Climbing Calamaties & the Senior Section paparazzi

For the last two terms, I’ve been running two Senior Section groups out the same unit. Something I committed to when I thought we had a new leader at our Guide unit….and then she left. It’s been a struggle to keep going, and I’m going to be eternally grateful to other leaders in the area who have stepped in my place at either Guides or the new Senior Section on the nights where I needed to be able to clone myself.

Anyway, our first joint outing was a few weeks ago when the new group decided they would like to go rock climbing. Knowing there were some in the original group who missed out last time or would like to go again, I gave them the opportunity to come along too.

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It was great to see the girls in both groups mingling, and a member who hadn’t been for while being able to join us too. Lots of advice shouting and encouragement as we did the beginner walls and when the girls got to try auto belaying.

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However, as I was the only leader there, I had my phone on a bench near us just in case – as I’m always the first emergency contact during meetings and activities. I always tell the girls where I’ve put the emergency contact list/consent forms just in case something happens and for some reason I’m incapacitated in the event of an emergency.

Why am I telling you this? Well. Apparently one of the most memorable Guiding moments of the year happened while we were there. One of our founding members had been helping with belaying standing against the wall as I was climbing, as one of the girls from the new group was doing the actual belaying. I began to swing as I came down and I was worried about landing on her head…which almost happened and to avoid it I swung off the wall.

You might ask, was the girl ok?

Why yes she was. Because her reaction was

Quick! Grab Laurie’s phone and get pictures!!

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This is one of the nicer pictures – she also took selfies basically with a close up of my backside (cheers for that!) as they were ALL laughing, except the girl who was having to concentrate on belaying so I didn’t simply crash to the ground. She did confess as she and another Senior Section member were telling other Guide leaders at a campfire this week that ‘had I not been belaying, I would have been doubled over laughing too‘.

As I turned round to make sure they were all ok (don’t worry, I was laughing too – laughing so much I couldn’t get back onto the wall in fact) there they were snapping away WITH MY PHONE smiling saying ‘it’s for the scrapbook’. A phrase I have said many times as I’ve taken pictures of them blowing out birthday candles, dressed in onesies, trying out hula hooping, covered in coloured cornflour during a 5k and so on.

I did point out that as they were on my phone I could delete them all, but I haven’t. I will print at least one that they can add to the scrapbook if they wish to.

Not my most noble moment as a Guiding leader.

But I’ll admit it was funny even if it was embarrassing.

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Free Being Me – the grand finale

In some kind of nutty diary planning, our grand finale to the Free Being Me project turned out to be waaay more crazy than we realised. Sunday 7th June was the day we put in the diary at Easter for the Guides’ exhibition.

First of all, two school holidays  in the month leading up to the exhibition which meant gaps between meetings so the Guides had less time to get the work done. Secondly during that time the other Assistant Leader was on exam leave. Thirdly, I was getting placement done (and the week before I was organising a wikipedia editathon event and a exhibition at a play as part of that) and fourthly, both Anneleen (our photographer) and myself had our final hand-ins for university hitting at the same time. Oh, and our Unit Leader’s kids had sports days and dance exam rehearsals on the week of said exhibition.

IMG_5568I made my family extremely grumpy as I took over the dining room table that week – with only one laptop (mine) at the final two meetings, and I think the same situation was going on at our Unit Leader, Jo’s house.

The girls had put together some stuff about Free Being Me and chosen photos I’d been taking ‘behind the scenes’ at their photo shoot sessions to put together a bit about what they’d done with Anneleen for the event.

IMG_3322This also included their messages speaking out against the beauty myth (the middle display board).

Despite having to take some of their content to type up, I didn’t correct any of it. None of us had been hovering over them too much, and I was blown away by what they wrote. Two of our oldest Guides had done the ‘About Free Being Me’ board (on the left). I used their words for our Press Release which got published on a local news website and the Girlguiding Scotland website.

The Guides had also decided they wanted to share their Free Being Me wall – they each wrote about someone who inspired them…we had parents, siblings, fish, famous women and even Dobby the house-elf from Harry Potter. I’m sure some adults would have told the girls they could only pick real-life humans, but I think it’s perfectly legitimate to be inspired by fictional characters. Sally Fletcher from Aussie soap Home and Away was a role model for me as a young girl.

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Leading up the stairs were the inspirational people/fish (some with pictures), they wrote who they were, and why they found them inspirational. On the other side, I had typed out every single quote they had written on numerous pieces of scrap paper and the girls had these going up the stairs on the other side…

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I don’t know where half these quotes came from, so I’m sorry if we didn’t give you credit. Most of these came from the girls’ memories or they made them up themselves I think.

And then of course were the portraits.

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My favourite part of the day was when I got to be present to a parent seeing their daughter’s portrait for the first time. So many of them gasped and looked at me, Jo or Anneleen and said ‘It really captures xxxxxx’s personality‘. Which of course was the point – the girls did such a great job working with Anneleen to find what makes them – well – them! And Anneleen really captured it with her camera.

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The girls raised £130 with a bake sale they organised and decided to have for charity. Frustratingly, the charity they’d chosen had closed down (we only discovered this when the girls asked if I’d email the charity to invite them to the exhibition and tell them they were going to fundraise for them). So note to charities – if you have to close down – please say this on your website, or take your website down!! I was proud of how they welcomed members of the public, served them tea and coffee, and also got very into inventing ‘cocktails’ and putting signs about them outside the heritage centre. ‘Borange’ being the main one (Orange and Apple and Blackcurrant squash mixed together in case you’re wondering).

The paper had asked if we could get a high resolution photo of the girls at the exhibition. Unfortunately not all the Guides were together at the same time due to some of them having other commitments such as rowing and dancing. But we giggled at Anneleen standing on a chair and getting attacked by a fan or light switch while she snapped some pictures of the girls in front of their portraits.

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However, much to Jo and I’s chagrin the photo that ended up in the paper was one with the two of us in it. And Anneleen and I have had a giggle that her new artist name should be ‘Anne Leen’ as the editor put in the photo credit rather than ‘Anneleen Lindsay’…

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The girls are getting to take their portraits home to keep at the end of term, and I hope that they’ll remember everything we’ve learned together during this last term and a half doing Free Being Me. Now, there’s just our final campfire and last meeting where 7 Brownies who’ll be joining us after the summer will be coming to help with their transition up the sections.

And it seems like two of the girls have used this term as an opportunity to step out and take hold of the opportunities we’ve been telling them about for so long. They are off to their first ever Guide camp this summer – a national one at that (neither of them have been camping with Girlguiding before) and have decided not to move up to Senior Section quite yet..they want to get their Baden-Powell first. 🙂

I ended up with only five days to do my final assignment for university – but it was worth it to support our Guides to accomplish so much. We, as their leaders, are unbelievably proud of them!

Enjoying the outdoors in the city…

In previous years, we’ve neglected to make good use of the summer term to tick off things for our ‘Out of Doors’ octant. Last summer, the girls came up with loads of great ideas of things they wanted to do and then we realised that by the time the Autumn term came, it was getting dark and perhaps wouldn’t be the best idea!

So this year we were on the ball. I’d kept the massive roll of paper containing their ideas, and brought it out for this term’s planning and it served as a good reminder. Some ideas got ditched, others got added, others changed.

Edinburgh is the city of seven hills, so we went for a walk up one of them. We got great views and came across lots of cool little hidden gems, including a walled garden. The girls noted the garden looks for volunteers in the summer months and said ‘maybe we could help out with that’. Why not?

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Another night the girls decided they wanted to go to Cramond Island. We met up at the beach, and the girls said they’d like to have a barbecue. The deal was that we would provide a disposable barbecue if they brought the food they wanted (which for the most part turned out to be marshmallows!)

I couldn’t find the tidal timings for the causeway to know if we could go across to the island, but when we arrived we discovered the tide was out so a decision was made to walk across to the island

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By the time we got there, we didn’t have too much time left so we just had marshmallows after I got the BBQ going which was difficult as it was a little breezy so our matches kept going out while trying to light it (we had carried a bottle of water to put out the barbecue and then I got the fun job of carrying the soggy cool barbecue back from the island after).

We’ve gotten really lucky too as May has been a very wintery month for Scotland (there’s even been hailstorms!) and the two nights we had outdoor activities it’s been relatively mild and even sunny (though not warm). I can’t imagine it would have been as fun if we’d been trudging through the rain.

Our final ‘outdoor’ activity will be our annual end of term campfire, and this year we hope to join with another Senior Section unit in the city. Any ideas for some outdoor ‘getting to know you’ games? I’ve realised that my outdoor game knowledge has disappeared as I’m the only leader who did lots of outdoor camping as a younger Guide and Ranger so I’m usually building a campfire while everyone else is running games.

Why do I volunteer with Girlguiding?

Why is it that on my day off when I *should* be filling in job applications or writing my final university assignment, I am writing up a draft press release and panicking that the charity our Guides voted on to fundraise for apparently closed down last month and they just never bothered to shut down their website?

I wrote last year about why I volunteer with Girlguiding. This year, I’m up to three groups of girls (two Senior Section groups and the Guide unit). Last term I finally got my Leadership Qualification badge – and at the same time stood with four new Senior Section members and two trainee leaders (who are becoming good friends of mine) making their promise.

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I love these moments.

Why do I love them so much?

The truth is that volunteering is work. And these moments remind me why I stick it out through the tougher days when it isn’t all silly selfies, eating cake and dressing up!

There are months when you watch girls rip each other and themselves apart, and then you watch them get to a place where they are cheering and encouraging one another on. And doing something nice for each other.

Starting the year by celebrating several birthdays

Starting the year by celebrating several birthdays

It requires you to do a tour of supermarkets, pound shops, specialist shops, retail parks looking for the things you need for an event or project your unit wants to work on. It requires your friends and colleagues to collect magazines, toilet rolls, yoghurt pots, empty glass jars or lend you CDs, costumes and salwar suits

IMG_4619Every year you have the panic of searching every jacket and bag you’ve had for the previous few months for the active kids vouchers you have been handed by lovely friends, relatives, Guides and colleagues as you’ve been saying goodbye or in the middle of doing something else (or is that just me?!). And then you spend a few hours counting them, on the Active Kids helpline because their website isn’t working and vowing you’re never doing it again…

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until of course the stuff arrives, the girls get excited, you see it put to good use…

The girls and leaders collected Active Kids Vouchers and we spent them!

The girls and leaders collected Active Kids Vouchers and we spent them!

…and by the time the vouchers appear in shops and the girls and your friends ask you ‘Are you collecting the vouchers again?‘ you find yourself saying ‘yes‘.

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It is work to get up on a drizzly Saturday morning at the crack of dawn when you’ve not slept for two days due to being choked with a cold, or you’ve been off work and on antibiotics all week with a chest infection and do a 5k with coloured cornflour being chucked at you…

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But it’s worth it to hear from parents how much their daughters loved it and hear the girls planning their ideas for how we can do it ‘even better’ next year.

And it’s draining when you care so much, and hear the girls say statements like ‘there’s nothing good about me‘ or ‘Why would anyone care what I have to say?‘ or ‘But I’m fat‘ or ‘I don’t know, I’m stupid‘ or ‘How could I inspire anyone?‘. You will ask advice from fellow leaders, come up with ideas, try to create opportunities and give them encouragement…anything you can think of that you hope will prove to them that they do have value, that people do care what they have to say, that they aren’t fat (and that body size shouldn’t stop them giving things a go anyway), that they aren’t dumb and that they can inspire other people just by being themselves.

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because when you see one of the girls overcome something…the exhaustion and frustration you’ve felt knowing that they could do it but them not seeing it doesn’t matter anymore.

The bottom line is this…

Volunteering is hard work.

But it’s mostly a lot of fun.

And it is definitely worth it.