My experience as a volunteer at the UW Arboretum…
It was the first quarter of my freshman year at the University of Washington. I was enrolled in an environmental studies class, and we, the students, were given an option between doing a book report and volunteering for “service learning.” Man, was I glad I chose to volunteer, because my time at the arboretum was great.
The arboretum is an escape from the city without leaving the city. There you are, standing in a metropolis, but you’re surrounded by tall trees, whistling birds, and sweet silence; it’s oxymoronic. I was living in a dormitory at the time, and the constant shuffle of neighbors, or the bumping music of the guys four doors down, kept me on-edge, not relaxed. But, once in the arboretum, all that white noise was gone. Even though I was there to volunteer and to work, I found myself energized upon leaving.
My time at the arboretum was mostly spent in the vegetable garden and in the pollination garden. Some days I would pull weeds, till soil, and flip compost, others I would dig up cobblestones and carry gravel. But everything I did was not strenuous. It was simply a light task. Other volunteers had similarly stress-free work. Some were assigned to lead field trips and tours around the park and others researched plant species that would suit the habitat.
I have not been to a place with more polite people than the arboretum. Everyone from the lady at the front desk to Patrick, my supervisor, greeted me with a smile each time I came by. If you happen to see Patrick when you’re there, ask him about his travels in South America; he’s got some cool stories.
If you’re thinking about volunteering, I highly encourage you to do so. My experience at the arboretum was exactly what I was looking for: chill, soothing and stress-free.