Simply the Best – Volunteers at the RAF Museum

Every year we love to shout about the amazing work and difference our volunteers make to our Museum, storytelling and visitor experience and its always a difficult choose who to put forward for external awards recognition. This year we selected Steve Harris, Sandra Soer and our Vulcan and Cold War Experience volunteers.

Steve Harris, Volunteer

For the West Midlands Volunteers Awards we nominated Steve Harris for Volunteer of the Year award for his outstanding work in inspiring our young visitors in all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). Steve’s volunteering is public facing and telling the stories of science and the RAF. He always considers his audience whether that is a group of 5-year olds or secondary school students and he differentiates his delivery as needed. He is always understanding of the needs of the teaches and how important our support of the visiting groups is to make their visit “the best visit ever”.

At this year’s London Heritage Volunteer Awards, we put forward Sandra Soer in the Going the Extra Mile and our Vulcan and Cold War Experience volunteers in the Best Team Category.

Sandra Soer joined the museum in January 2015 as a visitor engagement volunteer in what was then our newly opened First World War in the Air exhibition. Sandra trained to provide a tour of the exhibition, use our handling collection and provide interpretation of a recreated office. From here, whilst a little be tentative to step out of her comfort zone, she has joined other teams – Spitfire Experience, Vulcan and Cold War experience, the general tours team and off-site outreach activities.

She has worked hard to conquer her nerves and build up her knowledge and skills to get the new activity into her comfort zone. You can also see Sandra walking around with a folder of information, photographs and notes she has made – ready and waiting to answer her questions.

We love how easy Sandra makes it for us, to involve her in what we do. We love how easy Sandra makes it for us, to involve her in what we do.

Volunteers Sandra Soer, David Parkins and Chris Fenwick with Ella Hewitt, Public Events Manager (second from the left), representing the Vulcan and Cold War Experience team at the London Heritage Volunteer Group Awards

Vulcan and Cold War Experience volunteers deliver this unique visitor experience and enable our visitors to experience a childhood dream, taking the rare opportunity to experience what it was like to fly these great aircraft; making a lasting memory for our visitors.

Every month, five out of our eight volunteers provide a 1-2-1 experience, where visitors gain special access to our collection, climbing in to and taking a seat in the cockpit of the Vulcan and the pilot’s seat of the Phantom. They are also given a full ground tour, with the chance to get up and close to other significant Cold War aircraft, including the BAC Lightning F.6, the Handley Page Victor K2, and the English Electric Canberra PR3, and hear fascinating real-life stories of the people who flew the aircraft.

They are an enthusiastic team, always seeking ways to improve the offer – pooling their notes and knowledge to devise the structure of the experience whilst giving themselves the flexibility to share their love of the subject matter with our visitors, to seeking out ex Vulcan, Lightening and Canberra pilots and arranging for them to come in to talk with all the volunteers, to boost their personal stories knowledge.

Ella Hewitt, Public Event Manager says:

‘They are delightful to work with, they are consistent, enthusiasm and drive to make it bigger and better. I’m astounded by how many questions they get ask and the knowledge they have built up but also their ability to let our visitors have the time and space to share their love and knowledge of these iconic aircraft.’

We are proud to share the news that Steve and Sandra were runners up in their categories and our Vulcan and Cold War Experience volunteers were Highly Commended. Congratulations to them and thank you to all our volunteers for the skills, knowledge, time and energy they give to us.

If you visit and our volunteers make a positive difference to your experience, please do let us know. We love sharing with them the impact and difference they make. If you would like to join us as a volunteer, please visit our volunteering pages to find out more about our volunteering offer and latest opportunities.

About the Author

Kieron Mantle: Digital Marketing Apprentice for the Volunteering Department

My main responsibility is to share the stories of our volunteers, their activities and volunteering within the Museum. I feel that it is very important to highlight the invaluable work of our volunteers and to celebrate how much we have achieved together.