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Helping visitors to Hamilton Zoo to have the best experience possible is what motivates Hamilton Zoo's volunteer hosts Lynn Falconer, Neal Utting and Lou Nouwens.
They are some of the longest-serving and experienced hosts, who have volunteered on a regular basis to enhance visitor experience over the last 15 years. All three say they enjoy it as much as they ever have, with no intentions to give it up any time soon.
The role of zoo host involves being at various places throughout the zoo and offering information and help to visitors. Sometimes this may mean being at one animal’s enclosure, or working more closely with a specific group of visitors.
"Helping school groups or visitors from overseas is particularly interesting," says Neal. All three enjoy hearing that their help has made a zoo visitor’s day better, and they want to make sure as many people as possible hear about Hamilton Zoo.
All three say they enjoy getting to see the many animals at the zoo, and say it is a great environment to be volunteering their time.
"The best part of volunteering for me is just being here, the zoo is a great place to be," says Lou.
They all have their favourite animals and parts of the zoo to be in. However, talking to people and helping them enjoy their time at the zoo is highly rewarding as well.
"I love helping people out, and I also enjoy the company of the other zoo hosts and staff," says Lynn. "Hamilton is the best zoo I’ve ever been in."
Hamilton Zoo Visitor Experience Manager Dave Smart says the hours volunteer zoo hosts put in each month are priceless.
"For someone to love a place so much that they would give their time for free, month after month and year after year, says so much about their qualities.
"Our continued excellent Zoo Visitor Experience relies on our hosts to engage with visitors, sharing knowledge of zoo animals, information about their wider species and conservation messages. Lynn, Lou and Neal are fabulous individuals, part of the fabric of our zoo, and great examples of what volunteering is all about, as are all members of our zoo host team."
The zoo hosts encourage other older people to involve themselves in volunteer work.
"Volunteering is something that keeps you fit and active and involved in the community," says Neal. Lynn also says that it ensures you remain in touch with people on a regular basis.
"Volunteering helps to affirm your value in the community after you retire."
All three agree that if older people can find something they enjoy, volunteering is easy and enjoyable, and zoo hosting certainly is a great example of this for the hosts.
If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Volunteering Waikato at 07 839 3191 or www.volunteeringwaikato.org.nz.