Planning our Little Lights Walk…

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!

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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.

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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.

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Our wooden anniversary

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?!) img_9245

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.

Anyway…

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.

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Volunteer Recruitment Stalls

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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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Lots of leaflets that we could hand out to those interested
  4. Our lovely mascots, which of course included Olave Bearen-Powell
  5. 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

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
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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?

Long time, no blog!

Hello!

It’s been a long time since I blogged, and I promise I have a good excuse. At the end of last term, things got a little bit crazy as in May I was having numerous interviews about job opportunities. In the end, I was offered two part-time jobs in the space of 30 minutes (crazy after a THREE YEAR search for work in the CLD sector) so in the last week of term I travelled to London to start a part-time job as a Fundraising Officer for a national charity, and then after helping out as a group leader, worship leader and First Aider at Surf Camp started another part-time job with a youth project to develop services for young women.

Schools went back in Edinburgh this past week, and the Midlothian schools go back this coming Tuesday…so I’m started to get prepared for a new school year in all manner of ways!

As much as I am able to, I will continue sharing what our units get up to. In the hope that it helps other volunteers and youth workers.

Some of the things we have planned for this term is:

Patrols choosing, planning and doing a Go For It badge

Trip to a new trampoline park, roller rink or Gang Show (we had requests, and they will get to vote on which trip they want to do, with potential to do others later on in the year).

Organising a sponsored Little Lights Walk for Bliss (there will be glow bands & luminous face paint!)

Participating in local community services of Remembrance.

Having our first proper Patrol Leader elections (the girls have always asked us to choose, but we would like to encourage them taking more ownership of this…so we shall see. I’ve been asking other leaders about how their Guide units organise leaders and patrols).

Having a visit from one of our local Peer Educators to do Think Resilient.

plus if our Young Leaders get it finished soon, we hope to have a party to celebrate them gaining their Young Leadership Qualification.

We also have a location move this year, where we will be leaving our old hall and moving to a different one. We are still waiting for details to be finalised (in particular for storage space to be made available to us).

And that’s just for Guides!

Senior Section starts back this week, and I’m hoping for more organisation, commitment and flexibility of meetings so they can do more this year. We shall see. It will really depend on what the girls want and decide.

Whodunnit?

Recently some unexpected absences led to a panic about what we were going to do at Guides as we had to quickly change what we had planned. Cue our unit helper, Penny coming to the rescue by borrowing an idea from her daughter to play a large Guide themed game of cluedo!img_8679

As you can see we used some masking tape, and equipment we’ve collected over the years from Active Kids (training poles, throw down feet and bean bags) to set up our ‘Cluedo Board’. The Guides loved this so much they insisted on playing it three times, and we are using this year’s vouchers to get a few more things (like a giant foam dice) to make playing this game a more frequent activity and a bit easier to set up.

Penny has kindly sent me the instructions after a Guide leader asked me if I could share how the game works. They are in the PDF document below (click on Guide Cluedo).

I believe it was Professor Laurie Plum, in the kitchen, with the hot chocolate! 😉

Guide Cluedo

Toasting marshmallows on the beach…

There’s a constant challenge with Rangers, trying to keep it girl-led, flexible but also trying to still do something to make it worth coming to. I always feel like I’m not doing a good enough job of providing opportunities to them through Girlguiding.

Due to my job changes, and so many of the girls doing school trips abroad, one off to Camp America and a few on Duke of Edinburgh, we have had to do away with trips we wanted to do…like our end of year campfire. We used to be able to use a Girlguiding campsite that was 10 minutes away, and backed on to our Assistant Leader’s garden (handy if we ever forgot anything!) but it was sold off last year.  We also have several of the girls who have commitments right before our meeting time so often arrive late. Going on a trip is even more difficult because of this.

We did manage one though – we headed down to beach area not too far away in the North West of the city, disposable barbecue in hand so we could toast some marshmallows.

It was wonderfully dry but got very chilly by the end of the night as the barbecue died down and the wind blew! It was a very brisk walk back to the car park, where many of the Rangers hid in my car to keep warm while they waited for parents to arrive to pick them up. They also spotted that someone had tossed rubbish all over a section of the car park and decided to use some Guiding spirit to go pick it up and put it in the nearest bin (as a Surfers Against Sewage supporter, I wholly approved of this initiative). And as the sun started to set, I fully appreciated a night outdoors!

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I don’t just volunteer to meet bunnies…

Because I’m usually the one behind the camera at Guides and Senior Section, there are very few pictures of me ‘at work’ as a Guide leader from the last year.IMG_0695

This one was taken by one of our Young Leaders (I think!) when our Guide unit visited Pets At Home to learn about pet care. One of the Guides got very nervous and scared holding this bunny and in the end I held it while helping her to calmly stroke it. We named the bunny Simba because we thought he looked a bit like a lion. After the holidays one of our Guides ran up to me to tell me that she had found out from the Pets At Home staff that Simba had now been adopted by a family.

I’ve written before about why I volunteer with Girlguiding. Essentially it’s for two reasons. Firstly, to give back to the organisation that gave so much to me as I was growing from a little girl to a young woman. Secondly, because it can be so rewarding to watch and support girls grow into young women.

I’ve been privileged to have some of those young women message me long after they’ve left my unit to say thank you. I’ve watched girls with no confidence make friends and achieve things they didn’t believe they were capable of. I’ve had girls that I constantly had to give my ‘Guider stare’ to or ‘have words’ with become the ones who end up being positive role models for the next generation of Guides. They come to me saying “Oh my goodness, remember when I…” or “I can’t believe how I used to…” and I respond by saying “Oh yes, I remember. But look at you NOW.”

Over the last three years it’s been hard to keep going, with job changes, trying to finish university and other stuff. But it’s made possible by working as part of a team of other volunteers. We take our turns, we help one another out. We don’t just commisserate and cheer one another on during meetings, but share what’s going on in our lives outside Guiding too. That’s why last year I was at the weddings of some of my fellow leaders. It’s why right now me and our unit helper are collecting lego cards for our unit leader’s youngest son!

We keep doing it because we try to make it fun. We keep going through the harder, frustrating times because we have those moments where we realise how much it is worth it!

8 years of my life have been given to volunteering with Girlguiding. More if you count my time as a Guide helper at a Brownie unit! And I hope I can give many more.

Here’s to all the volunteers….past…present…and hopefully future ones!

To find out more about how you can volunteer with Girlguiding head over to their website.

You can read my previous years of Volunteers Week posts here and here.