Year of Volunteering campaign – Volunteers help Chester Zoo’s fight for survival

Volunteers have played a key role welcoming visitors back to Chester Zoo and making sure they remain safe.

The Year of Volunteering campaign, which is run jointly by Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA) and Cheshire West and Chester Council, celebrates the role volunteers play in their communities.

October marks Older Volunteering Month, looking at how older people across west Cheshire are making a real difference through volunteering.

After three months of closure pushed the UK’s biggest charity zoo to the edge of extinction, Chester Zoo was given the green light to reopen in early July in line with the latest NHS and Government guidance.

Volunteers have played an important part in the zoo becoming COVID secure, forming part of a Welcome team dotted around the site to guide people and offer a reminder about social distancing, sanitising hands and wearing face coverings.

The Save Our Zoo campaign saw an unprecedented number of adoption packs sold to support the zoo. More than 14,000 packs had to be processed, printed and packed, which wouldn’t have been possible without the volunteers at Chester Zoo.

Lindsay Marston, Volunteer Manager at Chester Zoo, said: “Connecting with our volunteers has been so important as we wouldn’t have been able to do what we have done without their support.

“Some people couldn’t wait to get back volunteering, but others want to stay at home so it’s important we provide volunteering opportunities online for people to get involved with.

“We’ve provided training and support for all our volunteers to make sure we’re COVID secure and they felt confident to return to their roles. Some of them have even been volunteering from home for our zoo.

“Many volunteers have expressed how important volunteering has been for their health and wellbeing. We know that lockdown was an isolating experience for some of our volunteers.” 

Margaret, who volunteers at Chester Zoo, added: “It’s been lovely to have the opportunity to volunteer once again at the zoo following lockdown.

“The time in isolation became difficult so being part of the Volunteer Adoption Pack team was great because I really enjoy meeting new people. I’ve really loved being able to spend time with volunteers that I don’t normally meet with.

“I know it was an important task to help raise money for the zoo as it was in danger of closing.”

If you have a volunteering story you’d like to share, please email enquiries@chesterva.org.uk. November is Business Volunteering and Trustee Month. As part of the Year of Volunteering campaign, nominations are also open for Volunteers Awards Month in December.

There are several different awards, such as Younger Volunteer of the Year, Older Volunteer of the Year, Inspirational Volunteer of the Year, Special Contribution to the COVID-19 Response and more.

The deadline for all nominations is 30 October. From 1 December, the Council and CWVA will be announcing the different winners daily and putting together stories to highlight all the great work they’ve been doing.

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