How micro volunteering is the perfect way to spread a little kindness: Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve

February 17, 2022
Published by Eileen

Kindness comes in many guises and at its core is helping out other people when they need it, but kindness can extend to neighbourhoods, groups, communities and so much more.  To celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week from 14th to 21st of February, we’re highlighting the benefits of micro-volunteering, and share a special story from the Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve. Hopefully, this will give you some great ideas on how you can spread a little kindness.

Micro-volunteering takes a simple idea – that people are more likely to volunteer their time in short and convenient, bite-sized chunks – and turns it into a new approach to community action. It offers volunteers a series of easy tasks that can be done anytime, anywhere, on their own terms. Micro-volunteering doesn’t always need to be a physical task, many tasks take place virtually by phone or the internet too. 

The Covid Pandemic and the challenges it presented created a wave of kindness and people stepping up to do one-off volunteering tasks to help those who needed it. There were wonderful examples of micro-volunteering, where people stepped up to do things to help others be it face to face, by phone, by email or online.   They shopped for their neighbours, called to check on people who were shielding, ran virtual coffee mornings and provided someone to chat to online via Facebook.   

What is micro-volunteering? 

The term micro-volunteering is contested and is used by organisations in many different ways, however, the IVR and NCVO produced a report ‘The value of giving a little time: Understanding the potential of micro-volunteering research. This identified 8 defining features. 

  1. Duration – it involves small increments of time  
  2. Access – it is easy to get started and do  
  3. Immediacy – it is quick to start and complete and requires minimal planning
  4. Convenience – you decide when and where 
  5. Level of formality – no formal agreement between the organisation and the volunteer is needed  
  6. Frequency – it can be a one-off or repeated 
  7. Activity – it involves discrete actions 
  8. Location – it can be online or offline 

“Micro-volunteering is bite-size volunteering with no commitment to repeat and with minimum formality, involving short and specific actions that are quick to start and complete.” The value of giving a little time: Understanding the potential of micro-volunteering.

Micro-volunteering can also be a great way to look after yourself 

The benefits to mental health and wellbeing from volunteering are well documented. Maybe giving an hour or two of your time could be the way you find some ‘you’ time.  This could be how you ‘find your medicine’ and #bekindtoyou.

An hour’s volunteering here and there could help you feel more positive, boost your self-esteem and make a real difference to an individual or your local community.  You pick what you want to do and when you want to do it, to see where it could take you.

I wanted to shine a spotlight on an amazing local group that make a huge impact on a beautiful green space in the heart of our borough. 

At Saltwells, while lizards sleep….. 

Saltwells Nature Reserve has offered micro-volunteering opportunities for many years.  Once a month on Sunday, you can turn up at 10 am in sensible footwear and tackle a variety of environmental challenges. Who wouldn’t be intrigued when they receive an email with a heading like this? Here are some of my favourites: 

  • Saltwells – the time to hack is back 
  • This Sunday will be tree-mendous! 
  • Sunday is funday! 
  • Balsam bashing – Rampaging our way to inner calm 
  • Bring on 2022! 

If you would like to find out more about these Sunday sessions, please email Alan Preece, Senior Nature Reserve Warden at Saltwells National Nature Reserve –  

Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve show their kindness to the environment

The Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve  was established in March 2019, following a successful community campaign to protect an area of land, surrounded by the nature reserve, from a potential housing development. Our voluntary group consists of members of the public who wish to preserve and enhance the National Nature Reserve for the benefit of the local community and all who use it. We work closely with the wardens at Saltwells and assist with many different environmental and community-based projects. 

In autumn, we were very pleased to have been recognised and nominated for a Dudley CVS Kindness Award! We were even more overjoyed to receive the Main Group Award for Stepping up in the Community! Our award is proudly on display in the new Warden’s Education Centre at Saltwells National Nature Reserve and has attracted many kind comments from site users.  

“As a dedicated group of volunteers, we aim to show our kindness to the environment in many different ways.” 

We have applied for, and have won trees that have been planted in various spots across the National Nature Reserve, we have recently set up a new bird feeding station to assist with the 2022 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and we have assisted our local, licensed bat ecologist, to carry out annual surveys of the bat boxes. Our Friends Conservation Group has carried out habitat improvement for Bats as well as other species that need our help to thrive in our wonderful urban nature reserve. As an active Friends group, we have secured funding for many small initiatives and have assisted the wardens by funding the hire of a mini digger, for path improvements and to aid ongoing Geo-conservation on site.  

“We enjoy connecting with people and passing on our enthusiasm for the natural environment and the benefits that it can bring to everyone involved.”  

We run regular ‘Come and See’ events where the public can learn about a different aspect of Saltwells each time and maybe make a friend or two. We recently held a Christmas Wreath making workshop in the new classroom and were happy to see people developing new craft skills with natural materials collected by various conservation volunteers. There will be more events like this during the coming year, so please follow us online and join us at one!

Since the award ceremony in October, we have connected with some other volunteers and community organisations. We are very keen to engage the next generation in environmental matters.  

“Our group assists the wardens in educating children and young people about nature because, after all, we need more ambassadors for the environment!”  

In 2022, we hope to be able to offer some more opportunities to plant trees and make environmentally inspired art and crafts.   

We thoroughly recommend a visit to Saltwells National Nature Reserve, where you can show yourself some kindness and enjoy a walk on one of the many self-guided trails. Our newest project will eventually be located, just off the Cinder Bank entrance of the reserve, and will be a route called the Wellbeing Trail. Why not make a nature connection today? Wrap up warm and escape to another world. While you’re there, consider how you could show some environmental kindness. The Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve would like to welcome you to one of our events and activities. We’ll see you there soon!”

Find The Friends of Saltwells Nature Reserve online:  

Need some inspiration from our Kindness Campaign #bekinddudley? 

Why not visit our storyboard from our 2021 Dudley CVS Kindness Awards to see what local people are doing to be kind to other people and their communities?  

#BeKindDudley – How can you get involved?  

Take the Winter Challenge 

Here is a 25-day challenge of random acts of kindness, with simple things you can do to help others in your community. Are you ready to take the challenge? 

Download and share resources

We have put together a few resources and intend to add to these to help you join the wave of kindness across the Dudley borough. You are most welcome to download these or, if you would prefer, you can collect these from our office in Albion Street. 

These include: 

Has someone ever done something kind for you, and all you wanted to do after was pay it forward? That’s because kindness is a chain reaction.  

We would love you to share your stories using our special hashtag on Twitter or Facebook using our hashtag #BeKindDudley. You will see some wonderful posts from those attending our Kindness Awards 2021, but we need your help to keep the kindness flowing.  Why not tell us if you’ve been the recipient of kindness or have done something kind? Share your photos and tell us all about it, or get in touch via email, we’d love to hear from you!

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