Sian Liwicki, Patron and Fundraiser, Wild Oxfordshire
I am passionate about the Oxfordshire countryside and environment. I came to Oxfordshire from Singapore as a scientist, a small country which is nestled amongst others in SE Asia that together hold the most ancient forests in the world, all of which are endangered. I fell in love with the Oxfordshire landscape –the White Horse Hill escarpments, the rolling Cotswolds hills, hidden gems of fens and the wide meandering flood plains surrounding a multitude of rivers and streams. In the gentle English countryside the battle for wildlife appeared gentler, less devastating, but I now realise that the decline in biodiversity has been devastating nevertheless.
As well as setting up and running a vineyard and building an environmentally friendly home (no mean feat 20 years ago) I have been involved with Wild Oxfordshire for over 20 years. Dr Robin Buxton, an innovative thinker always ahead of his time, created Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum in 1993 because he saw the need for a shared voice for nature in the county. He realised there are many and often conflicting voices for nature and they could be strengthened if they shared ideas, information and a common language. Whilst there is a huge will to protect nature in Oxfordshire, our environmental sector is easily divided because we have such a broad church ranging from ‘sustainable groups’, ‘recorders’, wildlife volunteers, parish councillors, Local Environment Groups, big NGOs with a focus on sites or species and the list goes on. Robin realised that it is unlikely that we will ever all agree on one approach or the best way of delivering conservation, nor would that be desirable. However, we can do more and better by listening to each other, sharing ideas, welcoming new interest groups and working together. 30 years after the inception of the Forum, the government came up with the idea of Local Nature Partnerships. I feel it was pioneered here, first, in Oxfordshire!
At the beginning, I was the first paid member of staff. I worked with Robin on the county’s first Biodiversity Action Plan, which in the most recent form is the Nature Recovery Strategy. It was one of those bits of work that no one really wants to do (or pay for) but is so vital in giving all the individuals, volunteers, local authorities, farmers, parishes, NGOs and Local Groups a sense of how they fit into this big jigsaw and most importantly how all these seemingly small sites and thousands of hours of volunteer work can deliver the bigger wildlife and environmental wins. It was partnership work that gave every organisation that was a member an integrated perspective, vital links with each other and a shared confidence. It was a wonderful time for me, as I made many, many friends with a huge range of skills and interests, and I got to know Oxfordshire very well, from the ground level so to speak. After a short break away to have children, run a vineyard and the UK Vineyards Association, I returned to ONCF now with the more modern name of Wild Oxfordshire.
I have been involved for the last 12 years with assorted trustees hats on including Chair and most recently Fundraiser. At the vineyard I have organised and hosted ‘Sculpture in the Vineyard’ events – a good fundraiser for Wild Oxfordshire but hard work and long hours. I’ve been through my address book to ask friends and family for their support because someone had to shout out for this wonderful charity, which at that time was a bit of a shrinking violet despite the vital role it played in the conservation sector. I cannot say I enjoy asking for money but the unique work that Wild Oxfordshire does cannot be done with accolades and goodwill alone. Increasing governmental austerity though the years has meant that it is a very competitive environment out there with many worthy causes jostling for attention. So, over the last few years I have bitten the bullet with the help of an expert volunteer to make these calls and visits.
And thanks to the great work done by the Wild Oxfordshire Team, its profile and raft of good works are now much more in the public eye.
I’m about to step down as a trustee but will stay involved to support the fundraising work. We arestill a small charity and I would prefer the staff time be spent delivering conservation rather than fundraise. I am not about to disappear but would like to thank all the hundreds of unsung heroes, many volunteers, who do so much to support Oxfordshire’s wildlife. I will end, as is my mission, on a final fundraising plea (for 2021) for donations to Wild Oxfordshire’s Big Give Christmas Challenge. It is open for one week only 30th Nov -7th Dec (insert link). Thanks to a couple of generous donors who have put £10,000 on the table as matched funding, it there is the opportunity to raise £20,000 in total, to drive forward our vital work. Your one donation can have double the impact.
I leave Wild Oxfordshire in the hands of a fantastic board of trustees, a fabulous Chief Executive and eight brilliant (part-time) staff and volunteers, with hope and optimism.
A big “Thank You” to all of you that share my passion and have supported Wild Oxfordshire with me.