Championing the woodland cause

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A team of Volunteer Community Champions (VCC) have been appointed to support the work of the Forestry Commission across central Scotland.

The 13 volunteers will help deliver an ‘engagement programme’, from talking to members of the community, to helping deliver events and woodland activities.

The VCC programme aims to educate people from diverse backgrounds, providing knowledge and skills on how to access their local woodlands for the benefits of health, work and play.

The programme also provides the volunteers with specialist training to help organise and deliver community events and learn woodland skills from Forestry Commission Scotland rangers.

In the programme’s first year, the volunteer champions successfully engaged around 800 people from various ethnic, religious, sexual, age, gender backgrounds.

Now in its third year, Forestry Commission Scotland received a high volume of applications and aims to continue this level of engagement throughout central Scotland.

Romena Huq, engagement officer, said: “We are really proud of what the community champions have achieved over the past two years and we hope this year will be just as successful. They have engaged with their communities and brought the woodland to life.

“It’s great to see that some have discovered a new passion for the outdoors and can recognise the benefits of using their local woodland.”

Heather Muchamore decided to participate in the VCC programme after working with black and minority ethnic groups over the past few years and noticing that they, like many others, were being provided with less and less support from local authorities.

She said: “People often feel very isolated in their neighbourhoods and this can lead to mental health issues and other impacts on families.

“Therefore, family activities can help provide a safe space to feel accepted in the community and the VCC programme supports these types of activities, which can also bring lots of health benefits.”

The volunteers will be out and about in their communities, encouraging people to enjoy the woodlands on their doorstep. For news, events and recreation information see www.facebook.com/forestrycommissionscotland.