Celebrating Diwali with the Guides…


This year I discovered I was not the only leader who gets uncomfortable with Hallowe’en and so we decided this year to do Diwali instead (we could have probably done both, but our meeting closest to Hallowe’en will be taken up with Remembrance Sunday prep). Our Senior Section had said they had fun when we did it two years ago, and one of our leaders is doing her Leadership Qualification and one of the requirements is to organise activities in the meeting place. So she organised Diwali night!

I had contacted a friend at Glasgow uni who I met at one of the Children’s Literature conferences earlier this year to ask if her family celebrate Diwali. They do, and she was generous in sending on to us some ‘top tips’ for celebrating Diwali.

Our LIT (Leader In Training) went online and discovered a very simple recipe for coconut ladoos. She tried them out and our Senior Section unit got to be her guinea pigs (om nom nom). And we went on a bit of a mission to find some ‘Diwali’ stuff. We discovered a fantastic fabric shop, very well known in our city for providing material for salwars and saris and they were able to give us tips on which shops would sell sweets and food for Diwali and some bindi (the stick on jewels for your forehead). We also discovered they had ready made henna in tubes (we didn’t get any – but it we’ve definitely noted it for future).

A number of my friends at my church have been to India. I was meant to go one of the trips, and ended up staying behind to run the blog keeping their friends and family informed while they were out there. My friend Ruth brought me back a salwar suit which she wanted but didn’t fit her (it actually is a little too small for me as well!)


When visiting the towns, churches and schools they always wear traditional Indian dress. So I put a call out on facebook. On Sunday I was handed several bags containing several salwar suits and a beautiful sari. In fact a few people had bags for me who couldn’t find me (our church building is pretty large!). The girls got to try these on if they wanted to – I hadn’t realised the sari was in there, and tried to remember how to dress someone in a sari – but I’m pretty sure I got it wrong!


Our LIT had also found some crafts for Diwali – the girls started doing their own rangoli designs with chalk and coloured crayons and some of them made paper lanterns which tealights could shine through.



We also had two church elders visiting our unit that night. This is something they do about once a year to report back to the church session on what the groups using the buildings are doing, and often ask how they can support us etc. While they were ‘interviewing’ me we caught sight of the girls in the kitchen with the hatch open. I had opened the hatch to put a tape player with some Indian music my friend had lent me for the night. One of the tunes that came on was very bollywood, and the next thing we saw is five Guides shouting out ‘moves’ (stroke the cat, the slumdog millionaire, fix the lightbulb…?) as they did some ‘bollywood dancing’ to the music! It was very funny to watch and I wish I’d captured it on video!!

We had sparklers which our unit leader had delivered to me to take down that we still need to use. About an hour before our meeting our unit leader had to cancel due to an emergency, then our new volunteer got called into work at the last minute – add the church elders attending then several girls not turning up and others coming in late… it was a little more chaotic than we thought it was going to be. We are really grateful to one of the local Guide leaders who came down last minute to help us so we could have one leader supervising crafts and another leader supervising the ladoo making in the kitchen, while I was caught up with the elders!

So, sparklers will be used NEXT week (a combined extra late Diwali/early Fireworks night).

All in all it was a great night I think and the memory of the Bollywood dancing will be the once that stays with me.

Thanks to our awesome Leader in Training for organising the night, Soumi for giving us advice on Diwali, Ellie for coming to our rescue and everyone at Central who lent us your music tapes and clothes from India!


Activity Village – Diwali Crafts

Coconut Ladoos


Love Fashion, Hate Sweatshops

So currently, our Rangers (Senior Section) have decided that they are joining in with a campaign being overseen by War On Want called ‘Love Fashion, Hate Sweatshops‘.

And it wasn’t even a suggestion from one of the leaders.

One of the girls found the campaign all on her own, and e-mailed to ask me if she could do it and whether she thought the rest of the group would join in. I said YES and encouraged her to bring her pitch to the group which has been met with a lot of enthusiasm.

Trying to encourage them to work out what they want to do to raise awareness of the campaign has been the biggest challenge. With some questions to help them stay focused, they have now gone away with ‘homework’ of working out online petitions, if there are petitions that already exist and who their local politicians are and so on…

It’s a complex issue and one that I’ve had on my mind for many years after I took part in Tearfund’s Lift the Label campaign (at least I think that’s what it was called). It involved writing postcards to your favourite clothing stores to ask them to use more fairly traded source materials and production techniques.

I’m really proud of the girls, and during the discussions found out one of our members has written to our local MP about the Girls Matter campaign. She says she got a nice reply back. But then, I don’t see any signs of him taking action on it yet…

What’s in our Patrol Boxes?


Guides are a difficult age group, as you basically begin with a girl who is still a child, and by the time they leave they have gone through puberty and almost at the beginnings of adult hood.

In Guides, you are really beginning to encourage them being able to make their own decisions about the programme and organising themselves. But it is far from easy!

There are a few things we have found that have helped with that, and Patrol Boxes is the main one!

In their patrol boxes they now have

– Their Patrol Scrapbook

-A pencil case with some pencils, pens, a pair of scissors and colouring pencils

-A document wallet which contains

-A copy of the Guide Promise and Law

-A Term Plan

-A copy of the Unit Guidelines

-A Go For It/Badge Planning sheet

-A Patrol X-tra folder (these are actually cheaper than the G-File!)

-A spiral bound notebook

All of these things means the Patrols have ownership of their own box, plans and know exactly where to find everything. It also means that when they try to get us to do the work for them (or they forget) we can encourage them to go back to their Patrol Box and find their planning sheet to see what they need to remember for next time. When they ask what dates we are doing somehting we can tell them to look at the term plan. And if they are stuck on how to work together as a Patrol, there are lots of great activties in Patrol X-tra. We’ve also encouraged the patrols to use the G-File to look at what makes a good leader and how to work as a team when picking their Leaders and Seconds.

The notebook is also great so they can write a list or make a note and rip it out of the book to take home with them!

We have found these simple things to really help our patrols function well, although we do still need to sometimes help mediate in arguments about what activities they want to do or make sure they are staying on task when it comes to planning things – otherwise we get a bunch of Guides finding themselves bored and grumpy with nothing to do at their next meeting.

You download our planning sheet by clicking on the link below.  I created this based on one I found on an old Girlguiding website a few years ago, which I haven’t been able to find since.


Hope this helps any Guide leaders out there. 🙂

A letter to Australia…

As part of their International Octant, our unit decided they’d like to become pen pals with a group of Rangers in another country. When I was a Guide, I wrote to another Guide as part of my World Guiding badge (I think?!) through the WAGGGS pen pal scheme. I now cannot for the life of me remember which country in the world she was from. I still have the badges my pen pal sent to me on my camp blanket. Of course since then, most Western homes have access to computers and internet (heck, we even have it on phones we can carry in our pockets and handbags these days…most of us didn’t HAVE a phone in our pocket back in 1999!). Technological advances have sadly caused the ending of the Pen Pal scheme. 😦

We were determined to do it anyway, so, one of our members took on the task of finding us a group to be pen pals with. Finally she was able to get in touch with someone at Girl Guides Australia last winter.

Unfortunately we got thwarted by the fact when we e-mailed it was the Australian summer holidays – so it was a while before we got a response. Then it was our summer holidays. But finally a couple of months ago we got an address of a group of ‘Ranger Roos’ to write to.

At one of our meetings all of us took some coloured paper, pens and each wrote a letter telling about ourselves, our unit and how we are each involved with Girlguiding in the UK/Scotland. Even us leaders wrote a letter! The girls have decorated their letters with Australian flags, Scottish flags, celtic designs – I think Nessie is even on one. This week my job is to send them off downunder.

As much as it is fun to do e-mails, blogs and all the rest, there’s something fun about sending things in the mail.

Which reminds me – I have a Scottish Girlguiding badge to send to my friend Holly so she can add it to her camp blanket! The Royal Mail is going to make a fair bit out of me this week… 🙂


Learning First Aid with the Guides…

As I mentioned before, at the beginning of the year I asked the Guides what they’d like to do during 2014. One of their requests was that they wanted to learn First Aid. Although I knew that some things I could probably teach them myself (I have a degree in Health Promotion and previously worked as a Care Support Worker in a residential setting for about 4 years), we simply don’t have the equipment to teach them properly. So I reached out to St Andrew’s Ambulance and British Red Cross. I’ve supported British Red Cross for many years so I was really impressed (and pleased) with how quickly they responded to my e-mail, and grateful when they told me they had a volunteer willing to come for 3 evenings to teach our Guides all they needed to accomplish for their First Aid badge.



On our second week we were joined by four Resusci Anne dolls. Every time I see them I get reminded of the one I learned how to do CPR on when I was doing my First Aid badges as a Guide (there used to be 2) – the doll I learned on had a bit of a flatulence issue so when you blew into its mouth it farted (it wasn’t supposed to, I think there was a puncture in it). Many of our girls confessed their concerns about doing mouth to mouth on a stranger. Our First Aid instructors were fantastic at putting the girls minds at ease, and emphasising the importance of putting their own safety first, and that the most important thing is to do the chest compressions.


Two breaths and two rounds the of ‘Nellie the Elephant‘ (and repeat until paramedics take over) we hope would do some good work to saving a person’s life.

The girls also learned how to do bandages, slings, treating cuts, grazes, fractures, stings and lots more. The laughed at me getting the giggles while I was meant to be unconscious so the instructors could show them all how to put someone in the recovery position (I had just been taught by the same instructor in April for my Leadership Qualification so I knew what was going to happen and everything he was going to say word for word!).

British Red Cross did this completely for free with funding they have for working with school and youth groups. The sad part is that we were told that now a decision has been made that they have to concentrate their funding on specific types of youth groups so they probably won’t be allowed to come and teach Guide and Scout groups anymore. Personally I think that is a real shame as First Aid is a life skill that everyone needs because burns, fractures, cardiac arrests, seizures, fainting, bee stings, cuts could all happen to anyone. I think it’s also helpful when girls continually learn these skills. You do forget when you are not using them every day. Many of our Guides had done First Aid as Brownies and had forgotten a good chunk of it. Even I had forgotten how to do one of the slings since re-learning in April!

Coincidentally I attended an event in Edinburgh that some friends from my church had organised, and one of the speakers was a local A&E consultant gave a short talk about his work trying to reduce the number of deaths from cardiac arrest in Edinburgh, entitled ‘How to save a life before breakfast‘. One of the most important factors is a person getting responded to quickly. Only last Christmas a young teenager died after going into cardiac arrest while playing for a local football team in Edinburgh. It reminded me of the importance of why Guides have always learned these skills – to be prepared!

A HUGE thank you to the two volunteers from British Red Cross who took the time to come and share their skills and experience with our unit.

Discovering Brownie Archives…

Last weekend I got an e-mail from one of the leaders who does Guides in the same location as our Ranger/Senior Section unit to say that the church had discovered woodworm in the Guides cupboard, and could we please clear it out. One cupboard we didn’t even realise belonged to us. There was no Ranger meeting that week, so I went down to meet her and one of the church elders to see what the deal was with no idea that we were about to discover a lot of junk plus a lot of archive treasures!



IMG_4471Most of what we found was Brownie stuff, and it just happened that day I was wearing my ‘I was a Brownie’ t-shirt. I was squealing with excitement to find the two Brownie handbooks I’d been given when I joined Brownies to help me learn the Brownie story, promise, law and motto. I came into Brownies just as the new “Jeff Banks” uniform was introduced so I was sad I wouldn’t get to wear the brown dress I’d seen all the Brownies I looked up to wear, but this jumper that one of the other Guide leaders found after we managed to break open a Patrol box no one has a key for…



We also found wooden boxes with lamps and morse code for Guides to practise signalling. Even an old telephone for when Brownies would practise how to make emergency calls. There were Brownie cut out dolls, old First Aid manuals, books with flags and pictures of Girlguiding uniforms from all over the world. We even found the very first Look Wider folder from the 90s! It was wonderful to find a scrapbook from one of the Brownie Packs logging their adventures from 1992-95 that actually featured one of our Guide leaders, and we had a giggle at seeing pictures of her on a Pack holiday. We found old annual reports and county registers – one reporting a girl I knew from high school gaining her Baden-Powell Award. IMG_4475

The most special thing we found was a certificate from The Guide Association, signed by Olave Baden-Powell from when a third Brownie Pack was opened at the hall in 1974. I’m guessing they don’t give certificates for the opening of new units any more, as we didn’t get one when we opened the Ranger unit in 2012.



It seems such a shame that these things, which gave us so much excitement, and I’m sure would be fascinating to others who were part of Guiding when they were little too, just collect dust in cupboards. So we’re now thinking of investigating the possibility of setting up a temporary ‘museum’ for a weekend for the local area of all the archives we have from the different units. We are already aware that other units also have archives in church cupboards and under stages.

What happens with the archives in your area, and how do we preserve the history of Girlguiding for future generations to rediscover?