Trevor Weeks MBE. East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS)
At East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) we are celebrating the success of our Casualty Centre which has completed its 5th year in operation this winter. Celebrating the completion of the Charities 10th year as a registered charity. Celebrating its 20th years as a voluntary group as well as celebrating my 30th year undertaking wildlife rescue and conservation work in East Sussex and beyond.
I started undertaking wildlife rescue and conservation work as a young lad of just 13 years old in 1985. The first ten years I spent much of my time helping a variety of organisations like the Conservation Volunteers, local Badger Group, Amphibian and Reptile Group, and various individuals who ran small bird and wildlife hospitals from their homes. I also took on the role of Tree Warden and Common Pond Warden at Hailsham for a number of years in additional to helping to establish the group Environment Hailsham and managing a piece of woodland for the Crandown Society at Polegate. I started volunteering with Meta Mann who ran a bird hospital from her home in Seaford and collecting oiled covered seabird like Guillemots and Razorbills and delivering them to her as well as helping to wash and clean them. I would often jump on the bus from my home town of Hailsham down to Polegate and then catch a train to Brighton, Newhaven, Seaford or Eastbourne and walk the coast looking for oil covered birds. Once I could drive and had my own car I started doing more rescue work and helped the Fox Project and Swan Sanctuary.
In 1993 I lost my mum to cancer which had a big impact on his life which I struggled to deal with, but my voluntary work really help pull me through. It was my mum which got me interested in animals and nature, we always had one animal or another at home, which she always said were the responsibility of my brother and I to look after and of course she would always be the one who ended up looking after them. They included chicken, terrapins, rabbits, guinea pigs, fish, cats and dogs.
1996 saw the disastrous Sea Empress Oil Spill in Millford Haven in Wales which I attended with Gary Treadwell of Redbrook Wildlife Rescue, and spent about 17 days working with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and Greenpeace rescuing and treating hundreds of oiled birds. It wasn’t till later that year that East Sussex Wildlife Rescue was formed after I ran up a vets bill of over £1000 and was struggling to pay off the fees. Vet Robin Hooper from Downwood Vets in Horam, gave me a challenge to set up my work as a voluntary group and get a committee and fundraising going, and in return Robin offered to cut my bill in half. I certainly rose to the challenge and within 6 months East Sussex Wildlife Rescue was born.
I owe Meta and Robin a lot as I don’t think I would be where I am today if it had not been for their influence and support for me and for seeing my potential. I learnt so much from them.
I trained in computer programming and worked for various companies but continued undertaking my wildlife rescue work as my hours were flexible. The only time I was not able to undertake my rescue work was for about six months at the end of 1999, when I took on a programming job working in London. Eventually I gave up this lucrative job earning over £32,000 a year in 2000 to come back to Sussex. Working just part I then put a lot of my time into undertaking wildlife rescue work and trying to develop the organisation into a charity.
Over the years I also worked for International Animal Rescue in Uckfield and then moved over to their sister charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue where I became their National Co-ordinator helping to support volunteers around the country undertake whale, dolphin and seal rescues. Including going to Cumbria for a two week operation to save a dolphin trapped in a harbour and helping to train people in Canada in how to rescue marine life.
At one point I had to reduce my rescue work for a couple of years after being warned by my doctor that I was close to having a heart attack if I didn’t start taking it easy. I even ploughed all of my £10,000 savings into the charity to save it when it came close to closing back 2007, leaving me without any savings.
In 2005 WRAS was formed as a registered charitable company. More recently I moved to work part time for WRAS on minimum wage thanks to sponsorship from International Animal Rescue and late 2010 WRAS opened the doors to its current Casualty Care Centre at Whitesmith on the A22 between Hailsham, Uckfield and Lewes. The centre is now capable of holding up to 200 casualties at a time. In addition to this the charity has four veterinary ambulances and over 80 volunteers who work hard to keep the charity going.
The charity has grown to become an award winning charity and in 2010 the charity received an IFAW Animal Action Award at the House of Lords, and amazingly in 2012 I was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List receiving the MBE for services to animal welfare. Later that year I received the BBC Sussex & Surrey Community Heroes Award for Animal Welfare, and in 2013 the charity won the Local Animal Charity of the Year in the ITV1 British Animal Honours. My work has also been recognised by both the Eastbourne Herald and Gazette in 2005 when he won a Volunteer Award and in 2010 received an award from local radio station Sovereign FM.
WRAS is now much bigger than just me, and there is no way WRAS could operate without every one involved doing their own bit to support the charity, keep it running and saving our precious local wildlife. But don’t just take my word for it this is what some of my colleague have to say:
“We launched Trevor’s 30th Year Appeal to raise vital funds to help WRAS save our local wildlife. WRAS’s workload has always been much higher than it can cope with but we want to change that and help even more casualties than ever before! Millions of wildlife casualties are euthanized at vets up and down the country due to the lack of facilities for these casualties to go to, but in East Sussex they have WRAS and we are saving thousands of wildlife casualties as a result of the public support we receive. I find WRAS really fulfilling and get a great sense of pride from working with everyone at WRAS, they are a great team and so caring” said Chris Riddington one of WRAS’s Duty Managers.
“I joined WRAS for work experience in 2012 for a year whilst studying at the University of Kent, and was lucky enough to then get a grant so I could work part time and then full time for WRAS. WRAS has always had a strong sense of community responsibility and tried to be very supportive towards back to work scheme, providing work placements for students from local schools and colleges as well as going out into the community to give talks, displays and more. WRAS is a great charity and one I am proud to be part of” said Lindsay Redfern BSc (Hons) who is now one of WRAS’s Casualty Centre Managers.
“I remember meeting Trevor for the first time in 2008 and the first call I went out on with Trevor was a deer caught in rope with a damaged leg, the finders had cut it free, and as we approached the deer got up and ran into a wooded area and onto a path. I ran one end of the path and Trevor ran to the opposite end to block the deer in. The deer looked both ways and to my horror the deer clearly thought I was it best chance of escape and bolted straight towards me! I had no choice but to tackle the deer and bring it down and I was surprised that I managed it. Trevor was quickly with me and then able to help. I got quite a few bruises but the deer was rescued. I think I surprised Trevor and within 6 months Trevor and I were in a relationship and I’ve regretted it ever since! Trevor has a habit of us doing weird and wonderful rescues around my birthday and I’ve had to rush down to the casualty centre with him a few time to clean out maggot infested wounds and various animals in smelly conditions. I love it really!” laughed Kathy Martyn WRAS Trustee and now Trevor’s partner.
WRAS now receives about 3000 calls a year which is growing steadily, but is unable to deal with the workload, but is ever expanding its facilities to take in a help thousands of casualties every year. During peak time WRAS can receive over 100 calls a day. The average length of time it takes to deal with a call-out is 2.5 hours. This can be much lower at 15 – 20 minutes with simply cases close to the centre but rescues can turn into days, with my longest rescue being almost 3 weeks based at Monkton Marshes in Kent in January 2003 when he slept in his ambulance in a field to help a flock of swans which every day kept hitting overhead power cables.
WRAS is asking people to either make a donation of £30 as it’s my 30th year, or £20 as WRAS has been a voluntary group for 20 years or £10 as we have been a registered charity for 10 years or whatever amount they can afford to help support the expansion of the charity and to help increase the charities ability to
increase the number of animals they can cope with.
There will be a few celebration activities and events this year. Which starts with the launch of Trevor’s 30th Year Appeal to help support and increase the number of casualties WRAS can afford to take in and care for.
So many people congratulate me and say what a wonderful job I am doing, when in reality it is our hard working volunteers, generous supporters, and those who believed and had faith in my vision which should be thanked because without them we would not be here nor able to help the thousands of casualties we deal with. I don’t know where the past 30 years have gone. We have certainly seen our highs and lows and dealt with some weird and wonderful situations.
To make a donation online visit our website www.wildlifeambulance.org; or give WRAS a call on 01825-873003 during office hours to make a donation over the phone; or post a donation to Trevor’s Appeal, East Sussex WRAS, PO Box 2148, Seaford, BN25 9DE.