Welcome to the first of an occasional series of articles about key volunteer roles in Swansea Cats Protection. Although a small Branch, we pride ourselves on making the very best of the range of skills and resources our wonderful volunteers bring to us. I’d like to introduce you to our Educational Speaker, Teresa, who below tells us all about the work she does as a volunteer.
Hello, my name is Teresa. I used to be a teacher and I knew when I retired I wanted to volunteer for Swansea Cats Protection. I have always been ‘owned’ by cats and now had time to give to those cats not lucky enough to have their own slaves. I went to my local branch homing day and offered my services. We discussed where my skills would be best put to use and decided that the role of educational speaker was the best fit.
My 30 plus years of teaching had given me the skills necessary for the role and before too long I was able to start presenting to groups in the Swansea area. I have presented talks in many of the local libraries including Morriston, Central, Townhill, Pontardawe, Killay, Pontardulais and Mumbles.
I now have repeat sessions at some of these libraries and it is lovely to have children returning to hear the talks again because they enjoyed them, and also to discover how much they remember!
I have everything I need provided for me by Cats Protection (CP) and even have a lesson plan to follow!
What a treat not to have to spend hours writing and prepping any more. The props are also vetted by my cat Poppy. She especially approves of the cat fishing toy and kept stealing it out of my bag, so I had to buy another one to replace it. After all Princess Poppy must have what Princess Poppy wants! She loves it so much she brings it up to my bedroom every night!
Each talk I give is different in that it needs to be tweaked according to the audience. I have talked to schools, Brownies, Guides, libraries and a home school group. I have worked with children from 4 years to 17. However, the basic message is always the same. I talk about CP and what its major aims are, and the different ways in which volunteers can help the charity. We talk about the welfare needs of the cats and how the children can care for their own cats. The props help demonstrate good practice and encourage interaction. I use stories and songs and rhymes (e.g. Cats Sleep Anywhere by Eleanor Farjeon is a fun one) to stimulate their interest. The second half of library talks is a craft session during which the children can chat informally about their cats whilst making a toy cat to take home.
During one library session one of the younger children decided he didn’t want to make a craft cat. He used the toy cat and props to make a cat home and played at being a cat. It was lovely to see how much of the information he had taken on board and was using when he placed the bed, food and water bowls correctly.
Cats Protection also have a variety of resources on-line which can be used by schools, parents and children. There are videos, stories, songs, and activities, suitable for a range of ages and abilities. You just need to go into the education section on the Cats Protection website and enjoy. (www.cats.org.uk)
There is nothing better than to be able to do and share what I love. The sessions are always fun and interactive, and the children enjoy participating. I work closely with our Education Community Officer at National CP and have been involved in reviewing and developing the new primary age talks. I wrote a simple song about happy cats which is now on the website and included in the activities for early years…. take a look! I have also been lucky enough to be asked to promote the role of the educational speaker, at a conference, and recently at the Senedd at the launch of the Companion Animal Welfare Group Wales.
I find my role very fulfilling. I get to do what I enjoyed the most about teaching which is to interact and talk to the children and also help my favourite animal. I also get excellent support from CP, from training to props and guidance.
Unfortunately, due to Covid 19, we are unable to present live talks at the moment, but Cats Protection are developing digitally based talks which can be delivered online, so our children can still learn about cats. If you would like to book a talk please go to the Cats Protection website noted above and complete the book a FREE talk section. Hopefully before too long we will be able to resume face to face talks and I’ll be able to meet more of our love-ly children and share my love for cats with them.
Thanks so much Teresa! I look forward to introducing you to some of the other brilliant volunteers in the future. Within my own volunteer role, I am frequently surprised by how many people think we’re paid employees when they seek help from us. Our volunteers work all hours, often every day of the week, drive miles to rescue cats in need, take cats to the vet and spend hours and hours helping to rehome cats in our care. We do it because we care about cats.
If you are interested in adopting one of our lovely cats or kittens, or have concerns about a stray or feral cat, please call our Helpline 0345 260 2101 or go to our Facebook page, website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note our Helpline is answered by a messaging service and we will respond as soon as we can – but please be patient and remember we are ALL UNPAID VOLUNTEERS trying to do our best for the rescue cats and kittens of Swansea. Thanks.