Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Jo Boylan

Jo BoylanJo Boylan, 29, is an Education and Volunteer Co-ordinator for the Laganscape Project at the Lagan Valley Regional Park.

Laganscape is a Landscape Partnership Scheme, a grant programme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The scheme aims to encourage involvement of people who care passionately about their local area. The Laganscape project, has made it to the semi-final of the National Lottery Award competition. This annual awards scheme is in recognition of UK projects that have made best use of original Lottery funding by making a difference to the lives of local people and communities. Laganscape is the only successful environmental project entered from Northern Ireland. Since receiving the Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 2007 the Laganscape team have worked tirelessly devising numerous ways to improve habitats for wildlife and expose the beauty of the park to the public, touching the lives of many people in many ways.

People can vote for the park by telephoning the special lottery number - 08446866390.

Currently I am working on an online Education Resource which will allow teachers to utilise areas of Lagan Valley Regional Park as an outdoor classroom and facilitate teaching the World Around Us component of the curriculum. We have teamed up with local schools to promote the use of the outdoor classroom by making space for nature in their school grounds. Pupils have been involved in the design and creation of some fantastic projects, that will not only create new habitats for wildlife but will serve as an educational tool in teaching. One of the projects is creating a pond at Seymour Hill Primary School that will be used to discover the wonders of underwater life. It's great to be able to bring science to life for the children. We hold training days for teachers too and this is very effective for showing them how to use the outdoors as a classroom. As well as being out and about with schools I co-ordinate the volunteer programme. Our volunteers show utmost commitment to their roles. They are an enthusiastic and diverse group from all walks of life and all around the globe and are considered integral to the success of the project. Many of them have commented that the dynamics of the group have led to genuine long lasting friendships that have extended beyond the parameters of the project. Laganscape volunteers are engaged in both the planning and delivery of projects. To this end they have a deep sense of pride and ownership for their local patch and the future sustainability of the programme. Their dedication and willingness to learn makes the programme unique and a joy to be part of.

Through Laganscape, we have encouraged involvement in the management of the park through school groups, local communities, business organisations and volunteers Laganscape aims to facilitate involvement of people and community groups who care passionately about their local area. One of our volunteers, who has an interest in photography, joined us after he was made redundant and has become so inspired by the work he has been doing in documenting the parks flora and fauna that he is now aiming to take up photography professionally. He has just held his first exhibition of landscape photographs taken in the park.

I love my job. It's satisfying seeing school children's enthusiasm for the beauty around them. It's amazing seeing them open their eyes to nature. It really is a great project to be involved with

Ulster Star