The Volunteer Community Champion programme is a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) Central Scotland Engagement Programme and the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO). It is designed to develop people who are passionate about getting their communities into the woodlands.

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 woodlands.

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 over 1300 individual visits to Scotland’s woodlands.

Nila Joshi, from Edinburgh, has been volunteering in her local community for the past five years, and a participant in year 3 of the Volunteer Community Champion (VCC) programme. Throughout the programme, Nila has attended a variety of training events and workshops, including outdoor first aid, environmental awareness, leadership and bushcraft skills, which have 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 effects being outdoors has on the elderly. The activities we deliver for the group also help build their confidence in exploring Scotland’s woodlands and inspires them to get out more.”

To find out what’s on in the woodlands in your area or to learn more about Forestry Commission Scotland’s Engagement Programme, please visit: