Starting the year of Rangers…

IMG_4372I mentioned how the new year of Guides began, but didn’t talk about how we started the new year of Rangers/senior section. As the summer holidays came to an end, something called the ice bucket challenge was going viral on social media. A few of our Young Leaders and Rangers had done it, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I got nominated.

I studied at a medical school, worked in hospitals and took care of people with serious learning disabilities during my undergraduate studies. Unfortunately it means I’ve seen a lot of rotten things. And motor neurone disease is one of the worst.

I nominated my fellow leaders – and they in turn invited one of the new Guide leaders to join in and we decided to all do it together on the same night. And Senior Section volunteered (rather jubilantly) to help us. I’d come down with a cold the day before, so it wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had (by the next day I was stuck in bed). However, it also seemed to lure two of our members who had left, back to Senior Section which was lovely.

There was a lot of controversy around the ice bucket challenge – some said it was wasting water, others said what’s the big deal, some complained it was giving too much focus on one charity.

Here’s why I agreed to it though…

1. I don’t like wasting water, but in Scotland we are blessed with lots of water. Unfortunately it is not a resource easily ‘shared’ with countries experiencing drought. I question whether some of the water nay-sayers have ever had a water fight or filled up a paddling pool? It was a fun silly thing and I’m sure I would have gone through more extra water if I’d trained for and run a marathon.

2. As much as it was great to make a donation, for me it was about raising awareness of a disease that many people hadn’t heard of or knew much about. People diagnosed will die – it’s not like cancer where there are more people surviving. There’s no cure, there have been no scientific advances in treatment or prevention for decades. The progression is horrible and in our country the paperwork for the support needed takes so long to process and get into place there’s a gap. There are only seven specialist nurses in the whole of Scotland to cover 400 patients and their families and every single one is funded by charitable donation not NHS.

3. Not only did we do a little bit for a worthy cause, it also created some team bonding. Not just with leaders but our Senior Section unit who were there (parents watching in the car park too I might add) with buckets of water and ice, videoing and taking pictures on the leaders’ phones, keeping glasses and car keys safe, ready with towels…

4. I do get why some people felt sharing that they had donated could be seen as narcissistic or bragging. And yes, I did share the video on facebook and show pictures on Instagram and Twitter. Again, for me it was about showing support for the guy that started it in the first place (who suffers from this awful disease) which I know is encouraging for that person and his family.

(And PS – Yes, I actually do give to charities without telling you about it on social media too).

So that’s why I did the Ice Bucket Challenge. And I’m glad we did. I’m hoping it’s going to help benefit those affected by Motor Neurone Disease in lots of ways. I’m also sure that in the future there’ll be more mad stuff we do to take action for communities.

Because we made a promise to serve them.


I am a feminist

There was a post on a facebook group the other day with a comment saying how they didn’t think Girlguiding should be a ‘feminist’ organisation. I honestly wanted to scratch my own eyes out to un-see that comment. However, the next day I watched an incredible speech given by a young woman who has helped bring two of my favourite characters in literature to the cinema screen through her acting talents. That young woman is, of course, Emma Watson.


Emma is working with the UN as their Goodwill Ambassador for Women, and this speech above was at the launch of the UN’s ‘He For She’ campaign.

This summer, I had the pleasure of attending events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival where I got to meet the founders of the Vagenda blog, Holly Baxter & Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, and writer & author, Melissa Benn. All three ladies had smiles and compliments when they found out I was a Girlguiding leader. However during both events there were women and men who said they didn’t want to call themselves feminists ‘even though they believed in gender equality’. Because the media has done a grand job at making us believe that feminism is about oppressing men – it is not. And I loved that Emma addressed that in her speech to the UN.

Girlguiding recently launched their Girls Matter campaign. I won’t say I agree literally with all their points (my main concern is that I’d never want a woman or man to be in a role to fill a quota – I simply wish that we always have the best people for the job, however I think that inequalities in representation of all people need to be addressed in our political and economic arenas). I’ve had members of the units I’m part of report to me some of the sexual harrassment they’ve experienced at school and I still have strong memories of the struggle we had to find stories of famous women in the media that were about who they were and the inspirational things they do/have done, rather than their looks.

It says a lot about people’s attitudes to gender equality when you see the appalling backlash Emma Watson has faced since the speech went public, and how it was reported in the media. Some journalists wanted to talk more about what she was wearing while making the speech rather than discuss the content of her speech. The same week, pictures of Gloria De Piero were shown in the papers discussing her outfit more than her speech at the Labour Party conference.

We still have a long ways to go folks!

So yes, I am a feminist. I believe in gender equality. I believe that the world was not created to have this imbalance. And yes I will speak out against inequality of any kind.

Girls matter. Women matter.

And the world needs us as well as the men.

It’s not about one or the other. 🙂

Happy birthday to us!

It’s tough to believe, but two years ago today was our first meeting of our Senior Section unit. I worried that only two people might turn up, or that perhaps they’d think it was so rubbish after the first night they would never come back. Six girls came to that first meeting, and together we began to put some plans in place for our first term as we painted our nails with Jenny’s extensive nail varnish collection!

Five girls remained for the whole of that first term, and we were joined by a sixth member from my Guide unit after she finished her Baden Powell Award in the January.

I have great memories of the last two years – I hope our girls do too! It’s funny to think a week before the Scottish Independence referendum that it was one of our first ‘big’ discussions as we were looking at the Guide Promise. It all stemmed from looking at what it meant to keep the promise and we got to the line about serving our ‘Queen and country’. All of the girls (mostly under 16 at that point) suddenly realised they’d be eligible to vote in the referendum and were quite panicked about the prospect. There was a lot of chat about their opinions on whether they should be allowed to vote when they wouldn’t be 18, how to find information to make an informed choice on voting and so on.

The girls still admire their Promise Tree fondly. They decided to make their Promise on the ferris wheel at the Edinburgh Christmas Market (it was a rickety open air affair that involved a lot of screaming). Several of the girls were not happy with the wording of the promise and to be honest, I wasn’t either. I allowed them to change the line about loving God to something that kept the priniciple but that wouldn’t be a lie for them. I know at the time that may have been frowned upon, but honesty is a personal value of mine that I couldn’t forgo (and as I’ve said before – the first line of the Guide Law is that ‘A Guide is honest and can be trusted’). We were convinced GHQ had been bugging our meetings when we came back after Christmas to be told there was to be a Promise Consultation. We all participated, made sure our Guides all had their say too and I posted their surveys to London.

We have rock climbed, hula hooped, painted glass jars, toasted marshmallows on campfires, raged against the moments it seems like Senior Section gets glossed over or forgotten about and at times been hurt  and angered by people in the media slating Girlguiding.

We have started our traditions – cake and candles for every birthday we celebrate, and of course our meetings are accompanied by popcorn. We even went on the new less rickety Christmas Market ferris wheel to remake our Promise – this time with the new wording.

We are waiting for our girls to get mentors for their leadership qualifications, and one of our group has finished her Chief Guide Challenge already (we’re still waiting for the badge though – as no one seemed to know the process to get it).

We have ten girls that came to our first meeting this year, and word is spreading around the Division. Many Guides who would have just dropped out because they felt too old are now investigating staying on to join our Senior Section. It’s wonderful, and we have such an amazing group of girls that have done great things and I’m sure are going to do so much more to make this world a better place.

Happy 2nd birthday to us (may there be many more to come!!)

Making friends through Girlguiding



We’re currently recruiting for more volunteers in our area. This year I may have to stop doing Guides for about 4 months to do a class for my postgraduate degree, we need a new Brownie unit to meet demand and we have a number of units needing more helpers and leaders.

It’s my three year anniversary coming back into Guiding this month! I stopped volunteering when I got into my second year at university (which I didn’t want to do) and then never came back again until about 9 years later. The main reason for volunteering was to pass on my Guiding skills to another generation, but another reason was that I wanted to make friends in a community that didn’t feel like home to me.

I’ve made three great friends in my fellow leaders. The two leaders I worked with at Guides, and after a year I met a woman who turned out to be exactly my age (we are 7 days apart in age!) who was also looking to volunteer to make friends in the area and we started the Senior Section unit for our Division. Our first attempt to gather leaders in the area for a social last year fell apart as I (the main organiser) got struck down with flu (and I mean real proper can’t move out of bed,  crazy fevers, doctors thought I might have meningitis kind of flu). But when tragedy struck one of our young leaders, we decided to gather the leaders of our two units and take her and the other young leader out for afternoon tea after attending Remembrance Sunday services and a tradition was born.

At the end of the school year we gathered at one of our houses for a Pot Luck supper too to celebrate them graduating high school and out of our unit teams celebrating two 18ths, a 21st and two 30th birthdays.

A week ago, we had a new leader bonding experience with some of the newer leaders as they joined me, Jenny and Ashleigh in doing the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise funds and awareness of Motor Neurone Disease. Our Senior Section girls did the bucket honours while parents and some Scout leaders looked on in amusement.

There’s a bond we share in Girlguiding – a slight nuttiness, a dedication to the girls and a shared occasional groaning of bureucratic and communication frustrations. An understanding that we all live in houses that have that messy place where things are stacked and piled ready to be taken to a church hall each week. In fact, since I was 13 I’ve had my ‘camp equipment’ cupboard.

It’s easy to come in as a newbie and feel lost as everyone seems to know everyone. So I’d urge you to welcome new leaders and make an effort to include them in some adult volunteer social activities. Make your planning meetings have a social fun side (I know some Brownie leaders who’ve done their planning meeting in the local hotel bar, have a date kept free before term starts or finishes that’s just for the leaders). Make sure there’s seats for all the folks at your District meeting and take a few minutes for introductions to be done in a non-threatening way if someone new comes along (it’s way too easy just to get down to business and leave wondering who everyone was!).

Girlguiding is not just for the girls – it’s for the women too. And if my experience through the years has taught me anything, is that in Girlguiding you will be able to make friends for life.