Jennifer Binnie was out for a walk when she came across some Exmoor ponies.

“I love horses, but don’t have the time or money to keep one. So when I found out I could volunteer as a Looker, which is an old Sussex word for looking after livestock, I was really pleased,” she says. “I enjoy looking at the ponies and it’s great to be able to help preserve the breed.”

Last year Jennifer got in touch with the Sussex Pony Grazing and Conservation Trust, which helps protect valuable wildlife habitats by delivering conservation grazing with rare breed Exmoor ponies. And since then she has spent a couple of hours a month visiting the ponies in Birling Gap and Lullington Heath. This involves checking the ponies are well, have water, and that the electric fencing is working.

Volunteers contribute over £80 million annually to the local economy, which is made up of over 60,000 volunteers and community organisations across the county.

Exmoor Pony

Exmoor Pony

So why do so many people volunteer?

Brenda Bruzon, Volunteering Coordinator at Volunteer Centre East Sussex, says:

“There seem to be three main drivers for those looking to volunteer: personal development, social contact and gaining a sense of doing something worthwhile.

“Volunteering enriches our society by supporting people and enhancing the environment in which we live.

“It’s all about creating a positive network of relationships that enhances health and wellbeing for everybody and everything involved. Volunteering is giving your time and talents free of charge, but the exchange is that, in the right role, the positive contribution that you give benefits you so much too.”

After Graham Dewey’s mother passed away last year, he decided to volunteer as a driver for Wealdlink Community Bus Service. The service provides transport in the North Wealden Area by mini-bus to those who have difficulty using a normal bus service, either because of age, infirmity or rural location.

Graham says: “My mother used the service for years and we were very grateful for it, as it got her out of the house regularly. It was more of a social outing than just a shopping trip.

“So after she passed away, I thought it was time to give something back.

“I volunteer once or twice a week and really enjoy it. Many people who use the service live alone and only ever see us, which is quite sad.

“I think volunteering is important and I’m not sure you could run a service like this without volunteers.”

How can I volunteer?

To find an opportunity that’s right for you, visit do-it.org or vces.org.uk or pick up a copy of Your Guide to Volunteering in a library near you.

Alternatively you can call the Volunteer Centre East Sussex on 01323 301757.