To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we’re delighted to share a blog written by one of our volunteers, Kim, about how she came to volunteer here at Paignton Zoo.
I’ve been volunteering at the Zoo now for 4.5 years, and for those that see me walking around but are not quite sure what I do, I wanted to take a little time to explain what I get up to and offer a little about my background…
I am now an officially titled Engagement Volunteer (previously guest experience). My duty is to walk around the zoo and talk to visitors about animals, depending on which area I am in at the time, give them directions and aid them in whatever way possible. An advocate for the Wild Planet Trust, I try to give the most up-to-date and positive information to our visitors, especially when questions are asked.
My love and passion has always been reptiles and inverts, having had a big collection at home and spent almost ten years of breeding certain species. I previously focused all my time at Crocodile Swamp, Amphibian Ark, Bugs and Reptile Tropics.
When Covid hit, I had to shield for 9 months and was very slowly introduced back into the zoo position in 2021, but with the inside spaces still being a risk for infection, I used my time and took the opportunity to learn about more animals all around the zoo. I love the gorilla boys and am very fond of Rhubarb and Custard the dwarf mongooses.
So why do I do what I do?
People think I’m pretty young, and if you don’t know my background, I don’t think you would understand the daily regimes I go through just to get up in a day. On 26th July, this year, I’ll be celebrating 10 years with my two transplanted lungs. This is a huge achievement for me. I honestly didn’t think I would make a year, and now I’m 2 months from my target it’s really emotional. If I surpass my goal, I may even make my 40th Birthday in July 2023, when I wasn’t expected to make my 12th birthday.
I have Cystic Fibrosis, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, a permanent stoma/ileostomy and now, because of the immunosuppressants I take for my lungs not to reject, kidney failure.
I can’t work. I would love too, but I would be completely unreliable to my employer if I was unable to come in and do my job on a day-to-day basis. The next best thing, I thought, would be to volunteer. Give back something to the public after having my life saved 5 times in the last 10 years by our NHS.
So waking up to a new day where I could possibly make someone smile, pointing out the animal they couldn’t see or telling them some facts they never knew, I’m hopeful my smile and persona can make people feel welcome and their day out at Paignton Zoo just that little more informative…
We’re so grateful for Kim and our many other volunteers. If you’d like to volunteer here at Paignton Zoo, you can find out more about opportunities by going to our Volunteers’ page.