Below Claire tells us why she wanted to get involved in volunteering:
“Hello! I’m Claire, and I’ve just finished a three year degree in Animal Behaviour. I’ve loved animals as long as I can remember (as long as anyone else can remember, for that matter), and I’ve always wanted to be in a position where I can work with and around them. I’ve done a lot, ranging from dog walking to being a Keeper for a Day at Chester Zoo. I’ve grown up going to Chester Zoo, and have always wanted to contribute to the fantastic work they do!
“I applied to volunteer the summer before my third year of university, and started training alongside my third year studies. I’d worked through a research scholarship at the start of the summer and spent a lot of time keeping up with my studies, so volunteering fit the balance of education and down-time perfectly for me!
“Training was a mixture of excitement and terror! I remember being sat in one of the training sessions and having a complete panic about how on earth I was meant to remember all the facilities and conservation messages. But it was also amazing; especially getting our uniforms – there was an almost unifying feeling about that.
“My first day was a cold, bright day, much better than the following day, which was lashing down with rain! As seems to happen nearly every shift, I met a visitor with an incredible story. She was returning to the zoo after fifty years, and was telling us of the memory she had of being lifted into a boat ride by her parents, so she’d come back to do it again! I was only meant to be on for an hour that first day, but ended up staying for about four, purely because I was enjoying myself so much!
“On the surface, it is fantastic being around the animals all the time – especially when there are births – but, for me, it’s being able to meet new people all the time and learn new things. The keepers are always willing and able to stop and have a chat, though I’ve learned more about crocodiles from seven year old boys than anyone else!
“I’m a lot more confident in myself. Talking to new people every day certainly breaks down fear of public speaking! As a result, I’ve been doing better in my presentation assessments at university than I have in the past two years, and I’m definitely carrying over the interpersonal skills from volunteering to my workplace.
“Additionally, the opportunities we are given when volunteering have made it a lot easier for me to bring practical conservation home (rather than make donations online), and has taught me so much about the projects Act For Wildlife (Chester Zoo’s conservation campaign) support around the world.
“If you’re passionate about animals and you want to help save them, then volunteering is definitely suited to you. You’ll learn so much, and become part of a really amazing family, you definitely wouldn’t regret it.”