Volunteer Spotlight: Frankie Lawrence-Thompson

Frankie Lawrence-Thompson

RAG Adventure Leader 2015-16

"I was a volunteer Adventure Leader on the Gorilla Trek with East African Playgrounds. I took this role on during my final year of university whilst studying for my BSc in Psychology and Criminology degree. I’d undertaken a year in industry placement at Dartmoor Zoo between the second and third years of my degree, which really helped me realise what industry I was passion about in terms of my career – but also made me realise I wanted more on my C.V! I was also lucky enough to win Young Volunteer of the Year award 2016 with Plymouth Guild – an achievement I am incredibly proud of.

However, once I got involved with volunteering at the University, I realized that it can be about so much more than something to make your resume look better. I met a huge group of people that we managed to recruit from seemingly every corner of campus and it was a brilliant opportunity to make new friends and engage with people I may never have met otherwise – the three weeks in Uganda in a wide variety of conditions definitely strengthened the bond we’d formed as a group!

Almost as soon as I got back from our Ugandan trip (one of the most incredible periods of my life) I was lucky enough to get a job as the Volunteer Co-Ordinator for Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts. The skills I’d learnt during my time as an Adventure Leader definitely helped me in gaining confidence when I was meeting so many new faces (with hundreds of volunteers to get to know!) and learning new skills as part of my job. Since then I’ve then moved on and been the Education Officer at Drusillas Zoo Park (including being the Zoo’s volunteer coordinator, helping manage over 100 volunteers and working in zoo education) and I now work for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, where our standing committees that I work with day in day out are made up of volunteers!

Volunteering has definitely had a huge impact on the decisions I’ve made in my career – I think working with volunteers in any capacity is one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet because you’re surrounded by a team of people choosing to give up their free time for a cause you all believe in! I’m still engaged myself – I volunteer at Golders Hill Zoo as a keeper and I love the Sundays I get to spend there, meeting new people and learning all sorts of new skills. Go on, volunteer – it might change your life!"