A Day in the Life: Volunteering at a UK Outdoor Centre

Posted on the 30th October 2018

Lattitude’s UK Marketing & Recruitment Manager, Emma Tallent, spent a sunny, autumnal afternoon visiting old & new volunteers at one of our favourite Outdoor Placements; Longridge Activity Centre, on the banks of the river Thames in beautiful Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

I had a lovely afternoon last week, when I popped in to say farewell to one of our longstanding volunteers, Amy Mutton from Australia, who’s been doing a great job at Longridge Outdoor Activity Centre since February 2018.

The Centre Manager, Suzie Skehill, told me Amy has been a total star, always willing to muck in & rise to a challenge – she’ll be missed!

I was greeted by a smiling Amy, who kindly gave me a tour around the communal Boathouse where all the live-in staff stay for the season.

“It was a bit of shock to the system when I first arrived, sharing the Boathouse with 14 people, but it certainly meant we all made friends quickly; it’s like living with a big family (including the ups & the downs ;-)”

The site is bright and welcoming, with murals painted by previous Lattitude volunteers (above), and our recent volunteers have been getting creative too:Good job Chenika!New German volunteers, Anja Durr & Luisa Himmler brightened up this Bosuns Store with a lick of paint:

The lodgings are pretty spacious, with a nice large communal kitchen & dining area for volunteers to hang out and eat together:

It also has a private garden and onsite washing machine.

It’s important to keep things tidy with so many people in & out with muddy boots and soggy clothes!

So stick to the site rules, and you’ll be fine 😉

Amy & Chenika from Australia:

Both Amy & Chenika were always fascinated by the UK on the other side of the world, and decided this is where they’d like to spend their GAP Year.

Amy had set her heart on an outdoor placement as she felt school roles would be too structured for her, and discovered Lattitude’s Australian website after some research.

“A lot of other organisations were full, but Lattitude managed to find me a place to start in February after applying in July 2017.  The staff were quick & efficient and I liked the idea of having support on hand if needed”. 

Whereas Chenika was unable to find a role as a nanny in the UK so had approached Lattitude regarding teaching placements within a school:

“At my initial interview with Lattitude, they picked up on my outgoing nature and suggested I challenge myself with an outdoor placement; I had never even been that keen on P.E. at school, but my role here has changed my path; I’ve become much more responsible and developed my eye for detail. 

“It was a steep learning curve and the work can be long and challenging, but there’s always a rewarding outcome.  I love it so much that I’ve extended my time here and Longridge are keeping me for another year on an apprenticeship!”

Chenika is now training for her level 1 Watersports and Safety & Rescue certificates and should obtain her powerboat licence next year!

Challenges:

Both Amy and Chenkia found it hard being so far away from home, but Chenkia was comforted to hear that a fellow Australian was already on site and the girls have really bonded, using holiday time to travel together to the Lake District, Ireland and Paris.  They also found the Facebook page that Lattitude set up useful to communicate with other volunteers.

Chenika learned quickly how to use the public transport system and Amy has found that she deals with things better now her confidence has developed.

“The team here are really understanding and took time out of their day to help reinforce any training we struggled with and make us feel at home.  I actually enjoyed the challenge of being away from my family (although they called every day the first month); it’s made me much more independent.”

Highlights:

Both girls were really impressed how Longridge cater for people with special needs and the way they can accommodate wheelchairs.  Amy thoroughly enjoyed Lord Bill’s week:

“It’s lovely to be able to help kids with special needs to do these activities; you form a great bond with them and I was proud to be awarded the ‘Alright Buddy’ Award!”

Chenika enjoyed it when return kids remembered and appreciated her:

“I helped this one boy with autism to get to the 3rd step on the Jacob’s Ladder and it was such an achievement”

Amy & Chenika have been helping our September intake of volunteers train up & settle in:Amy & Agustin from Ecuador prepare the kayaksAnja from Germany & Agustin are on linen duty!

Although Amy will be missed, we wish her all the best when she returns to Oz to study Sports Science; with all the skills she’s learnt on her Gap Year, we know she’ll do well!

Amy’s last day at the centre is Halloween!

And we’ve still got Chenika and the new volunteers to hold the fort!  Good luck with the apprenticeship Chenika 🙂

Thanks to Suzie and all the team at Longridge Activity Centre for hosting, and to all our volunteers from overseas who commit to the challenge of doing something so worthwhile in their Gap Year.

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