Welcome to one of our “newest” mentors at A Focus on Nature (AFON), Becky O’Melia. Becky is passionate about nature therapy and the importance of spending time outdoors, connecting with the natural world. We asked her a few questions about mentoring…
Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?
When I first came out of university I started as a volunteer trainee with Groundwork, and I had a mentor there that was absolutely amazing. His guidance helped me direct my career path and gain the skills and confidence I needed to get my first paid job in conservation. In my current role as Community Wildlife Officer at the Nature Discovery Centre for Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, I mentor a trainee every 6 months. The aim is to give them the skills to work in community engagement and enable them to go away with everything they need to get a paid job. It’s incredibly rewarding seeing people grow and I’d like more opportunity to do this.
How have you helped/could you help potential mentees?
I have over 7 years experience working in the community engagement side of nature conservation. Over the years I’ve been involved in a number of public engagement projects including wildlife clubs for children, a nature therapy group for adults with mental health issues and a nature café for people living with dementia and their loved ones, as well as numerous hands on wildlife events and activities. I think I can bring all of skills learnt during this time together and pass them on to potential mentees. I hope too that I’d be able to give potential mentees the opportunity to see that there are ways to engage with people from all walks of life, and that simple activities, showing people nature on their doorstep, work best. Previously trainees that I’ve worked with have gone on to paid roles, or in to further education to gain more qualifications in nature conservation.
What’s your top piece of advice for a young person starting out their career in nature conservation?
Try out everything. When I went to university I thought I wanted to work in the middle of India somewhere, conserving tigers. Whilst there’s a little bit of me that would still love to do that it was actually while I was doing my degree that I got a chance to have a go at community engagement and education and I realised that was my passion. You never know what you’ll do that might spark something!