New Community Champions

Forestry Commission Scotland welcomes 13 new volunteers to its Volunteer Community Champion (VCC) programme for 2017/18. 

The volunteer champions help to support Forestry Commission Scotland’s Engagement programme in central Scotland in a variety of ways from talking to members of the community, to helping deliver events and woodland activities. 

Delivered in partnership with CEMVO (Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector of Organisations), the VCC programme aims to educate people from diverse backgrounds, providing knowledge and skills on how to access their local woodlands for the benefits of health, work and play.

The programme also provides the volunteers with specialist training to help organise and deliver community events and learn woodland skills from Forestry Commission Scotland rangers that will help in their role as a community champion. 

In the programme’s first year, the volunteer champions successfully engaged nearly 800 people from various ethnic, religious, sexual, age, gender backgrounds. Now in its third year, Forestry Commission Scotland received a high volume of applicants and aims to continue this level of engagement throughout central Scotland.

Romena Huq, engagement officer at Forestry Commission Scotland, said:

“We are really proud of what the community champions have achieved over the past two years and we hope this year will be just as successful. They have engaged with their communities and brought the woodland to life. It’s great to see that some have discovered a new passion for the outdoors and can recognise the benefits of using their local woodland.”

Heather Muchamore, a Volunteer Community Champion and Lifelong Learning Development Officer at the City of Edinburgh Council, said:

“I decided to participate in the VCC programme because I’ve worked with BME groups over the past few years and noticed that minority groups, like many others, are provided with less and less support from local authorities. People often feel very isolated in their neighbourhoods and this can lead to mental health issues and other impacts on families. Therefore, family activities can help provide a safe space to feel accepted in the local community and the VCC programme supports these types of activities, which can also bring lots of health benefits.

“Over time I hope to help strengthen people’s abilities, particularly women, to get more involved in learning and organising and to create more support for themselves and others. I always try to make links with other organisations and people who can bring positivity and support from all communities. I’m also looking to initiate a forum which will provide signposts to useful information, resources, learning and events - the working title of this is Fatima’s Hand. We want to encourage women to stretch their idea of what they can attempt and succeed at and help them gain lasting friendships along the way.”

Colin Lee, Chief Executive of CEMVO, said:

“The VCC initiative is about identifying groups and communities who do not consider woodlands as a place to visit and take part in community life. The new Champions are already getting out there and engaging with their communities, so I’d encourage people to get involved in any upcoming events taking place in their community.”  

The volunteers will be out and about in their local communities, encouraging people to get out and enjoy the woodlands on their doorstep. For more information on the events in your area, get in touch with your local Community Champion listed below:

Gilian Main - Forth Valley Recovery Community

Falkirk Heather Muchmore - Lifelong Learning Worker

Edinburgh Davis Bwalya – Score Scotland

Edinburgh Nila Joshi – Positive Future Lunch Club

Edinburgh Govinda Ram Kandel – Nepalese School

Edinburgh Khalifa Thiam – Senegalese Society

Edinburgh Modou Gaye – Afri Fest

Edinburgh Ruby Bhopal – Sikh Women’s Walking Group

Glasgow Sarra Wassu – Scottish Women Arab Women Association

Glasgow Maariyah Afzal – YCSA

Glasgow Sean Evans – Wise Green Wisdom

Glasgow Omar Tufayl – Andalus

Glasgow Mack McKechie – Gal Gael, Glasgow

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.
  2. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Tha e an urra ri riaghladh agus cumail maoineachadh is comhairle ri coilltearachd ann an Alba. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta.
  3. Media enquiries to Steve Williams, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6508 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.