Volunteers' Voice: Louise

As today is Toddler Time day, our Volunteers’ Week post is by Louise Bell who helps out at this regular event for our youngest visitors… 

Four years ago, I moved to Reading. I didn’t know much about the place and didn’t have any friends in the area. I had previously lived and worked in a small, rural, north Bedfordshire village where I knew just about everyone, even just to say hello.

So, what does one do to meet people? Look for another job? Well I didn’t really want to start that right away, I wanted to get settled in our new house and support my husband in his new role.  Then, maybe look at working again in the future.

Our children were away at university, so no meeting mums in the playground, as I have done in the past (we have moved a lot over the years!).

I had never had the opportunity of going to university myself, so the institution was somewhat alien to me.  What was going on in all of those buildings, and just who were the people working, studying and visiting the campus on a daily basis?

Well the only way to find out was to join them.

So very early on, I discovered the University had a Museum of English Rural Life. What’s more, it actively involved members of the public in a large volunteer programme.  After checking out all the different opportunities that were on offer, there was one that suited me down to the ground – Toddler Time.

I had worked with young children for the last decade or more in our village school. I was missing those little people who grow and become the teenagers, students and adults of the future.  What a privilege it is to play a small part in their journey.

Louise helping some Toddler Time attendees create an extra-large picture!

Toddler Time meets once a week in the Museum (although just monthly at the moment, while the redevelopment works are going on) with the aim of introducing youngsters to life in rural England, past and present.  We sing some farm or animal songs and then move to a purpose-built studio for a craft-related activity, with something that the children can take home with them.  It can be tough getting something suitable for such young children each week but the adults enjoy helping.

Volunteering has given me a great insight to the many facets of the University and, in particular, the Museum of English Rural Life.  I have learned much and seen the very real passion that the staff have for their work. I have also enjoyed feeling part of the Museum community as a newcomer to the area.  Making friends with staff and other volunteers too has been a real privilege.

So, come along and get involved!

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    The Museum of English Rural Life

    University of Reading

    Redlands Road


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