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.

Leader skills: Risk Assessments

This will be the 4th year that our Guide unit has done a joint campfire with another Guide unit. I came from a very traditional Guide unit, and the Guide unit where I started my warrant training was run by the person in our county who basically ran all the bookings for the campsites. Sadly though, our super close, very handy, holds so many memories for me, Guide campsite had to close last year.

This meant finding a new venue for our annual end of year campfire. And that meant a new risk assessment.
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When organising any kind of trip, planning is key. And hopefully you’ll be able to do a site visit first. Which is what our Unit Leader and I did a few weeks ago. If you look closely in the photo, you’ll be able to see that when we arrived at this campsite it started SNOWING.

Ahh. Don’t you love Scotland in the springtime?!

The visit was important as if we hadn’t gone, we wouldn’t be going into our trip knowing certain things may be an issue. Our old campsite was easily accessible with cars being able to pass each other with ease. We did have a very rickety bridge to cross to the campfire site, needed to know where to collect water and had to bring all our own fire making materials. This campsite is accessed by a single track road, a very cramped and poorly designed car park (which will likely make 56 Guides & Young Leaders being dropped off a nightmare). The toilets are much nicer but quite a distance from the campfire site. We don’t have to bring our own materials and everything will be provided for us by the venue.

And this is where risk assessments come in. You look at the venue, what you will be doing and assess what potential problems will arise. Then you can come up with a plan on how you would deal with them if they DO arise. Hopefully it means that if they do happen – you will be able to stay calm in the knowledge that you have prepared for such an eventuality and do what is needed. Otherwise you might find yourself in a situation of panic.

At our campfire we’ll have a proper site which makes fire safety very manageable. We’ll have water and sand if the fire needs to be put out. We will have leaders in hi-vis jackets monitoring traffic coming in/out of the campsite. We  have several people trained in first aid in case someone trips up while playing rounders or burns their fingers on a marshmallow. The girls have all been instructed to make sure they have their hair tied back to keep it safe from flames while toasting marshmallows. We have food that girls can eat because we know what their dietary requirements are. We have asked parents and leaders to car share as much as possible to ease the flow of traffic at pick up and drop off. We will have a home contact who can be the port of call in an emergency situation.

I’m now training my Senior Section girls (especially as they are getting older and some of them are starting their own Leadership Qualifications) in how to access the Girlguiding manual, and how to risk assess activities outside of the meeting place. Although it got a bit silly and at first they thought it was stupid, as a member shared about something that had happened while on a trip with her Guide unit she volunteers with, the point of risk assessments became more clear.

Because it’s always ‘fine’ until it’s not! And when you do all the ‘silly’ stuff required – consent forms, emergency contacts, alerting your commissioner that you are going on a trip, risk assessments, site visits – it isn’t silly if something does happen because you are prepared. 🙂

Risk Assessment Template 2016

 

Earning badges from the cradle to the coffin

Two years ago, I went to Germany to share and compare research on lifelong learning with other education students from all over Europe. We had a phrase that we coined, that learning should be ‘from the cradle to the coffin’ (some things just get confused when you are translating from different languages…I’ll tell you about the presentation about the ‘farmers’ in Italy another day).

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I left Girlguiding when I was 18. I was only 17 when I went to university, and was kept in guiding by a lovely Ranger leader who kept communicating with me, and always left the door open to come back whenever I was at home and a Brownie Guider who picked me up from my relatively isolated student village. In my second year, I was all on my own. Our ranger unit became self run (and never got any new blood as a result with no qualified leader) there was no one to ask about the Queen’s Guide pack my leader had given me before she emigrated and I lived in a flat far away from the Brownie unit. They never trained me and never offered me a transfer to a closer unit.

And there were so many opportunities to learn for someone my age. I got to be a volunteer youth worker, I got music lessons when I sang in my church, people fed me every Sunday and offered me leftovers to take home, I was at university where there were so many societies to join giving access to try so many new things like underwater hockey, opera singing, trampolining, debating, first aid… it was amazing.

When I graduated at 22, I was straight into a workplace where there was so much to learn. How to do risk assessments, live up to standards of the Care Commissions and the education inspectors, child protection policies…I worked evenings and the occasional weekend…and by the time I was in a position where I had time to learn something outside of my workplace, I was 26 and it turned out I was deemed too old for everything.

The world seemed to say that once you were a grown up, your opportunities for learning were kinda done.

I came back to Girlguiding really to get involved in my local community. My friend Ashleigh (a fellow Girlguiding leader) put it best in a social media meme a few weeks ago. We got involved to “be who [we] needed when [we] were younger”. My Ranger leader had been a rock in a difficult two years of my life, and she had been someone who did not judge. She accepted me for who I was, accommodated me and encouraged me. Even to the point where she let me travel to our Venture Scout camp by train and picked me up from the station because I was too scared to travel with the Rangers and Scouts on the coach in case anyone got travelsick on the bus.

Although my Guide leader was an extremely stern ‘old school’ type of Guider, she was kind to me, and she encouraged me so much. She helped me get my first paid job when I was 15 and always passed on every Guiding opportunity to me. When me and my two friends got our Baden-Powell Awards, she made a big deal for us. There was cake, an award from the County Commissioner, gifts and a party where we were allowed to invite our friends and family. (Yes to my own Guides and Senior Section, I totally copied her when it came to celebrating YOUR Baden-Powell and Chief Guide award achievements). I felt like I’d achieved something great. When I got into the County Show, she brought my unit along to cheer me on. I knew she had my back.

It was sad to realise that in the years I’d been away from Guiding, I’d missed out on all the opportunities of Senior Section awards. And now there was nothing. Sure, I did my Leadership Qualification – but really the only thing I learned was how to use the Girlguiding admin systems. Everything else was pretty much skills I was transferring from the fact I was a Community Education Worker by trade already! I was very happy to qualify, but mostly for the fact it meant that I had checked the box to be able to do more with my units.

I get super jealous of the girls sometimes, for all the amazing things and badges they can achieve. Though I am sad for the Guides – there are fewer badges for them to achieve now compared to when I was a Guide, and no badge book which makes things more difficult.

But as we did Free Being Me, it got me thinking about something that had been bugging me for a while. We talk in the Free Being Me programme about the image myth. It was all about weight, skin colour, hair colour, texture, body shape. But not about age. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that there are very few older women in our media. There are even fewer who are learning and embarking on new things. Have you noticed?

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Yes. This is what a whole full-time year of postgraduate study will get you. An E-mail.

I’m finding at 30 that there is little opportunity for learning and achieving. Heck, even two years of university and earning a qualification only got me an automated e-mail to say “Qualification Achieved”. At least I got a nice letter and a shiny badge from Girlguiding UK even if they did put not quite my name on my certificate when I got my Leadership Qualification. The only badges I get now are the ones I can simply buy from the Guide Shop, and it’s just not as fun or rewarding. Gone are the days where I learned Scottish Country Dancing for 4 weeks and showed what I’d learned in front of a tester. Or spent several evenings learning first aid and then showed off my skills on a resusci annie lying on a gym mat. I’m not trying to write poems or learn photography or the constellations of the sky.  I can go to my local adult learning class for leisure, but there’s no badge at the end. When I did ballet as a teenager I got the opportunity to be examined and got a lovely certificate. Now I just turn up if I want to. It’s fun and I love my ballet teacher. But I kinda liked the certificates and knowing how I was progressing.

I thought I was the only person that felt the need for badges, but then Dotty Winters wrote this article for Standard Issue Magazine. And I was like “YESSSS! I’ve been saying this for AGGEEESSSS! I want grown up badges too!!”

Yes, there’s a bit of selfishness in my quest for adult badges, but also something serious. What message does it send if we are telling young people that all their learning has to end at 25? Because really, that’s the current perspective society is giving us. Not only does it send the subliminal message that you’ll have life sorted and sussed out by 25 (I was shocked to discover that it is not the case), but we are short changing everyone. The wisest people I know are the ones who not only have life experience but still want to learn new things. Like my friend who retired and the next week starting taking guitar lessons.

I’ve heard my own mother say she’s too old to learn, too old to start something new. I used to get annoyed, but now I understand. And I want to change that.

Guiding started as a way of extending learning beyond the classroom.

Let’s extend it beyond 25.

 

A year of Guiding: 2015

So the calendar year is almost over, my Guiding is done (in terms of unit meetings) for 2015. Here’s a wee look back at all that I got up to as a Girlguiding volunteer this past year…

 

Koala Friendly Mulled Wine…

Especially for my favourite Guides Unit Leader (who has sent me a text asking if I would  pllleeeeassseee share this recipe).IMG_1770

So there’s no reason why the Girlguiding community would know this, but I have a fair few bizarre allergies/intolerances. Most of the time these are a pain in the butt, and is probably why I do not enjoy cooking. However I have in a fit of stubbornness on occasions become determined to create alternatives – most of these are not great compared to the ‘real’ thing, but occassionally they turn out surprisingly well. So though no one wants to eat my non spicy vegetarian chilli, my Mum and many of my friends every December ask if I’ll make my ‘Koala Friendly Mulled Wine’. Last January I still had stuff leftover from Christmas to make it and did so when my fellow Guide leaders came round for a term planning meeting, and recently I made it for the Rangers.

Wait? What? Serving alcohol to underage Rangers?!!!

Don’t panic Girlguiding UK and my Rangers’ parents. There’s a key fact you need to know here. What makes my mulled wine ‘koala friendly’ is that it doesn’t contain any wine.

You see, I loved that mulled wine smell, and stupidly thought that like mince pies don’t contain red meat mince, that mulled wine didn’t contain any wine. I almost made myself very ill one night by accepting a glass at an event my friend’s husband bought me (and our friends). Because wine is one of those things – like spices, garlic, beta-carotene colouring, red meat, codeine and fairy liquid – that my body makes very very clear it can’t handle.

I was fed up missing out so one December I went experimenting to find an alternative. And I made it on Christmas Eve, and my Mum declared it ‘much nicer than real mulled wine’.

And so folks, I share with you my not so winey mulled wine recipe.

Serves about 4-6 people (depending on your mug size!)

You will need:

500ml Red grape juice
500ml Cranberry and Raspberry Juice
200ml water
2 mulled wine spice sachets
1 clementine cut into slices (or any orange type fruit – oranges, satsumas and tangerines should all work fine)
A large saucepan, ladle and some mugs.

Pour the juice and water into a saucepan, add the sachets of mulled wine spice. Bring to the boil, then turn down immediately to simmer.
Simmer for 10 minutes
Turn the heat off and remove sachets.
Add your clementine/orange/satsuma slices so they float on top to garnish and a little extra flavour.
Ladle into mugs and serve!

It makes for an excellent winter warmer, and hope you enjoy it if you try it out. 🙂

Getting to Know You Games

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a while since I posted. The cafe I work in gets crazy busy during the Edinburgh Festivals so August was manic, and I haven’t had the same amount of time to deliver accounts to Division Commissioners and organise planning meetings as I usually do! Now that things this week are getting back to normal I thought I’d share some ‘Getting to Know You’ ideas that I’ve used in various settings for both training adults and working with young people.

Getting to Know You Bingo

You will need: Prepared ‘Bingo Grids’ for everyone in the meeting (go to my blog post for more details)

I’ve used this at Senior Section this week, as we have a new volunteer and two new starts. This worked really well. The idea is that each person (including leaders) are given a grid with different facts about a person. For example ‘Someone who has an older brother’ or ‘Someone who goes to a different school from you’.  The idea is that you have to mingle with people in the room to find people to match each one. You can only use each person in the room’s name once (although if you have more spaces on the grid than people show up to your meeting, I say that if you’ve used up everyone in the room on your list, you can use a person no more than twice!). You can at the end gather in a circle to discuss what they found out about each other as a result.

Catch the Name

You will need: A spongey ball

Everyone stands in a circle. Go around the room and introduce yourselves. After that you say a name then throw the ball to that person. Continue until everyone has had a turn at catching the ball.

Name Association Game

You will need: NOTHING!

Everyone sits down in a circle. A person starts by saying their name and something that she likes. For example “My name is Laurie and I like chocolate cake”. The next person will go “My name is Jo and I like running. This is Laurie and she likes chocolate cake”. The person after that will say “My name is Lindsay and I like to dance, This is Jo and she likes running. This is Laurie and she likes chocolate cake” and so on until some poor person (hopefully a leader) is last repeating all the names and likes of everyone in the circle! Actually going last is easy because you’ve heard it all so many times. 🙂

Pairs

You will need: A pack of playing cards

You will need an even number of people to participate in this game. Take out your cards and put them into pairs. Only have enough cards for everyone in the room participating. Shuffle the cards and hand them out. Each person has to find the person with the card that matches their own (ie Queen of Clubs and Queen of Spades, 3 of Hearts and 3 of Diamonds). Once everyone in the room is in a pair, shout out something that they should share with each other. It could ‘Your favourite Guiding memory’, “your favourite subject at school and why”, “your goal for what you’d like to do at Guides this year” etc.

Toilet Roll Game

You will need: A toilet roll

Everyone sits in a circle and passes around a roll of toilet paper. They are told they can take as much or as little toilet paper as they like. Once everyone has done that, they should pass their sheets of toilet roll to the person beside them. After that, for every sheet of toilet roll they share a fact about themselves.

Two truths and a lie

You will need: Pens and paper

Everyone is given a pen and piece of paper, and some time to think of three facts about themselves. Two will be true, one will be a lie.

You can either do it so that everyone shares in a large group one at time their three facts and the group has to guess. Or you can ask them to pair up with someone they don’t know very well and share their facts with each other. Then in a large group the other person tells the group which fact they think is the lie. The latter way works better if you have a group of people that includes friends that know each other very well.

Spiders Web

You will need: A ball of wool

Everyone sits in a circle, and person with the ball of wool shares their name and a fact about themselves before unravelling some wool and throwing it to another person in the circle. Eventually you should have a tangled web where everyone in the circle is connected by the web of wool.

Are there any good ‘getting to know you’ games that you’ve used in the past that I’ve not shared about? Please do in the comments – I’m always looking for new ones!

Another year in pictures…

I was at the cinema with two of my fellow leaders last week, and on the car ride home J was surprised to realise we are about to go into our 4th year in Senior Section. For Guide unit I’m currently Assistant Leader for, it will be my 5th year with them – it was the summer of 2011 that I contacted Girlguiding Edinburgh about volunteering with them again after an almost nine year hiatus.

In a few weeks we will start a new school year. I can’t believe it was a year ago that I started back choked with the cold and having old members returning to us – I’m almost convinced it was just so they could chuck the buckets of ice and water over us leaders. 😉 So here is a year in the life of a Girlguiding volunteer…