Colleagues across Agilisys Guernsey have recently spent time volunteering with Guernsey Conservation Volunteers, a local charity dedicated to conserving Guernsey’s natural environment.
We sat down with Ruskin Snow, Service Transition Manager, who spoke about his experience organising this volunteering opportunity – and shares why giving back to the community is important to him.
Hi Ruskin! Having organised Agilisys Guernsey's volunteering initiative, can you tell us how this all began?
In early June, we decided to run our first ever Agilisys Guernsey Summer Festival: a volunteering event, with a schedule designed to offer everybody in our team a chance to get involved.
It has been a challenging 18 months for our team – as it has been for everyone. As a community, we’ve navigated two lockdowns and adopted new ways of living and working. Across the world, we’ve seen that translate into more awareness of the importance of our mental health, and the health benefits of connecting with nature.
That’s why this event was so important to us. We wanted to give our team a chance to come together, to be surrounded by Guernsey’s natural environment, and to work on something positive for our community.
So, Guernsey Conservation Volunteers (GCV) seemed like the perfect charity for us to work with: we could take advantage of our summer weather (famous last words!) – and bring our team together in an entirely different context to our day jobs.
Can you tell us more about Guernsey Conservation Volunteers and the work they do locally?
Speaking with Angela Salmon, Project Co-ordinator at GCV and local conservation hero, I heard about ongoing work to clear Sour Fig from the Guernsey coastline.
Sour Fig is a non-native and invasive plant that forms a dense blanket over coastal areas and smothers native species. It also creates an inhospitable format for local wildlife. It's a bit like the Sci-Fi horror "Alien" – but in a plant context!
Sour Fig is native to South Africa, where it actually produces edible fruit. In Guernsey however the fruit do not ripen – I had a nibble and can confirm it's definitely sour!
GCV completed a very successful project to remove this plant around Fort Pezeries, and Les Tielles on the south coast of Guernsey. Clearing the fig has seen native plants start to re-grow, providing food for a variety of insects, and thereby helping to increase the biodiversity of the island.
So, what exactly did you get up to?
Tasked with clearing an area of Sour Fig at Portinfer, Angela briefed our team on conservation objectives and safe tool use – and arranged a skip to get us started.
Our first impression was that the area wasn’t very large, and that we would have the job done in no time… But it turns out that this plant is pretty tenacious, and progress was not as quick as we’d initially expected.
By the end of our afternoon, we had left a good area of cleared space. Our colleague Jonathan was oddly keen to leave a nice tidy edge between what was completed and what our colleagues would need to get stuck into the following day.
With more colleagues joining the cause, we’ve made some good inroads into clearing this plant and helping to support our local flora.
Why is volunteering important to you, and to Agilisys more widely?
Having a sense of community is what unites us. Our work is guided by community outcomes - working with technology to make a positive difference to the lives of others. As a result, community was identified as a key theme in our Agilisys Belonging Strategy, launched earlier this year.
For me, volunteering is an opportunity to give back to the community. It raises our awareness of issues affecting the people and spaces around us – issues that islanders are so passionate about that they will give up their time to fight for. But also, community work invariably results in us learning something new, connecting with different people, and coming together to make a difference.
Guernsey Conservation Volunteers talks about the five things we can all do to improve our mental health and wellbeing every day. They use the acronym CLANG:
- Connect with nature, and with the people around you. With family, friends, people at work, and neighbours. Developing these important relationships and building these connections enable us to feel supported.
- Learn new things and set a new challenge. As well as being fun, learning presents an opportunity to become more confident and feel accomplished.
- (Be) Active – whether going for a walk or a run, stepping outside, playing a game, or gardening. Exercising improves our physical health – and makes us feel good too.
- (Take) Notice of the world around us. Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Thinking about our experiences help us to appreciate what matters most.
- Give back by doing something nice for a friend (or a stranger), thanking someone, or volunteering. Seeing ourselves and our happiness as linked to the wider community can be very rewarding and makes connections with the people around us.
Our time with Guernsey Conservation Volunteers ticked all of these boxes – and we’re feeling all the better for it. We had a great time working together, come rain and shine, to help make a difference for our island.
Ruskin is an accomplished IT operations leader, experienced in delivering and implementing modern technologies to drive efficiency and optimise IT services. Prior to joining Agilisys, Ruskin was the Head of Technology Service Strategy, Change and Transition at Specsavers.
To learn more about Guernsey Conservation Volunteers and the work that they do to conserve the Bailiwick's natural environment, visit: https://gcv.org.uk/