Dear Potential Volunteer living in Edinburgh…

Maybe you used to be part of Girlguiding a long time ago. Maybe you’ve never been part of it. Maybe you used to volunteer but moved to study or for a job and looking to get involved in your new community somehow.

Have you thought about volunteering with Girlguiding?

I won’t lie, this post is a partly selfish one, because I’m part of the leadership for three Girlguiding units and they are doing awesome things. But we need help! Two of my units run at the same time in two different buildings and I can’t clone myself  to be in two places at once. Three out of four of the leaders are currently studying at university, and one of us is a mum to three young children with a husband who is sometimes working away.

One is a Guide unit – and really we need a new Brownie unit to feed into us. There’s quite  the waiting list for Brownies.

The other two are Ranger units. They are lots of fun. Both groups are growing almost weekly. In fact every week since January I’ve had at least one new girl coming along to check it out. And I would hate for the opportunities to not be there…but that’s what will happen if we don’t get volunteers.

Girlguiding Edinburgh is holding an open evening next Monday 2nd March at their Headquarters at 33 Melville Street from 6-7 p.m. It’s a great chance to find out what volunteering opportunities are available through Girlguiding (as it doesn’t have to be about doing youth or children’s work – there are opportunites to help with admin, finance, social media and all sorts of stuff). There are more details about the event on the GG Edinburgh website here.

Please go along if you are interested – I’m sure you have something to contribute to the Guiding movement, and it’s so rewarding. I’ve made awesome friends, and have made great memories that will stay with me for a very long time to come. And I’m excited to make more friends and memories in the future too.

Free Being Me

Back in the Autumn, I had a conversation with four of our oldest Guides about the above video. We had been noticing as leaders some chatter and conversations amongst the girls that we’d sometimes overhear, other times to us or in front of us about feeling like they were fat, being teased at school for what they looked like. Free Being Me was at the back of my mind. After the conversation about the ‘Like A Girl’ campaign even more so.

Then a friend who is a photographer approached me about the work I do in Girlguiding. She was concerned about the next generation of young women and the challenges to their body image and self esteem, and wondering if there was a way to use her photography skills to do something to help challenge these issues.

We met in a cafe before Christmas, and got talking…and then I went to our leaders, then our District and Division Commissioners with an idea. We wanted to know if it was possible before we pitched it to the girls.

I didn’t mention anything to the girls, because to be honest, it’s way too easy for us as leaders to make assumptions on what WE think the issues are. It was a difficult balance trying to set something up, fully aware that I was going to scrap the idea completely if the girls didn’t show interest.

On our first meeting back, we sat the girls down round a huge piece of paper and asked them two simple questions.

1. What are some of the things you’d like to do as a unit?

2. What do you think are the main issues and challenges facing girls your age today in our local area?

Body image, self-esteem and girls participation in sport was what they immediately came up with. There was a lot of discussion, many stories they told us about experiences they’d had at school and friends had at school. There brought up issues about gender stereotypes. I was blown away. I promise you, none of us leaders gave any prompts at all.

They didn’t want to leave the meeting that night, they wanted to keep talking and eventually we had to say that we had to leave it there…but based on what they’d said, we wanted to know if as a unit they wanted to look a resource that Girlguiding had produced. We also told them about the photography idea – and asked if they would be interested?

Stunned silence….and then a lot of frantic nodding and ‘yes’ saying followed. We said ok, we’d need to speak to parents, and apply for funding…but we’d try to make it happen.

This week, we began Free Being Me. My friend is going to be coming in halfway through to do a bit of a workshop with the girls as we’ve booked a photography studio at the local college so the girls can design their own self portraits based on what they’ve been learning during Free Being Me. They’ll also get to learn a bit about photography in the process hopefully as an extra bonus. Our hope is to get the photos printed and framed and exhibit them after we finish Free Being Me as part of their Take Action project.

It’s an exciting time, but it’s a been (and stil is) A LOT of work. The parents however have been overwhelmingly positive about it, and we’ve had messages from them (and conversations with them) telling us how glad they are their daughters are getting this opportunity and how they feel something like this is so relevant and needed. That is keeping me going, because at the moment things are CRAZY busy as I’m now on my practice placement for university, and trying to set up and plan my research project (which is going to be looking at the work of Girlguiding, I hope!).

Please be thinking of us, and hopefully I’ll be able to share more about the experience. Also, keep your fingers crossed that the local trust we have applied to gives us the funding for the photography part of our project…we do have a back up plan for funding, but we hope we don’t have to resort to Plan B! 🙂

Happy Thinking Day 2015

Even in the nine years I wasn’t a member of The Guide Association (now Girlguiding UK), I still used to see the date of 22nd February on the calendar, smile and think ‘It’s Thinking Day’.

Thinking Day is a day when Guides and Girl Scouts all around the world think of their sisters all around the world. We express our thanks for the friendships made and the fact we have this international movement we are all part of.

The 22nd February was chosen by international members of Guiding many decades ago, because it is the birthday of both our founder, Robert Baden-Powell, and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell who was the first ever World Chief Guide.

My memories of Thinking Day as a Brownie were bring your pennies, which would be laid in the shape of the World Badge, and would be given to the World Thinking Day fund. We would often learn about the different names Brownies and Guides had in other countries, and learn about the cultures in the countries they lived in. There also used to be big Thinking Day events for all the Brownies in Edinburgh, and I remember it being the only time I got to see how many Brownies dressed in fawn and yellow lived in my home city! There were sooooo many of us!

I would love to see Thinking Day celebrations become a tradition in our county or at least Division. It’s tough as now half-term is a full week long, and always seems to hit on Thinking Day. Arrrggghh (darn you City of Edinburgh Council)!! But these days many of the Brownies, Guides and Senior Section I meet don’t know what Thinking Day is. And that’s a real shame.

For today, I’m just wearing my current promise badge, and this morning searched out all the previous ones I’ve held. I stuck my Brownie and Guide one on my old Young Leader badge tab that I got when I received my Baden-Powell Award and made my promise as a Young Leader (18 months later I made my Ranger Promise in London – back then there were two separate badges for Rangers and Young Leaders). Sadly, my Rainbow promise badge that I got in 1990-ish has disappeared into the ether of “lost things”.

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I am super happy that next month I’ll be receiving my Leadership Qualifcation badge – as I finally got my confirmation that I had passed my LQ for Guides and Senior Section as a Unit Leader at the end of last month. I got a really lovely letter from the assessor for our county too, which I wasn’t expecting.

Next year it will be the 100th anniversary of the start of Rangers (now known as Senior Section) and I think it will also be the 90th Thinking Day. Wow. I might need to get planning…

But for now, I’ll just be thankful for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, all the opportunities it has brought me, everything I’ve learned from my fellow Guides and being part of the Guiding movement and proudly wear my promise badge.

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Happy Thinking Day!

International Women’s Day Collages

International Women’s Day is coming up, and will be celebrated on March 8th this year. A few years ago we got both the Guides and Rangers to make collages about women who inspired them to celebrate International Women’s Day. Both the leaders and the girls brought in newspapers and magazines to make the collages.

International Women's Day - girls brought magazines to make collages about inspirational women...

International Women’s Day – girls brought magazines to make collages about inspirational women…

The biggest challenge, sadly, was finding articles in newspapers and magazines that told stories about women that weren’t just judging them based on their looks or fashion sense or gossiping based on (often made up) rumours about their private lives.

It brings me to the realisation how much we need more equality in the telling of women’s stories and our history (or herstory!). At the moment I’m working with a group of women who share this view as part of my university practice placement with the Adult Learning Project in Edinburgh. I believe having role models to look up to and see things are possible helps children and young people to dream and believe their aspirations can become reality.

For example, did you know that in Edinburgh there are 200 public statues and out of that 200, only two are of women, and two are of dogs? And yet we have statues of men – some of whom were part of pretty terrible things (like slavery!). Yet we have some incredible women who were connected with Edinburgh. Just this weekend my friend’s wife was telling the story of Elsie Inglis. She set up Edinburgh’s first all female staffed maternity hospital in Edinburgh (which was closed down a number of years ago and has been refurbished so much it is no longer recognisable as the original building), was a suffragist and set up women’s hospitals on the frontline during World War 1 despite being told the women doctors and nurses shouldn’t bother by the War Office.

Do you know the stories of the Quaker women who were told they didn’t have the intelligence to take part in politics but went on to challenge the laws and petition against slavery and then fought for women to be given the right to vote? You can read about four of them here in a booklet produced by the DRB Women’s History Group.

For more information about Women’s stories that you might not be getting told about in school…

Women Inventors Website

US National Women’s History Museum

Glasgow Women’s Library

I’d also recommend for your own consideration and reflection (if you’re looking for it)

Soul Pancake: That’s What She Said (a web series partnering with Darling Magazine & Natalie Patterson)

With younger sections, it might be interesting to ask them about female characters in books they find inspiring. We are so blessed now with more variety in the stories available to read these days. I’ve recently been asking my friend’s daughters about why Elsa from Frozen is so much popular than Anna (still don’t get it, and makes me sad when the reply is ‘because she has the prettiest dress’ or ‘because she can do magic’). And I won’t lie, growing up one of my major female role models was the character of Sally in Home and Away! I also loved Dr Kate Rowan in Heartbeat, because she was always standing up for the rights of women and proving that female GPs were just as good as the male GPs!