A volunteer’s journey

Sam taking part in a Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 canoe event

When I first joined the Thames21 as an intern on the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 campaign, I was unaware of the variety and magnitude of the issues that our urban waterways face. It is hard to comprehend how, in a city as great as London, the nation’s capital, we have failed to notice that we are slowly killing our waterways and the services they deliver.

This highlighted to me the importance of the work that Thames21 and their incredible volunteers carry out on a daily basis all over London. I have been lucky to be part of a small fraction of the remarkable variety of activities that the charity carries out. The most recent being a canoe clean up on the Lea Navigation, where we removed a toy rocking horse and a staggering twenty bin bags of plastic bottles and small items from the waterway. The things, that people discard, whether intentionally or unintentionally always surprise and astound me.

The reasons people choose to volunteer with Thames21 is as varied and diverse as the ages and backgrounds of the volunteers themselves. For the vast majority of volunteers I have met, myself included, it’s the feeling of making a positive difference to the environment in which we live and work. However, it is often the friendships formed that make people want to come back. Soon after joining Thames21, I felt I had gained an extended family.

I would like to thank all the volunteers and the staff at Thames21, especially Ben Fenton the Big Waterways Clean Up 2012 coordinator, for the incredible warm welcome and for sharing their wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm. It has been fantastic to be part of a charity doing amazing things.

Sam Buckland

Sam has now left Thames21 to join Norwich County Council as a Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems Officer.