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Published: 18th JANUARY 2023

Lauren’s story: My experiences working and volunteering for Sustrans

After losing her job in the arts sector during the pandemic, Lauren managed to find work as a Support Officer at Sustrans Cymru. Since then, she’s been able to return to work in the arts, but still maintains close ties with Sustrans through volunteering. In this blog, Lauren discusses her experiences and her favourite aspects of volunteering.

An image of Sustrans volunteer, Lauren, whilst she's out on a litter pick. The image shows Lauren, in a high-vis tabard, in front of some greenery, holding a litter picker and looking into the camera.

After discovering Sustrans, Lauren has gone on to work and volunteer for the organisation. (Credit: Lauren McNie)

I started working at Sustrans Cymru as a Support Officer in September 2020, after losing my job in the arts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I hadn’t heard of Sustrans before I applied, but after reading about their work, they seemed like a fantastic organisation to work for, and I was thrilled when I got the job.


A glimpse into what Sustrans gave me

Starting a new role during a global pandemic was definitely a daunting situation, but my new colleagues couldn’t have been more welcoming, supportive, and helpful (despite us all working remotely to start off with).

I worked at Sustrans for a year before returning to work within my main passion, the arts, once theatres were back up and running after the lockdowns.

I loved working for Sustrans and was sad to leave, so I decided to sign up as a volunteer.

That way I could still be a part of the organization and stay in touch with the lovely friends I’d made there.

Part of my role as a Support Officer was to assist the Communications Manager with Sustrans Cymru’s social media accounts.

I really enjoyed this part of the job and thought it’d be a good way for me to volunteer around my new full-time role.


What I do in my volunteering and how I stay involved

So now I mostly create tweets for awareness days and link them to the work that Sustrans does.

For example, on World Book Day I posted about the literary locations from various children’s novels that can be found along the National Cycle Network, and on International Day of Persons with Disabilities I posted Amanda’s story, which is a really powerful piece.

In her blog, Amanda talks about using an adapted cycle called an Ice Trike and the importance of traffic- and barrier-free paths for people with access needs.

An image of NCN Route 884 - the image shows the route, which is surrounded by vegetation and some trees, on a sunny day with blue skies with a cyclist in the distance. There's also a disused railway path running alongside the cycle path.

Lauren's volunteering involves getting out onto and helping to maintain the National Cycle Network. (Credit: Tim Morris/Sustrans)

Connecting with other volunteers in my role

I also retweet important updates from the main Sustrans Twitter account to inform our Cymru followers of our UK-wide work.

Regularly checking the main Sustrans account means that I can keep myself informed and up to date with the organization as a whole.

One of my favourites, though, is our volunteer Rangers in North East Wales and their Twitter account.

I tend to retweet their posts and photos to showcase the fantastic work they do to maintain the National Cycle Network, keeping it clear and safe for everyone.

It’s so inspirational to read their posts and see their pictures of groups of people coming together and enjoying themselves whilst doing something to help the community.

I often use our Rangers’ tweets to promote our volunteering opportunities in Wales, as it gives people who are thinking of donating their time an insight into what volunteering for Sustrans really looks like.


Plenty of ways to get involved through volunteering

Alongside the social media support, I also occasionally don my hi-vis vest and head out to do litter picks in my local area.

The great thing about volunteering with Sustrans is you can give as much – or as little – time as you like, so it’s really easy to fit around your other commitments.

And with something like litter picking, it’s also a lovely excuse to get out in the fresh air and get some exercise.

I’ve been volunteering for over a year now and would really recommend it to anyone who’s looking for some motivation to get outside, looking to make new friends, or give back to their community.

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