The animal charity fielded 1,500 applications for volunteer roles in two months
The RSPCA has thanked the massive contribution made by its volunteers after enjoying a surge in numbers of those offering their help during the Big Help Out.
The animal charity is marking Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7), which is an annual celebration of the efforts made by millions of people who selflessly offer their time and skills in unpaid roles.
At the RSPCA these positions include the invaluable work undertaken by animal rescue volunteers (ARVs), as well as volunteer drivers, in rescuing and transporting animals to animal centres where they can be cared for and rehabilitated.
Other RSPCA volunteers offer space in their own homes and their affection so animals can be fostered before permanent homes can be found for them. The charity also enlists microvolunteers to undertake a range of tasks, including administration and social media work as part of campaigning work.
But it was a new role launched for the Coronation that has sparked huge interest from kind-hearted volunteers. Ahead of King Charles III’s Coronation celebrations the RSPCA launched a recruitment drive for Wildlife Friends, who pledged to undertake tasks to protect and nurture wildlife in their own gardens and local communities.
The scheme has proved hugely successful with over 1,000 people signing up to date to do their bit for wildlife. Those recruits have swelled the numbers of RSPCA volunteers up to the 5,400 mark and helped generate around 1,500 applicants for volunteer positions in under two months.
Among the heroic helpers whose work the charity is highlighting over the next seven days is animal rescue volunteer Jane Lewis, who comes to the aid of injured, sick and displaced wild animals and birds and makes sure they arrive safely at animal centres, local vets and the Gower Bird Hospital, near her Swansea home.
Jane (pictured above with her rescue dogs, Toto and Archie) has been volunteering with the RSPCA since September 2021 and says the favourite part of her role is helping wildlife, particularly tiny nestlings when time is of the essence keeping them warm and getting them to the bird hospital quickly.
“I carry heated mats and knitted ‘nests’ for these rescues and it is so satisfying taking the casualties to the wildlife hospital knowing you are giving them a second chance at life in the wild,” said Jane. “I have done over 2,000 miles in my role during March and April and it isn’t getting any quieter as the fledgling season is in full swing.
“During my time volunteering with the RSPCA I have caught and transported many species ranging from tiny baby voles and mice to a young goshawk. More recently the role has involved transporting some domestic animals and I have moved dogs, cats, ferrets, rats and rabbits between RSPCA animal centres, vets, private boarding establishments and fosterers – I went as far as Gloucester once with some domestic rats.”
Kath Dallow has been volunteering as an RSPCA fostering coordinator for the last six months. She and her fellow volunteers review applications from people across England and Wales who want to foster dogs, cats and small animals.
Applicants are screened and interviewed and the selection process also includes reviewing videos and photos of home environments to make sure living conditions for the fostered animal are of a high standard. By creating online profiles for fosterers the charity’s animal centres can speed up their recruitment.
Kath, who lives in Essex, said: “I would love to be able to foster an animal myself, but at the moment that isn’t possible, but with the amount of rescue animals at centres rising I wanted to be able to help in some way.
“I have a few hours free each week, and by volunteering as a coordinator I am able to help pass applicants through the fostering process and the animal can then be placed in a suitable temporary home. We sometimes get to see pictures of the foster animals thriving in their foster homes and it’s lovely to know that we’ve played a part in making that happen.”
Judi Simmons signed up as one of the RSPCA’s micro-volunteers over a year ago and more recently demonstrated her green fingers as a Wildlife Friend when creating a log-pile habitat for hedgehogs and field mice in her back garden in Wareham, Dorset.
“I’ve emailed my MP and taken part in petition-signing and a team project which involved monitoring online adverts for reptiles for sale,” explained Judi (pictured).
“I also did a litter pick which focused on items which could be harmful to wildlife. I wanted to do something to help counteract animal cruelty and neglect, even in a small way. I feel that my garden wildlife, which includes hedgehogs, mice, bats, birds and, occasionally, foxes are my friends and share the space. So I always try to provide food and a good habitat for them.”
Volunteers’ Week – which is run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and its partners – wants to open up volunteering opportunities for everyone by increasing diversity. As well as celebrating the work of existing volunteers the week-long event aims to raise awareness about the benefits of volunteering and how it can help people gain new skills and at the same time boost their self-esteem.
RSPCA head of volunteering Brian Reeves said: “Volunteers’ Week is an opportunity to celebrate our fantastic volunteers here at the RSPCA. The time they give willingly, along with their commitment and dedication to animals and animal welfare is phenomenal.
“Every volunteer in every role is appreciated, and should take pride in the fact that they are changing the lives of animals. On behalf of all of us at the RSPCA and the animals they volunteer for we say thank you!”
While RSPCA’s Wildlife Friends was launched for the Coronation the campaign to help wildlife doesn’t stop there and the RSPCA continues to offer the volunteering role moving forward.
There are also some interesting roles available at our volunteering hub, including a Super Campaigner, a garden and conservation volunteer to help with the relocation of the RSPCA’s Chelsea Garden to Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Cheshire and as a temporary trustee to help guide the RSPCA London South East Branch.