Lead volunteer, Charlie, tells us why she enjoys volunteering with her team, and how vital their work is to keeping canals alive.
Q. What do you do when you volunteer with us?
My role as lead volunteer changes every day. The volunteering group always start with a meeting in the morning though, to go through what we will be doing for the day, and then go through any necessary health and safety actions.
Our work within the South Docks area can include vegetation removal, heritage work along the Royal Albert Dock, litter picking, working with the education or event teams, and providing our knowledge and support with activities.
We speak to boaters who are visiting or mooring permanently within the docks, lock keep, and work closely with the volunteers on the Stanley Flight. We regularly go out on our very own biddy boat to check and maintain the water within the docks; we do this along with Liverpool John Moors University ecology team and our own ecology team.
Q. Was there something in particular that made you decide to volunteer with us, and how did you come across this opportunity?
I have mental health problems which make it hard for me to find full time employment, and came across an advert when the South Docks Team were just setting up. It's great for me as it's flexible and different every day, and the team are more like family than colleagues which makes it more relaxed and enjoyable.
Q. Do you think you have benefitted from volunteering with us?
I have benefitted massively since being with the Trust. The longest position I was able to hold prior to this was nine months due to my anxiety over workload and mental struggles. I have borderline personality disorder and bipolar which is hard work, but the team are amazing and they check in on health regularly.
They can see when I am switching or having an episode; they have no problem if I need to take a mental health day and are really supportive even with my daughter. She is included in our volunteer work during the school holidays and we do more litter picking and child friendly activities then. I felt the benefits within the first three months of starting with my team. I was the first volunteer so I have watched it grow and become the team it is today.
Q. Do you think you have learnt something from volunteering with us?
I have definitely learnt so much volunteering. I've completed my training to become a lead volunteer. I now know how to sail boats, after completing Helms training at the Trust, and I have more historical knowledge of the docks and what boats and buildings were here. I've also completed training at the Trust so I can provide first aid support.
I have also learnt about the ecological side and how to help preserve the marine life and its ecosystem for future generations.
Q. Has anything surprised you about your experience with us or our canals?
Yes! Who knew there was so much fun to be had volunteering and getting involved with events on our local waterways? I live by a canal and only used it for walking the dog prior to working with the Trust, and only visited the Royal Albert Dock on rare occasions.
Working with the Trust has opened my eyes to the other things going on, like canoeing and paddle boarding days, fishing events for kids, marine life days and so much more. I regularly attend events now, with my daughter and she loves it.
Q. Why do you think volunteers are important for the Trust?
Volunteers are the very heart of the Trust. Without them it simply would not be able to function. The hours given and effort put in by everyone is amazing and I am truly inspired by other volunteers too. Each volunteering team is vital and without them there wouldn’t be a waterway system worth having.
Q. How do you think you fit into keeping canals alive?
Working where our team does is at the very end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, so our role is vital in making sure that the people and boaters who use the waterways are happy and safe.
Q. What is or has been the best part about volunteering?
The best part about volunteering, for me, is being able to bring my daughter with me when she’s off school to join in with litter-picking. She's also completed the young person's lock keeper training.
I am currently in my second year, studying Ecology with the Open University, which I never would have thought possible. The support of my team and the Trust colleagues I work closely with have given me the confidence and push I needed to take a leap of faith.