Volunteers' Week 2022 - Meet Julie

30 May 2022

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in”. 

This year, SWA is marking Volunteers' Week with profiles of some of our own amazing volunteers, without whom we could not operate as we do today. Most of our volunteers work at the Green Wood Centre, helping us to maintain the site, or at local woodlands and community projects close by. In Wales, volunteers are essential for assisting us to run numerous social forestry programmes throughout the country. 

Introducing Julie, who volunteers in Neath and Port Talbot. Julie was nominated by Katie, our Woodland Project Officer, for being 'flipping amazing and hugely inspiring'! 

My name is Julie James, I am 45 years old and a single parent of two sons. I also have a beautiful puppy called Dottie . 

I support leaders running 6 week programmes in Craig Gwladys country park, I help with engagement and participation, creating a fun and safe place to enjoy the benefits of being part of a team outdoors. I encourage and support people to develop new skills and develop any existing ones. I also try to support people to develop confidence in themselves, and their own abilities, and help leaders with the setting up and clearing up of session.

I started volunteering after being a participant. I felt a sense of belonging for the first time in a long time, so welcomed by the leaders and got so much out of the sessions . I love the outdoors and like many people, had found the pandemic very difficult. Things had been personally difficult for me for some time, and being out in nature gave me a sense of calm, and peace where I could practice mindfulness and learn new skills. I wanted to help the charity in any way I could alongside my current commitments, raise awareness of the amazing work they all do and learn new skills.

To date, I have done my outdoor first aid qualification and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am hoping to be able to attend more training in the future. The benefits  have been numerous - I feel part of something special, that makes a difference to the environment and the community. I am learning new skills in a safe non judgmental environment whilst being outdoors.There have been some challenges around gaining knowledge, as I suffer with self belief and lack of confidence. I am hoping to get some help to finance courses which will allow me to develop my confidence. Finances and time restraints can also be barrier.

My future plan is to complete forest school training, in addition to any other training and sessions I can. Boosting my confidence is an important long term goal, and I would like to eventually gain employment with Coed Lleol. My advice to anyone thinking about volunteering would be to reach out and apply . They will feel welcomed, encouraged and supported . It would be the best decision they have made.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering for Small Woods / Coed Lleol, find your local project officer details here: