Volunteering at Cotteridge Park

When we decided to support the Friends of Cotteridge Park we were interested in doing three things. Firstly, we took donations through our website and at the counter. You gave a total of £576, which will go towards keeping activities in the park free to access for everyone in the community.

Secondly, we wanted to help promote the park to our few thousand customers and newsletter readers. Hopefully you’ve been inspired to go along to an event for the first time, or just use the park more often.

Thirdly — and most importantly — we wanted to encourage you to give your time. The park is run by volunteers and many hands make lighter work. To this end Dorit has written about her time working as a volunteer at The Shed. We’ve also asked Emma, chair of the Friends, to outline all the ways you might get involved.

What it means to volunteer at The Shed

Before joining Loaf, Dorit volunteered at The Shed, the café and community hub in Cotteridge Park. We asked her to talk about why she got involved and what she got out of the experience.

Having moved to Birmingham from Germany during a pandemic I barely saw any actual English people for the first six months of living here. My social life only began in April 2021 at a SwingFit session in Cotteridge Park. I‘d never seen so many English speaking people in once place and it was quite overwhelming after so many months.

I moved here with my husband in late 2020 and took online courses in the language since my English school lessons were far too long ago. But, oh dear, there are worlds between Brummie English and what I have learned!

After the SwingFit session with many lovely people, we got a tea and I saw the sign ‘Volunteers needed’. I had a brief talk with Emma about what it meant to be a volunteer and started helping for a few hours once a week.

Since I used to work in a shop back home, it seemed best for me to volunteer in The Shed, the community building where people can have a coffee, eat some cake or just sit down for a while and enjoy the park.

If working in The Shed isn‘t your thing, there are many more ways to get involved. Volunteers do gardening activities, organise the CoCoMAD festival or help at the forest school. They also need people to take care of their website, social media, marketing, help with accounts and finances … Everything helps. How about doing some laundry from the café or picking up litter? Or maybe you have some skills to share with other volunteers, like knitting.

There are always new things to try at Cotteridge Park, such as drawing, bike polo, woodcarving… All of these and much more wouldn‘t be possible without those highly engaged volunteers.

I felt like I‘ve got something back every time I worked my shifts, and the gratitude of the visitors and the other volunteers was very encouraging. I‘m sure volunteering at The Shed helped me a lot when I applied for my job at Loaf as it was my only work experience in UK.

I quickly made many new friends and was made very welcome in this new community. When my flight home to Germany was cancelled due to Covid I spent Christmas with friends I’d made at The Shed.

Now I work full time at Loaf, I haven’t have the time to volunteer as much. But my husband and I are moving closer to the park, which feels like home to me, so I hope to be able to volunteer again. It’s where I started becoming a Brummie, after all!

Watch this lovely video about The Shed and the people who volunteer there

How to volunteer your time in Cotteridge Park

by Emma Woolf, chair of the board of trustees.

Cotteridge Park has been benefiting from the love and time given by volunteers since it was saved from closure by and for the community in 1997. The volunteers are the most amazing bunch of kind and generous people without whom the park would be a much lesser place.

Whatever you are interested in, and however much (or little) time you can give, there is always a way for you to help out. Here are 10 ideas to start you off, but we’re open to all suggestions.

  1. Join The Shed volunteers — like Dorit did
  2. Join the gardeners who meet on Tuesdays at 10 and Sundays at 10.15 (from mid September — currently on their summer break)
  3. Help plan and run events — such as CoCoMAD or the film screenings
  4. Help raise funds — by running events or writing funding applications
  5. Help maintain the website and social media
  6. Join the trustees to help with the legal and financial stuff
  7. Share a skill — the Bike Polo, Knit and Natter, and the Art Group are run by people with skills to share
  8. Create merchandise that could be sold to benefit the park
  9. Help find technical and sustainable solutions to make the park a better place for people and nature
  10. Or just pick up any litter you find when you walk round the park — litter picker and bin bags available.

We find volunteers get as much, if not more, than they give and find the experience rewarding in many ways. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, pop down to The Shed for a chat or fill in the volunteer form on the website.

Thank you!