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Volunteering at Spencer's Retreat

Your name: Rebecca Silver 

Department/Centre: Research and Impact Services 

Can you briefly tell us a bit about your ‘day job’ at Warwick?  

I’ve worked at the University for quite some years in a few different roles. My current postData Science Research Facilitator and The Alan Turing Institute University Liaison Manager – is unusual but hugely rewarding. My days are rarely the same. Ai is a very fast-moving arena.

And what’s your current situation?  
I am very fortunate to be able to work from home. 

What activities are you currently involved in to help with the COVID-19 emergency?
Volunteering at Spencer’s Retreat (part of the Langdale Trust) in Berkswell. It’s a small farm which operates as a charity and offers a fun, safe and understanding environment for children with special needs and their families.

Although I didn’t have skilled labour to offer, everyone welcomed me warmly! I was very passionate as a youngster about animals, especially horses and ponies, so I offered to help out mainly with their grooming and wellbeing, checking fences, field maintenance and so on. As a volunteer you also get to feed all the other animals and, of course, make a fuss of them whilst there are no children to offer them attention. 

There is still much to do to get things ready for when the farm is able to re-open and welcome the families it is destined to support and I hope my small contribution will go some way in getting them there. They have a garden taking shape too, so the children can take part in other things around the farm. There are lots of sensory areas to be completed.

With work commitments, I decided to use some of my annual leave so I could commit to a regular input of hours at the farm and hence I've made some amazing new friends.

What inspired you to volunteer/get involved?  

I saw Spencer’s Retreat’s appeal on social media some weeks ago – they were in dire need of volunteers as they had lost all the local support days committed due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The idea of being outside in the fresh air within lockdown rules sounded like an ideal way to switch off from all the things that were making me feel anxious and unsettled, with the added bonus of doing something really worthwhile.

Have you ever done anything like this before? 

I’ve never volunteered for anything like this, although I have volunteered at Age UK in Coventry over the last few years.

What would you say to other people considering getting involved in something similar? 

If you can, do it – it’s such a great feeling to offer even a few hours to help someone or something. It also helps you to switch off, which we all need to do to stay healthy.

Do you think volunteering in the community is something you’d like to continue once life gets back to ‘normal’? 

Definitely, if I couldn’t use my Friday afternoons, I would go in the evening or weekends. I think I’d forgotten what it was like to completely switch off and get out in the fields and the fresh air. Animals will accept as much or as little input as you are willing to offer them with no judgement, just the occasional nudge!

If you’d like to get involved with volunteering at Spencer’s Retreat please visit: https://www.facebook.com/berkswellretreat/ 

“At times such as this, it is more important than ever for us to work together with our regional neighbours and partners as a single community.”

– Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor & President

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