Jon Stopp has volunteered for the Canal & River Trust since July 2011. His official title is ‘Adoption inspirer’, but what does that actually mean? Here Jon tells us about his varied role, getting out in the countryside and about putting his professional skills to good use.
" I appreciate the opportunity to put my skills to good use, and of course to do something to help the countryside and the environment." Jon Stopp
What is your role within the Canal & River Trust?
My official title is ‘Adoption inspirer’ but that covers a variety of things. As well as engaging with adoption groups I also organise volunteer days, run volunteer days and sit on the Volunteer Advisory Group. I’m an all-round ambassador for the Trust and for volunteering.
How did you first get involved?
In July 2011 I found that my software business in London was starting to take up less of my time and that I had the opportunity to get involved with something else. I already volunteered as a Countryside Ranger in the Forest of Bowland, and I wanted to do something similar, something to do with the environment.
So you weren’t all that familiar with the canals back then?
Not at all. I had no idea that the Grand Union Canal ran through Watford, or that the Regent’s Canal had so much to offer to corners of London. 18 months ago I wouldn’t have known that the Rochdale Canal went from Manchester right up the lovely Calder valley to Sowerby Bridge. In fact I would have been hard pushed back then to find even Sowerby Bridge. It’s been a real eye-opener for me!
What did you originally volunteer for?
I originally volunteered to help out the volunteer leader in the Manchester & Pennine waterway. Once there, my role started growing and I became involved in waterway adoptions. Then, when the volunteer leader role became vacant, I stepped in to keep the list of volunteer opportunities going while they recruited for the position.
How much time do you spend volunteering with us?
It’s difficult to put a precise time-scale on it as often I’m just doing a few minutes here and there, answering emails and sorting things out. I’d say around 4 days a week though.
And how do you spend that time?
In a variety of ways! Developing a relationship with an adoption group is extremely time-consuming. With adoption groups it’s about the community as much as it’s about the canal. The people involved want to help the community and part of my role is to get involved with that.
It’s the same with volunteer groups. You see the same faces coming back again and again. It pays to spend time developing a relationship with them.
Do you work on specific projects as well?
Of course. One project I’m working on is the Owl Scheme, where we get the people on the canals – who use them to walk to work for example – to tell us what’s happening on them. That way we can use volunteers to plan and co-ordinate our future volunteer activity. And it’s about wildlife and the environment as much as it’s about tidying the towpaths.
I’m also a member of the Volunteer Advisory Group where I’m working with Caroline Killeavy (head of community engagement at the Canal & River Trust) to hone our volunteer offering. We know that we can offer volunteers much more than you would typically expect.
Do you still volunteer as a countryside ranger?
Yes I do. I love being out and about in the countryside. When I’m volunteering with the Forest of Bowland then I get involved with more physical activities, re-building dry stone walls and that sort of thing. When I’m out and about volunteering with the Trust, my role is more supervisory, guiding other volunteers. The two roles are very different, the only link is the countryside.
You spend a great deal of time volunteering. What do you get out of it?
I enjoy spending time with people. And by people I mean other volunteers as well as Trust staff. I also appreciate the opportunity to put my skills to good use, and of course to do something to help the countryside and the environment.
Last date edited: 15 March 2016