Visitor Engagement Volunteer Danielle shares her story for Volunteers Week 2021.

Volunteering gives Danielle a way to fulfil her long awaited dream of making a positive difference for wildlife in a place where she shares a personal connection with her late mother.

Danielle shares her passion for photography with other volunteers, which helps increase her confidence and wellbeing…

“I first heard about the opportunity to volunteer with the zoo through the member’s magazine. I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to give back to the zoo for the thousands of fantastic memories made over the years with my late mum, who passed away in 2016. Volunteering also helps me shout about conservation, raise awareness of its importance, along with helping to prevent extinction.

“I have always loved animals since I was very young and have wanted to do whatever I can to help save them, so I felt like seeing the opportunity was a sign from my mum to tell me to follow my dreams and what I deeply believe in. I also wanted to meet more like-minded friends, boost my confidence, and get outdoors to help with my mental health and anxiety.

“I started my volunteer training as the pandemic first hit; we managed to complete two weeks at the zoo before they closed their gates. We finished our final group sessions online via Microsoft Teams, watched presentations, and split off to do group activities in online rooms.

“As the zoo reopened, we could complete the practical side of our training out in the zoo with an experience volunteer buddy. We observed their interactions with visitors whilst also having a go ourselves – making conversation about conservation and answering any questions before becoming fully trained volunteers and heading off into the zoo in locations on our own.

“I fit in volunteering around my part-time jobs at Morrison’s and McDonalds. I recently married my partner of 10 years, some of our wedding photos feature Chester Zoo’s Janya statue from the city centre! Janya was a gift to the city of Chester from the zoo in 2010.

“In my spare time, my passion is photography. I visit the zoo with my husband as much as I can to create and capture many happy memories and the cheeky, individual personalities of the animals. In the future, I would love to live out my hobby daily and do wildlife photography on a more professional level whilst sharing the importance of conservation and preventing extinction.

“My favorite part about volunteering with the zoo, is the family feeling I get when I enter those gates – everyone is equal at the zoo!

“We are always learning and gain a lot of support from our volunteer managers, keepers, rangers and many other members of the zoo family. There is always something to do even if you can’t get into the zoo, there are micro-volunteering opportunities you can do from home; I have really enjoyed writing transcripts for the zoo’s live event videos during the lockdown.

“Becoming a volunteer is the best decision I have ever made. There is no better feeling than after a shift knowing you have changed someone’s mind about something and positively impacted conservation. Whether it be about using sustainable palm oil products or making someone aware of the illegal wildlife trade and buying gifts when abroad, it is all a positive impact you are creating, it has boosted my confidence.”

“I have made new lifelong, like-minded friends. There is nothing better than spending a few hours in the zoo talking about subjects you are passionate about and hearing all of the animals going about their day around you!”

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