At the start of 2023, we introduced a new policy for all FSS employees. Everyone who works here can now take two days away from work, fully paid, to volunteer.
This policy ticks lots of boxes for us as an organisation. The benefits of volunteering are well-documented, so we know it supports the mental health of our workforce – something that’s at the core of many of our workplace policies. Volunteering will broaden our employees’ skills and give them an opportunity for personal development. And as public education is a major objective for FSS, the volunteering scheme provides an informal opportunity for staff to talk to members of the public about the great work that we do. On top of all that, it means we can support lots of great causes.
We caught up with some of the team who have already taken advantage of the policy to find out what they’ve been doing with their volunteering hours.
Jacqueline Hall | Volunteering at Warm Spaces Kingussie
Jacqueline has used most of her hours with Warm Spaces in Kingussie. This weekly drop-in scheme at Kingussie church hall was set up by local resident, Eppy Mackay, for anyone needing warmth and community. When there, Jacqueline’s role is to help serve the tea, coffee and soup that visitors can enjoy free of charge and manage the food sharing table, which is kept stocked by locals and the nearby Co-op. Of equal importance is the time Jacqueline spends chatting with visitors, most of whom are elderly and like to bring their knitting to pass the day in a warm, comfortable and sociable space.
“There’s a really lovely community feel to it,” says Jacqueline. “I spend quite a lot of time working from home, so I often don’t see many people during the day. It was nice to meet a different group I wouldn’t come across in my usual daily life.”
Jacqueline was surprised by how much she benefited from her time spent volunteering. “I’ve always read about the health and well-being benefits of volunteering, but I don’t think it’s until you actually do it that you can understand its physical and mental effects,” she explains. “I remember driving away from doing a few hours one Thursday, and I just felt so good, like I’d done something worthwhile with my day.”
When asked how she manages to fit volunteering into her busy working week, Jacqueline is quick to promote the flexibility of the policy, saying, “You don’t need to take the time as full days – I went for four hours one afternoon. I’ve always been interested in volunteering but often wondered how to fit it into my spare time. It felt great to do it during work time, and it’s made me feel really grateful to work for FSS.”
Kingussie Warm Spaces is open every Thursday between 10am and 4pm.
Andy Ellingson | Volunteering with the RSPB
Andy spent a day with the RSPB, planting native trees that have been adapted and hardened to cope with the weather conditions in the Cairngorms. Having always been interested in the RSPB’s work – and their re-wilding projects in particular – Andy relished the opportunity to get involved in a volunteer project that took place during his usual working hours.
“The RSPB has a tree nursery, and when the timing is right, volunteers and RSPB staff go out to plant the trees in pre-determined locations,” explains Andy. “I was able to join for a hike out to a remote location to help with that. I was really impressed with the work they had done to choose the site. The RSPB team had discovered a site near the River Nethy, where the river had eroded areas of bog and revealed the remnants of large old trees, which showed the area was once forested. It was an incredibly interesting experience and I really felt like I was contributing something to the community.”
For more information on this project, visit Cairngorms Connect.
Laura Ross | Helped out at her son’s class trip!
Laura came to the rescue when she was able to use her hours to be a helper on her son’s nursery trip. The trip was on the verge of being cancelled due to lack of volunteers, so she decided to make the most of her volunteering time to step in so that it could go ahead.
“As a full-time working parent, it’s always difficult to get time to help out on school/nursery trips and activities. Thanks to our new volunteering policy, I was lucky enough to get to accompany my youngest son’s nursery class to the fire station. Seeing the joy on the wee ones’ faces was so rewarding, and my son’s pride in exclaiming “That’s my Mum!” was priceless!”
Janette MacKay | Donating Stem Cells via Anthony Nolan
Janette really went the extra mile with her volunteer hours, using the time to take two days off work to donate stem cells via the Anthony Nolan charity.
“I donated stem cells to help a patient with blood cancer,” says Janette. “The charity informed me a few months later that the recipient is recovering well, which was great to hear. I couldn’t have done it without the support of FSS giving me that time away from work.”
Read more about the work Anthony Nolan does.
Marion Procter | Volunteers with Girlguiding Brownies
Marion is a lifelong volunteer with @Girlguiding, having helped run Brownies groups since she was a Brownie and Guide herself. Now the Brownie Leader for the Kingussie group, Marion was driven to get involved because it was such a positive experience for her as a young girl.
“I felt a sense of belonging there,” she elaborates. “Guiding isn’t competitive, which was good for me. And I grew up with four brothers, so I also liked the chance to be in a female space.”
Like Jacqueline, Marion is aware of the benefits she gets from volunteering, explaining that she particularly enjoys seeing the Brownies grow in confidence as they get older: “When they first start, they’re quite young – only seven – and you can see how much much they grow by the time they leave, aged ten. Seeing how much they benefit from being in Brownies is really rewarding.”
Marion’s role comes with a fair amount of responsibility and commitment, so she appreciates that she can now use her workplace volunteering hours for some of the planning she has to do. “This policy is definitely a positive,” she enthuses. “It indicates that Frontier Science Scotland is thinking about how they can help develop employees, and shows they’re trying to be a considerate and supportive employer.”
Find out more about Girlguiding.