Volunteer profile: Stephanie Popp
German trainee teacher, Stephanie Popp, 22, swapped the bright city lights of Munich for a relaxed pace of life when she signed up for the National Trust’s eight-week volunteer program at the Giant’s Causeway.
Why did you decide to volunteer for the National Trust?
Growing up my family and I visited a lot of National Trust properties in England and I became interested in the conservation work of the Trust. I looked online and I saw they were recruiting for a volunteer on the North Coast in Northern Ireland. I sent an email and the response was positive - I didn’t hesitate to sign up.
What sort of work are you doing for the Trust?
I am based at the Giant’s Causeway. I work with the ranger team, giving guided tours and answering visitors’ questions, and the conservation team, doing litter picks and helping them with physical tasks. Giving my first guided tour was probably the most challenging aspect of my experience so far. There were about 15 people in the group and I was nervous! I quickly settled into giving the tour – the group asked me lots of questions so I think they enjoyed it, too.
Tell us more about your conservation work…
We’ve been very busy pulling ragwort because it is poisonous to cows. We’ve also been cutting grass and hedges at White Park Bay, and we also had to build concrete bases for water troughs in the fields. I never thought I’d know how to mix concrete and drive a ride-on lawn mower!
What are you enjoying the most?
I enjoy being at the visitor centre and helping people from so many different countries. Learning the history of the Giant’s Causeway site and about all the wildlife has been fascinating.
What do you do in your free time?
I’ve taken my bicycle and cycled all along the North coast – with my camera, of course. I especially like White Park Bay, it’s so beautiful. I also go hiking, and my favourite walk is along the coastline from Dunseverick to Ballintoy, but often it’s very quiet. I think I’ve only ever met two people walking the trail! In the evenings I enjoy cooking at Innisfree Farm – the house provided as part of the placement – and I also hang out with the new friends that I’ve met at the Giant’s Causeway.
What has been the most valuable part of your volunteering experience?
It’s very inspiring to be around people who share my opinion of the importance of nature, and who truly believe in what they are doing. Meeting Mark, one of the rangers, has been really good. He taught me so much about the causeway and its history.
Interview given September 2015