The Rangers learn about Guyana

Last year a couple of our Rangers graduated high school, and we’ve really missed the ones who left our fair city. One of them spent a year teaching science through Project Trust in Guyana, and we were really happy to have her back for a couple of meetings between her return from Guyana and departure to university.

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She very kindly offered to run a meeting giving a presentation about what she got up to, everything she had learned about Guyana, the culture and more. With two of our Rangers about to live abroad for a year, and the rest all at the very least leaving high school to as yet unknown destinations – it was a great night for the girls to learn from one of their peers about how she handled herself in a new situation, dealt with challenges and how to be a good friend to those in need of one when your usual support systems are far away.

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Also, me not having to do anything except show up with the keys for the hall and our cupboard gave me the chance to sit with girls and their Look Wider record books. As a result we now have 4 Rangers who have completed their Chief Guide Challenge Award, and two Young Leaders who have completed their Young Leadership Qualification.

Soon after this came the news that yes, we’ll OFFICIALLY be called Rangers again, but that the age cut-off will soon be in force. All of the girls in our unit are unhappy about the age cut-off. The reality is a lot of them when they get to 17/18/19 stop being able to make regular meetings, but many of them try to stay connected. It is not unusual for one of my ‘ex’ Senior Section to message me (usually on facebook) to ask for advice or tell me what they’ve been getting up to, or how much they enjoyed being part of Girlguiding.

Reflecting on this night, I wonder how to navigate the change, and wonder about having the girls stay connected with the unit by coming back as ‘guests’ for the night or having some reunion parties. Definitely something to think about and discuss with members current and old…

 

 

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Volunteer Recruitment Stalls

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Volunteers. We have a huge need for them in our area, as Edinburgh has the biggest waiting lists anywhere in the country. I now struggle to make weekly meetings every single week, as my jobs require me to work evenings and sometimes travel to other places overnight. Our unit leader’s husband also has to work away overnight. And we never managed to replace our other Assistant Leader. We also have had at least two units at risk of closure in the last year.

One of our District Commissioners decided to grab the bull by the horns and got us a spot at our local shopping centre. It wasn’t the best time of year to do it as it was summer holidays – but needs must. We hope that by having the stall we got a few volunteer leads plus raised awareness in our city about the volunteering needs.

So what did we do?

  1. We had a rota of Girlguiding volunteers of all ages. This included two commissioners, two adult leaders, two members of the Senior Section and even a Rainbow and a Brownie! We all wore different versions of the uniform. A mistake we have seen in the past is having lots of volunteers on a stall – and that’s a little bit intimidating for strangers to attempt to engage with.
  2. We designed a display that hopefully gave a flavour of what Girlguiding looks like in 2017. If we had more time, I think we would have liked to have had more photos of all the sections in action.
  3. Lots of leaflets that we could hand out to those interested
  4. Our lovely mascots, which of course included Olave Bearen-Powell
  5. Tried to use social media in the lead up to encourage people to come along and say hello. I strongly recommend tweeting your local MP/MSPs/Councillors to ask them to come along and RT the info about where your stall will be and when.

What I find is that members of the general public passing by your stall are just wanting to get from A to B and are worried about being asked for money or being sold something. So you need to have people who are willing to approach people and be approachable! A few things which helped attract people to come talk to us were

  1. Free gifts (in this case sweets, but if your budget allows, I always recommend free pens. Everyone can use a pen so it’s less likely to end up in a drawer of junk or the bin and it’s a good thing to keep reminding them of your organisation when they pull it out to use or lend to someone else in need)
  2. An interactive element to your stall.
    I got a tabletop flipchart from Amazon similar to this one which I also plan to use for Senior Section. This made it easy to carry, and not a hazard if it got knocked over. It also had two sides we could use, so on one side we asked people to tell us their Guiding memories. On the other side we asked what people thought Girlguiding members do in 2017. The Guiding memories question inspired lots of conversations from people of all ages who were wandering through the shopping centre.
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All in all it was a lovely afternoon, and worth it. I definitely hope our Division does more of these in our local supermarkets, community events and going back to our local shopping centre. The other side of it was leaders from different sections and Districts got a chance to get to know each other as it’s rare for us to see each other unless we are interacting from sharing a church hall or talking about girls moving up from one unit to another.

Have you been doing anything to promote volunteering opportunities in your area? What has worked well for you?

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.

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…

 

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. ūüėČ So here is a year in the life of a Girlguiding volunteer…

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‘.

Active Kids Vouchers 2013

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.

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.