You may remember that earlier this term I shared about how our Guides decided they wanted to do a Little Lights Walk for Bliss, a charity that supports babies born premature or sick. Well, World Prematurity Day was last Friday so we have now completed the walk…
…Olave was of course on the walk as well, proudly carried by one of the Guides and she has since been taking on the arduous job of collecting in the sponsorship money that has been handed in ‘offline’ in addition to everything that has come in through the unit’s JustGiving page.
The week before the Little Lights walk we had booked volunteer from Bliss come to chat to the girls about the work the charity does, but sadly the volunteer got sick and had to cancel last minute. I cobbled something together and did my best to try and answer questions…but we definitely needed the volunteer.
The night we did the walk we were blessed with mild, dry weather. The route we chose was darker than I expected – my car became a lit up Christmas tree where girls popped flasks of hot drinks for after the walk, consent forms and a long Bliss banner that the charity sent in our pack. The girls were decked out in light up trainers and we gave them glow stick bracelets and for those allowed it UV face paint. One of our Young Leaders had even bejewelled her woolly hat with some fairy lights which proved very useful on our return as quite a few Guides almost walked right past the steps back to our meeting point. Our helpful Young Leader then stayed at the stairs to ‘light’ the way!
We had a few parents tag along too, and the walk was a lovely way of bonding with each other. A lot of Guides who don’t normally chat to me as much did that night, and talked a lot about memories of Guides so far, what they’d like to do in future and just life outside Guides too.
After we got home, our unit leader got message after message from parents saying how much their daughters had enjoyed the experience. And to top it off, a picture I snapped of the girls at the end of the night made it into the local paper. (It’s better than the one below!)
I believe the Little Lights Walks are running through until February, and I would say they are so much fun, and I thoroughly recommend it. We got a great wee pack of stuff to organise the walk, and when I requested more sponsorship forms we got sent them so the girls didn’t have to register themselves. The girls are already asking me if we can take part in their spring time event “Bake for Bliss”.
Now I have the fun task of counting all the money so we can bank it and send a cheque to Bliss…
…and as I remind the girls every year, I don’t just mean the young men who lost their lives. The civilians too. The Girlguiding members whose childhoods were taken by war. The ones who died trying to save the lives of others. The ones who continued Guiding in secret when their organisation was banned. The ones who kept people’s spirits up and used all they’d learned to help each other survive while interred in prisoner of war camps in the Far East.
I will continue to teach about how Olave Baden-Powell urged girls to work for peace rather than war. How Robert Baden-Powell tried to encourage international friendship to prevent hate against one nationality to another.
There’s a fantastic book written by Janie Hampton called How The Girl Guides Won The War that I highly recommend. I’ve had to buy a new copy as mine has been borrowed so often I don’t know who has it anymore.
Lest we forget.
Last year a couple of our Rangers graduated high school, and we’ve really missed the ones who left our fair city. One of them spent a year teaching science through Project Trust in Guyana, and we were really happy to have her back for a couple of meetings between her return from Guyana and departure to university.
She very kindly offered to run a meeting giving a presentation about what she got up to, everything she had learned about Guyana, the culture and more. With two of our Rangers about to live abroad for a year, and the rest all at the very least leaving high school to as yet unknown destinations – it was a great night for the girls to learn from one of their peers about how she handled herself in a new situation, dealt with challenges and how to be a good friend to those in need of one when your usual support systems are far away.
Also, me not having to do anything except show up with the keys for the hall and our cupboard gave me the chance to sit with girls and their Look Wider record books. As a result we now have 4 Rangers who have completed their Chief Guide Challenge Award, and two Young Leaders who have completed their Young Leadership Qualification.
Soon after this came the news that yes, we’ll OFFICIALLY be called Rangers again, but that the age cut-off will soon be in force. All of the girls in our unit are unhappy about the age cut-off. The reality is a lot of them when they get to 17/18/19 stop being able to make regular meetings, but many of them try to stay connected. It is not unusual for one of my ‘ex’ Senior Section to message me (usually on facebook) to ask for advice or tell me what they’ve been getting up to, or how much they enjoyed being part of Girlguiding.
Reflecting on this night, I wonder how to navigate the change, and wonder about having the girls stay connected with the unit by coming back as ‘guests’ for the night or having some reunion parties. Definitely something to think about and discuss with members current and old…
I mentioned at the start of term how our Guide unit has decided to raise money for Bliss Scotland, a charity that champions the right for every baby born premature or sick to receive the best neonatal care. We know that there are Bliss volunteers who work in the two maternity hospitals closest to us, and as our previous Assistant Leader in training as well as a few Guides were born premature themselves, it was a cause that we felt we had a connection with.
Bliss run three events that people can organise in their own communities throughout the year – Bake for Bliss, Little Heroes and Little Lights. Little Lights runs through the winter, with Bliss holding their own Little Lights Walk close to World Prematurity Day (17th November). So as a way to get the Guides outdoors this winter, we are organising our own Little Lights Walk this November!
We were able to register our walk very easily through the Bliss website (if you click on link above you’ll find the online form to register interest). Within a day or so, someone contacted us by e-mail and had posted us a pack of goodies to use for organising our walk.
We got a poster too but I forgot to take a picture before I added our contact details etc to it, so for obvious reasons I’m not going to plaster that on the internet! 🙂
The Guides decided that they would have a fundraising page on JustGiving which is easy to set up. This way we can give the girls a letter with the web address for them to share with relatives that they maybe don’t see all the time who wish to sponsor them. We are going to get the girls to write what they’d like to put on the page about why they are doing the walk and how it helps at the next meeting. We don’t have internet access in our meeting place, so one of the leaders will copy and paste what they write onto the page later. We were only given one sponsorship form, as usually Bliss asks for people to register to take part individually. However I’ve asked Bliss if we can get sent sponsorship forms – if we don’t, I will likely make up a sponsorship form of our own to print off and give to each of the Guides. We know that there are always people who find doing the ‘old fashioned way’ of paper and handing over cash easier. We will then send in these forms and the money handed in as a unit, and save on postage (and make it easier for parents).
As leaders we gave a few options of locations to the girls. Because the walk is done in the dark, we took into consideration safety – particularly as we’ve discovered from previous activities that our girls are not very road safety aware, especially when in a big group and are busy excitedly chatting to one another. We wanted paths that took us away from roads but were well lit. The girls almost unanimously voted on a route, so that was thankfully settled quickly!
The Guides also plan to decorate themselves as ‘little lights’. We were able to get glow in the dark bracelets from Poundworld (18 for £1) and I got some UV glow in the dark face paint from Amazon.
Bliss has also sent us certificates that we can award to each of our walk participants after they’ve done the walk which is lovely! And of course, all the Guides plan to count this as the ‘Community Action’ part of their challenge badge for the year.
I will let you know how the walk goes, we are also really lucky that a local Brownie’s Mum is a Bliss volunteer and is coming to chat to the Guides about the work Bliss do after the Tattie Holidays. I know Bliss also have Community Ambassadors who sometimes give talks to groups too, so it might be worth finding out if there’s one in your local area.
This week on the 12th September, our Ranger group turned 5 years old! It’s hard to believe that it was 5 years ago I wandered into an unfamiliar church hall with no real idea of who was going to turn up. 6 girls from 3 different Guide units did, and 5 of those girls founded the 1st Turnhouse Senior Section. Most of them have now all grown up and moved away to uni (two will be graduating at the end of this school year – whattt?!)
I took one of those decorate your own cakes down, and two of the girls did this. If you’re wondering about the name, this was a joke the girls made up when the first name survey popped in some of their inboxes back in February. So appalled were they at the idea that anyone thought they should be renamed ‘Skylarks’ or ‘Kites’ or ‘Jets’ they decided if Girlguiding was going to dictate to them their name, they would be the ‘Turnhouse Dictators’ and renamed their what’s app group to reflect this in some kind of teenage rebellion? They forgot about it until recently when they realised the group is still called this. Hence the cake decoration. I’ve been told the reason for the snail is just because one girl likes drawing snails. Yes, my Rangers are a bit weird. But I like them just the way they are!
Incidentally, they’ve all voted now in the more recent survey, which they were still bemused by but seem to be a lot more happy with. I don’t know how they voted. I’m just glad they’ve had their say.
We looked up what ‘anniversary’ this was, and discovered that 5 years you are meant to gift ‘wood’. They asked if I’d we could do something related. We have a really tight budget this year due to census being really hiked up, and girls not always paying subs and being a lot more sporadic in appearing at meetings. But what I did find was some small wooden boxes for £1 each at The Works, and we used some acrylic paints to decorate them. It would have been cool to do some kind of wood carving craft, but in the time/budget I had to prepare it simply wasn’t doable. I already had some paintbrushes for use with acrylic paints at home, so I brought them in for the girls to use.
Volunteers. We have a huge need for them in our area, as Edinburgh has the biggest waiting lists anywhere in the country. I now struggle to make weekly meetings every single week, as my jobs require me to work evenings and sometimes travel to other places overnight. Our unit leader’s husband also has to work away overnight. And we never managed to replace our other Assistant Leader. We also have had at least two units at risk of closure in the last year.
One of our District Commissioners decided to grab the bull by the horns and got us a spot at our local shopping centre. It wasn’t the best time of year to do it as it was summer holidays – but needs must. We hope that by having the stall we got a few volunteer leads plus raised awareness in our city about the volunteering needs.
So what did we do?
- We had a rota of Girlguiding volunteers of all ages. This included two commissioners, two adult leaders, two members of the Senior Section and even a Rainbow and a Brownie! We all wore different versions of the uniform. A mistake we have seen in the past is having lots of volunteers on a stall – and that’s a little bit intimidating for strangers to attempt to engage with.
- We designed a display that hopefully gave a flavour of what Girlguiding looks like in 2017. If we had more time, I think we would have liked to have had more photos of all the sections in action.
- Lots of leaflets that we could hand out to those interested
- Our lovely mascots, which of course included Olave Bearen-Powell
- Tried to use social media in the lead up to encourage people to come along and say hello. I strongly recommend tweeting your local MP/MSPs/Councillors to ask them to come along and RT the info about where your stall will be and when.
What I find is that members of the general public passing by your stall are just wanting to get from A to B and are worried about being asked for money or being sold something. So you need to have people who are willing to approach people and be approachable! A few things which helped attract people to come talk to us were
- Free gifts (in this case sweets, but if your budget allows, I always recommend free pens. Everyone can use a pen so it’s less likely to end up in a drawer of junk or the bin and it’s a good thing to keep reminding them of your organisation when they pull it out to use or lend to someone else in need)
- An interactive element to your stall.
I got a tabletop flipchart from Amazon similar to this one which I also plan to use for Senior Section. This made it easy to carry, and not a hazard if it got knocked over. It also had two sides we could use, so on one side we asked people to tell us their Guiding memories. On the other side we asked what people thought Girlguiding members do in 2017. The Guiding memories question inspired lots of conversations from people of all ages who were wandering through the shopping centre.
All in all it was a lovely afternoon, and worth it. I definitely hope our Division does more of these in our local supermarkets, community events and going back to our local shopping centre. The other side of it was leaders from different sections and Districts got a chance to get to know each other as it’s rare for us to see each other unless we are interacting from sharing a church hall or talking about girls moving up from one unit to another.
Have you been doing anything to promote volunteering opportunities in your area? What has worked well for you?