Friday, February 26, 2010

Changing Paths

I’ve spent years behind a desk for my job, and I’ve always been extremely lucky to have jobs that I have enjoyed and, most recently, that contribute directly to the wellbeing of others (healthcare, education, training). Though my ‘ideal job’ as a youngster would have been to be a forest ranger (I worked briefly as a volunteer on a nature reserve in North London), my career path took a very different course. This time I’ve definitely hit the jackpot as far as jobs go – and I don’t mean financially, but in terms of fulfilment and engagement. Around me my colleagues talk of their time in Kenya, India, America, Alaska, Indonesia, Viet Nam and Antarctica. I am in fact now working for a conservation organisation where the employees are not just dedicated but hands-on experienced.

The Membership Secretary used to be an Antarctic Scientist, the Comms Officer use to work with endangered Wallabies in Australia and the Fundraising Officer (who I am slightly worried to find out loves dressing up as a gorilla) has spent time in Swaziland. Next month he is going out to Indonesia for more hands on conservation work (hopefully not in costume, he’d have some problems at customs). There are 60 people working for the charity in nearly every corner of the world.

The work I’m doing now, a change from my previous employment, means I need to learn (and quickly) about Fauna & Flora International’s conservation projects: the work we do with (to name but a few) gorillas, trees, people, habitats, bats, carbon emissions, global warming and – crucially – how to fund the work we do all over the planet.

In short, every day I work here inspires me (and also stirs some previously suppressed wanderlust). Most of the people round me are younger and have done or are doing their travelling now (for work, sabbatical, or just for the hell of it). I would love to travel more and even do some field work myself, but I do know that it’s not all ‘cute cuddly animals’ – oh no! The work this fantastic organisation does is much more varied than that – they work with Kyrgyzstani women to help manage the sustainability of their fruit and nut forests, help farmers build buffalo fences to protect their crops (and the buffalo) and help local communities to develop tourism and other forms of enterprise to reduce the impact on their environment.

The dedication of the people in the office is just a reflection of those out in the field – and I am very proud to be part of the oldest conservation charity in the world. I may only be here for a year, but you can bet your last pound (please make sure you tick the ‘gift aid’ box on your donation form!) that I am going to put everything I can into it – I’m already getting so much out. I’ve never been afraid to get my hands dirty, so who knows, one day I may actually do something a bit more adventurous with the rest of my life.

I do, of course, still run the training business, which I enjoy thoroughly, but there is something to be said for working in an evironment where you know you are contributing real value beyond your own existence.
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