Is it Friday again yet? My adventures in volunteering with EIA

Today is the UN’s International Volunteers Day and, to mark the occasion, one of our regular volunteers has written a special blog to give you a look behind the scenes..

Ben V

Why did I decide to volunteer at EIA?

The idea of volunteering in the environmental sector had been gnawing at me for some time before I eventually made my decision.

During the past few years, I’ve built the beginnings of a career in the pharmaceutical sector and while I do enjoy my current job as a Communications Manager at a pharmaceutical company, I’ve also come to realise that my true passion lies in the natural environment and contributing to its protection.

A few months ago, I finally decided to act on this impulse and, luckily, my employer agreed to let me transition to a part-time contract, freeing me up to invest a full day a week in volunteering. Let the search begin!

I first came across EIA while scouring the web for volunteering opportunities and, after reading about its campaigning efforts and hard-hitting investigative reports, I knew this organisation had everything I was looking for and applied immediately.

I was pleased to receive a quick response, asking for my area of interest and availability, after which I swung by the office to get to know the team. Since I have some prior experience in communications and am also keen to learn new skills in this area, particularly in how they relate to an NGO in the environmental sector, it was felt the Communications team would be a good fit.

Two months later and here I am! Every Friday, I make my way to the EIA office in Islington (conveniently located just a tube stop away from where I live), keen to hear what the team has in store for me that day.

EIA’s approach to volunteering

My time at EIA so far has been extremely rewarding, largely as a result of its comprehensive approach to volunteering, with a dedicated Volunteer Coordinator overseeing all the volunteers, tracking our progress and acting as a point of contact for any questions or concerns we might have.

Most of the work I’ve done has so far has been with the Communications team and from the start my supervisor, Luke, has put a lot of effort into understanding what I’m seeking to get out of this experience and has consistently linked my tasks to those development needs.

Whenever the team decides on a new job I can help out on, somebody always makes sure to explain the broader context: why is this important to the organisation and what is it trying to accomplish? Why is expertise in this area important for a Communications manager in an environmental NGO? This is a very motivating approach and I feel like it’s creating a true win-win for my volunteering experience – on the one hand, I contribute my time to help the team tackle its workload (which, suffice it to say, is large!) but at the same time, it’s helping me to develop my skills in exciting, new areas I otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.

A day in the life

A typical Friday at EIA will start with a quick touch-base with Luke, who usually has several tasks in mind for me to work on. Some of my time will typically be allocated to ongoing operational tasks such as captioning YouTube content (many people nowadays watch videos without sound, plus captions make our content accessible to hearing-impaired audiences) or cross-checking our database of journalists with recently published articles to ensure we are reaching out to the right media contacts.

If EIA is in the process of launching a new report (such as the most recent one on supermarket plastic usage, Checking Out on Plastics) or some other written material, I’ll typically also have some proofreading to do: one of the benefits of only coming in once a week is being a fresh pair of eyes with which to spot any pesky mistakes which slip through the net!

A lot of my time is then spent writing, which I thoroughly enjoy, from writing copy for the new website (watch this space!) to pulling together a blog post such as the one you’re reading right now, these jobs are a great chance to use my creativity and add my personal voice to the work I do here.

In between these activities, there is usually always something going on and the team has been great at pulling me along to meetings thought likely to be useful for me to take part in. Whether it’s deciding on how to select a new website developer or brainstorming video content for an upcoming campaign, attending these sessions has given me a great insight into the daily priorities of the team as well as helping me get to know my teammates.

A personal highlight has been going through media training for being interviewed on camera, which was lots of fun (and a bit daunting to see myself on screen!). The training is usually given only to the full-time campaigners but is now being offered to the volunteers as well to support their development.

Suffice it to say, my Fridays are packed with varied and stimulating work and have quickly become the highlight of my working week. It’s great to be able to contribute to an organisation such as EIA in whatever way I can and, on top of that, I’m learning a lot and really enjoying myself along the way.

Is it Friday again yet?

 

Ben VerpaalenBen Verpaalen