How much can happen in a year? Relationships can build and fall apart. New skills can take shape, old ones can be perfected, and houses can be bought or sold. You move jobs, you make new connections, and you visit new places. You learn how to embrace self-reflection, you find a new mentor, and you come to terms with your surroundings. For me, this past year has brought so much into my life and much of that can be accredited to having spent the past 52 or so weeks volunteering with Sustainable Waterloo Region.

I celebrated my one-year anniversary with the organization along with two others on my team in mid-June and each of us has seen her fair share of changes in that past year. It’s not just each of us that have changed. In the past year, Sustainable Waterloo Region has grown just as much as its team. Our volunteer team has grown. Membership in the Regional Carbon Initiative has grown by 12. We’ve announced numerous milestones, celebrated our fourth Evening of Recognition and are in the midst of embracing the transition of our executive director to a new organization.

In the year I’ve spent with Sustainable Waterloo Region I have gone from admiring the organization from afar to being immersed in every ounce of the culture that we’re so proud of. Ask any member of our team and they will explain to you that volunteer culture here is far different than any other organization. We’re not volunteers, we’re part of the family and our personal and professional development is just as important as those of the staff team.

In June 2012 I knew nothing of Public Relations. I had a vague inclination of what it meant and aside from a passion for social media and the environment; I had little idea where I would fit into the mix. Come June 2013, I’ve had the opportunity to experience exactly what being part of a PR team entails. From press releases and media invites to social media strategy and community relations, these are all things that I’m now versed in and more than comfortable tackling. It’s this exposure and development of skills that has not only allowed me to reassess where I would like to take my career but has also helped me to move into a new job where I can apply and further develop these skills in a different capacity.

Moving forward and into the year ahead, it’s not as if I’ve become a master of everything – in fact I feel like I’ve mastered nothing but, I’m learning and that’s a goal for the everyday. Continued development isn’t just a priority of mine, though. Functional area managers within the organization keep it top of mind as well. They work with their team members to ensure that we’re getting the most out of our roles within the organization. It’s that dedication that can be equated to such low attrition rates within our volunteer team.

So with the 2012/13 event season coming to a close, and my first year at SWR following in tow, here’s to the year ahead. May 2013/14 be as fulfilling as the year prior.