CIWEM celebrates its member volunteers

Today (June 1st) marks the start of Volunteers’ Week, and here at CIWEM we want to recognise the many CIWEM members (of which there are more than 10,000 in total worldwide) who generously volunteer their time to make the organisation what it is today.

CIWEM volunteer members underpin most of our departments assessing membership applications, supporting our technical panels, writing for our membership magazine The Environment, contributing to our journals, organising and chairing branches across the globe, each with their own unique programme of events and webinars, helping to run the organisation through the trustee board and its sub-committees and supporting fellow members’ CPD through mentoring programmes.

Many CIWEM members also act as volunteers by advocating the organisation’s work and amplifying CIWEM’s profile through their network of contacts.

Below three member volunteers share their experiences, and we also hear from CEO Terry Fuller and Head of Membership and Professional Standards Sophie Dunajko.

Chairperson of the West Midlands branch Hannah Coogan

I’m a flood and water management professional with nearly 20 years’ experience from a variety of roles in the public and private sector. I have a geography degree and started my career at the Environment Agency. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to attend a CIWEM Rivers and Coast Group study weekend as a graduate and I loved it. I met likeminded people (and started to build the network I still have now), learnt about other areas of the country and projects I would not have known about otherwise and went out on site to see things in practise. From that point I formed an affinity to all things CIWEM and have done voluntary work for CIWEM alongside my day job since around 2005.

I’m currently the chairperson of the West Midlands branch. I chair a committee of around 15 members from across the environmental and sustainability industries to run local CPD events that explore the solutions to the climate and ecological emergency. I mentor and support the chair of the West Midlands Branch New Members Group to run their own complementary events and the Dr Jenkins Paper Competition (which I have helped to judge).

What do you enjoy most about your CIWEM member volunteer role?

I enjoy helping and supporting other people to develop. With CIWEM I get the best of both worlds, I’ve built an extensive network and learnt about new technical developments at the same time as developing my soft skills and supporting and mentoring others.

Read Hannah’s article for The Environment work and mental health and me.

Professional reviewer Clare Rodgers

It sounds strange to say it, but what first drew me to CIWEM is that I love rivers! I love working on (occasionally in) rivers and I love talking to people about rivers, helping people understand why rivers are so interesting and important, working out what’s wrong with them and finding solutions. What’s really important to me though is combining this with my other passion, which is supporting others with their personal development: talking to people about what makes them tick and helping them to get to where they want to go with their careers. These values have guided my career to date, from nature conservation to the water industry, through several consultancy and team leader roles, to my current job leading the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Assessment and Sustainability team for Yorkshire and Northeast England. My involvement with CIWEM has evolved as my career has: I’ve attended conferences, written articles for the magazine, volunteered with the CIWEM Tyne and Humber committee, given presentations, become Chartered and (last year) was made a Fellow of the organisation.

I’ve been interviewing Chartership candidates for CIWEM for a few years now and really enjoy it! Having been through the Chartership application process myself back in 2013, I applied to become a professional reviewer because I saw it as a great way to meet and support other CIWEM members, helping the organisation to grow and helping individuals to develop their own careers. I volunteer three to four work days each year (with the support of my line manager) to sit on interview panels with two other trained CIWEM members. Because I am also a Chartered Environmentalist and a Chartered Scientist, I am often asked to help review applications for those extra qualifications as part of this work. It has been great to see the interviewing process adapt from exclusively face-to-face to online over the last year, and as a parent of a young family I have really appreciated the flexibility to join from my home in Yorkshire rather than always having to travel to London for the day (though I do miss the free lunches).

What do you enjoy most about your CIWEM member volunteer role?

Like most interviewers, I’m extremely nosey and love hearing about other people’s work, as well as helping them to get recognition for what they do. Being an interviewer with CIWEM (and the training and experience that comes with that) has made me better at carrying out competency-based interviews in my current role and encouraged me to challenge my own (and others’) unconscious biases in a recruitment context. Regularly sitting on interview panels means I can provide advice that is relevant and up-to-date to support others who I am helping with their CIWEM Chartership applications (both my own mentees and more widely: read my article on twelve top tips for your CIWEM Chartership interview). Ultimately though the main thing about volunteering as a professional reviewer with CIWEM is that I enjoy it, and it makes me feel valued. At the peak of lockdown, when everything felt like a constant balancing act between the needs of my work and the needs of my family, I made time to volunteer the occasional day for interviewing – and it was always the highlight of my week. Sometimes it can be hard to make time to volunteer – but the rewards definitely make it worthwhile.

Committee member CIWEM Rivers and Coastal Group Priscilla Haselhurst

I first discovered CIWEM when I attended a Rivers and Coastal Group Conference some 16 years ago when I started my career at the Environment Agency and joined shortly after as a graduate member. I have regularly attended conferences throughout the years, which have served as great inspiration throughout my career, and offered a great way to network with other professionals at different levels throughout the industry, to share ideas, and facilitate progress.

I now lead a Lead Local Flood Authority and administer an Internal Drainage Board and enjoy the benefits of membership more than ever as my scope of work has changed and increased.

Following a Jack Lewin prize award from the Rivers and Coastal Committee for my work in setting up a new Internal Drainage Board, I was invited to join the committee as a member. I quickly got involved in supporting the group and am now in my second year providing support as Honorary Secretary.

What do you enjoy most about your CIWEM member volunteer role?

I feel that volunteering is a great way to learn new things and offer skills and experience more widely, whether that be local volunteering in the community, or on a national level, such as with the CIWEM Rivers and Coastal Group. I was fortunate enough to support the group at our study weekend in Holland in 2019 and have since provided secretarial support to organise the group. I have met people from all different parts of the industry and remain inspired to continue my membership with CIWEM and support them where I can.

CEO Terry Fuller says: “This week is Volunteers Week’ in the UK.

“On behalf of the CIWEM Executive I can tell you that we are immensely grateful to our volunteers all over the world, every day of the year. You make CIWEM work and without you we would not exist. The contributions that you make change peoples’ lives and help us to progress our vision for a safe and sustainable world. Thank you.

“I hope that Volunteers’ Week is also an opportunity to tell others about what a positive and rewarding experience this can be. My personal and career development has been helped significantly by experiences that I would not have had through my employment alone. I am also very grateful to many people from the CIWEM community who have supported me, and it is a great feeling to be able to repay some of this.”

Head of membership and professional standards Sophie Dunajko adds: “This week we celebrate the volunteers across the globe, past and present, who give up their precious time and effort to support CIWEM. Our volunteers take many roles, utilising their skills, experience and knowledge in all our activities and we are so grateful for the support we receive from each and every one, we simply would not be able to function without you. Thank you.”

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