“As soon as I put on my waders and stepped into the river, I had a major ‘aha’ moment!”
Our Event Support Contractors (ESCs) play a vital role in helping run our projects and events. Working for Thames21 as an ESC provides valuable, hands-on leadership skills, and experience for those wishing to gain employment in the conservation or charity sector. Our Leading Action for Healthy Rivers training provides a pathway for anyone looking to become an ESC.
As part of our ESC Spotlight series, Communications Officer Manuela Rio Tinto spoke to Thames21’s ESC Samantha Dhedhi about her background, the importance of connecting communities to their local waterways, and more.
Please could you tell us about yourself and your background?
I was born in Purley, Surrey. I spent my childhood near there then moved to Nottingham as a teen to study Computer Science (which really wasn’t my cup of tea!)
Then I moved to London, working for a computer company. In the mid-90s I was very lucky to land a role as Graphics Manager for a management consultancy in New York, where I spent 7 fabulous years. I also put myself through graphic design school there.
On my return to London, I started working as a freelance graphic designer, which I still do. I also love to do film extra work and of course, the ESC work that I do with Thames21!
How did you come across Thames21?
In late 2018, I saw a poster in my local park (Brookmill Park, SE8) advertising a volunteer river clean-up organised by Thames21. I have always loved nature and my local park, so thought it would be a lovely way to give back. As soon as I put on my waders and stepped into the river, I had a major ‘aha’ moment! I literally fell in love with it and instinctively knew it was something I wanted to get more involved with. After the event, I spoke to the organiser who said he was looking for someone local to get involved and suggested me to do the Thames21 Leading Action for Healthy Rivers course. I qualified in early 2019 and have been running regular volunteer river clean-ups in Brookmill Park (for the Friends of Brookmill Park) since then and have also been doing ESC work.
What’s your favourite river in London?
It has to be the Ravensbourne River, where it runs through Brookmill Park. It’s small, beautiful, wild and is very special to me. I just love it and spend a lot of time there.
How long have you been working as an Event Support Contractor for the organisation?
Around 2-3 years.
What do you enjoy the most about it?
I really enjoy the variety of ESC events, whether it’s with children or adults. It’s really wonderful to experience the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the volunteers, many of whom have never been down to the foreshore before or seen how much litter there is!
Why do you think is important to connect communities to their local waterways?
I think people (in general) are not very aware of their local rivers and waterways, especially about pollution issues, the environment, litter etc. When I participated in T21 community events, people seemed quite surprised, concerned and genuinely wanted to help. I think it would be really smart to educate/empower local communities to help take care of their own waterways for now and for the future.
Tell us about one of your favourite memories as an ESC.
It was a school event where we took around 50 children to the foreshore! We ran 3 activities and it was just incredible seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of the children who didn’t realise they had this on their doorstep. They were very excited to litter pick, find ‘treasure’ on the beach and do some river dipping. It really opened their eyes. I think it’s a great way to introduce children to their local waterways in a fun way… and as they say, to plant a seed.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to start a career in an environmental charity?
Start with voluntary work. Check out the Thames21 volunteer section of this website and give it a go!
Thanks, Sam. We’ll see you on the ground soon!
If you’d like to become an ESC and support our mission to protect our rivers and waterways, find out more about our Leading Action for Healthy Rivers training here.