So, what does the future hold?
Firstly, being aware of what has happened before – don’t take too much on, be prepared to say no and don’t worry if something doesn’t quite go to plan.
Secondly, be confident – yes plan and prepare, but then get on with it. The big event coming up is a trip to Buckingham Palace to collect my MBE. I was immensely honoured to be included in the Queens 2019 Birthday Honours list for services to the environment, thanks to the efforts of my friends in CRG, something that would have never happened if I hadn’t started on that volunteer journey 10 years ago.
So, summing up, getting involved in volunteering since we moved to Cardiff has completely changed my life and is now at the forefront of what I do. I now recognise the signs when mentally things are starting to get to me and can deal with it, not least through talking to my new genuine friends. I am physically fitter and have pushed myself in all sorts of directions. So, do I recommend it? Yes, I do, wholeheartedly. The opportunities are there to help others as well as yourself in all sorts of ways – physically, mentally and intellectually.
By volunteering for just a couple of hours a week you make a real difference to you and others.
Why I got involved
My name is Dave King and my wife and I moved to Cardiff from Surrey in the summer of 2008. As I had been involved for several years in volunteering, primarily on conservation projects with organisations such as the RSPB, and thoroughly enjoyed it, I was keen once here to do something along similar lines.
I looked at few options but what appealed most was the work that Keep Wales Tidy (KWT), and what the Tidy Towns project in particular, was trying to achieve in and around Cardiff. I therefore contacted KWT to see if there was anything I could help with and met up with Indeg Jones Project Officer for Cardiff for a coffee and a chat.
Through Indeg I have participated both during the week and at weekends in a number of multi-action days with the police, park rangers, and council enforcement teams clearing rubbish in residential areas around Cardiff. These included community days with ‘Friends of Ely Gardens’ and ‘Friends of the Crystals’ tackling fly tipping that has been going on for years, and most recently a joint effort between Glamorgan Anglers and Tidy Towns to tackle the build up of rubbish upstream from Blackweir on the banks of the River Taff.
The whole experience has been great and I have met some excellent people, but it is this last exercise that I have probably enjoyed the most. It has led, with Indeg’s support, to the formation of an organised group, the Cardiff River Group (CRG), to undertake regular clean-ups of the banks of the Taff and support official bodies such as the Environment Agency and others, tackle issues around litter and fly tipping.
Although very much in its infancy, there is a core of really friendly, committed individuals who simply want to give something back and make a difference. Our initial efforts really have made a visible difference and we plan to hold regular events from the autumn onwards, not only along the Taff but the Ely as well. It is amazing what a few people can do in just a couple of hours if they put their mind to it.
So what next? I am obviously going to be quite busy in setting up and helping organising the CRG but I have also, through Tidy Towns, got involved with the Cardiff Urban Bat Survey (CUBS) to assist with what is likely to be the largest bat survey ever held in South Wales, and in helping the Butterfly Conservation Society with habitat management in the Vale of Glamorgan. Hopefully the CRG will get itself established very shortly and perhaps encourage further groups upstream from Cardiff to get established to help preserve and maintain, what is both a haven for wildlife and a great social resource for South Wales.
Would I recommend getting involved? Absolutely! The thing with volunteering is you can do as much or as little as you wish. For me it is a great way of exercising while at the same time actually making a difference. Being able to walk along the river free of litter and rubbish I know improves the quality of life who live or work around the area. Volunteering for me has to be both enjoyable and rewarding, and if it helps me get fit and see some of the great countryside on our doorstep so much the better. But perhaps the best thing is that you will meet like-minded, friendly people who not only want to do something positive but have fun doing it!