A woman in the Capital has become a volunteer community champion at Forestry Commission Scotland
Nila Joshi has been volunteering in her local community for the past five years, engaging with black and minority ethnic (BME) organisations such as Edinburgh Mela, Edinburgh Hindu Mandir & Cultural Centre and Positive Futures Lunch Group.
This year, Nila decided to take her volunteering to the next level, by participating in Forestry Commission Scotland’s Volunteer Community Champion (VCC) programme in partnership with CEMVO (Council Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisation).
Throughout the programme, Nila has attended a variety of training events and workshops, including outdoor first aid, environmental awareness, leadership and bushcraft skills, which has provided her with the skills needed to manage and facilitate local events and woodland activities. Her work was also recognised at the Ethnic Minority Impact Awards 2017, where she was shortlisted for the Volunteer Community Champion award.
Nila said: “The VCC programme has provided me with a platform to promote the message that being in nature can really make a positive difference to our physical and mental health and wellbeing.
“I currently help run the Positive Future Lunch group for men and women aged 60-plus, where I see first-hand the positive effect being outdoors has on the elderly.
“The activities we deliver for the group also helps build their confidence in exploring Scotland’s woodlands and inspires them to get out more.”
In addition to the local lunch group, Nila collaborated with Creative Art Works and Forestry Commission Scotland during the summer on an environmental arts project, Signs of Life, in which the finale was opened by Edinburgh’s Lord Provost.
Nila added: “The Signs of Life event has been one of my highlights from the VCC programme, and gave me the opportunity to deliver nature-inspired activities, whilst uncovering a community of like-minded individuals all intent on enjoying the outdoors.
“I’m very passionate about nature and the arts and have been exploring ways to combine both, and to discover woodlands within, around and beyond Edinburgh, for future creative outdoor activity.” Now in its third year, the one-year VCC programme trains volunteer champions to engage community groups in Central Scotland and help break down barriers to access their local green spaces.
Over the last two years, 16 candidates have completed the programme, all of whom are from protected characteristic backgrounds, covering race, religion and belief, age, disability, sexual orientation and gender. This has resulted in more than 1300 individual visits to Scotland’s woodlands.