30 May 2018

The Prince’s Trust Youth Index 2017 report reveals that young people’s wellbeing is at its lowest ever level since it started in 2009. At Chester Zoo, volunteering can help to transform the lives of young people and help to build their confidence and aspirations. Hayley talks about her experience after suffering with anxiety and depression.

“Hi I am Hayley.

“I live in Ellesmere Port after leaving school I went to college to study Health and Social Care and was offered a temporary position as a Nursing Assistant at The Countess Of Chester Hospital. But I suffered a setback, I became unwell with anxiety and depression which really knocked my confidence. I didn’t know what to do until my support worker told me about Visitor Engagement Positions at the zoo. So I went along to an open day at the zoo, I then applied and was accepted. I couldn’t believe it I was so happy. I couldn’t wait to get started.

“The volunteer programme at the zoo has been a wonderful experience. I have enjoyed learning about all the animals and the conservation work Chester Zoo is involved in. I really enjoy talking to the visitors about this. You have to be prepared to answer all sorts of questions but you don’t have to remember or know everything about the 20,000 animals  so don’t worry.

“The training and support I have received at the zoo has been fantastic. I have been made to feel so welcome by everyone. For six weeks I have been paired up with existing volunteers, these are called buddies. They have been brilliant at showing me the ropes. I was nervous for my first shift. But my nerves have now eased, now I am excited to start my shifts. My confidence has been boosted.

“As a volunteer no two days are the same. You are always learning something new. We are based in a number of areas around the zoo. These include The Islands, Realm of the Red Ape, Aye Ayes, Butterfly House, Jaguar house and the Aquarium. Since I have started volunteering I have never looked back. I hope to work permanently at the zoo one day.

Seeing all the different animals and their colours is uplifting. Especially the colours of the butterflies. The antics of the Sun Bears and the orangutans are also amusing to watch.

“I would encourage anyone to volunteer because it has been the best therapy for me. I hope I am a good ambassador to Chester Zoo and made a difference through talking about conservation work and the animals. I love speaking to visitors and making sure they get the most out of their visit to the zoo. Anyone thinking about volunteering, do so because it has made such a positive difference to me. Chester Zoo has helped me build my confidence and has made me so happy. My anxiety has reduced through volunteering and I can’t thank the zoo enough. I have enjoyed every minute of volunteering and I am sure you will too!