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. 😉 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.

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A belated Happy New Year to you all!

Well, 2015 got off to an interesting start. There was a lot of sadness to begin the year with as two good friends and colleagues of mine faced bereavements. I finished my Christmas contracts and had to start a very dehumanising process with the Department of Work and Pensions. I had my final module to finish for university before I had a few weeks break until beginning my practice placement. So by 9th January I was going a little bit nutty with emotion, stress and upset.

Girlguiding Edinburgh had organised a huge event to thank all the Edinburgh volunteers at Murrayfield Stadium on that night. I was feeling sick with a nasty headache, had an essay that was far from finished due on the Monday, a funeral to go to the next morning…but Jo managed to get me out my house and to the stadium despite the rush to get there on time. Thankfully some of our friends from another Guide unit got there before us and saved us seats at their table (Thanks ladies! You rock!). In fact, we had a great time even if we were slightly rebellious and didn’t go to activities because it was just nice to spend some time socialising with each other, dressed up a little bit more than usual. (Certainly more dressed up than we are for Guide meetings in our jeans and Girlguiding hoodies!)

The night ended with an inspiring talk by mountaineer, Jamie Andrew, whose daughters are part of Girlguiding in Edinburgh.

It was a lovely way to begin a year of Girlguiding.

Especially as this coming term is going to be a busy one…

Parents, Guiding and all the extra stuff…

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This little image has been doing the rounds on Facebook (and if it’s yours, I hope you don’t mind me using it…I don’t know where it originated from to be able to properly give it credit!)

Every day, many Girlguiding leaders turn to our sort of self-run closed facebook group to share ideas and questions about our activities. What makes me sad is that several times a week during term time a leader comes on very discouraged or upset because of parents making their life as a volunteer very difficult.

Most units charge about £25 per term these days. Out of that money we pay for…

-Guiding resources – like Promise certificates, badges, Go For It packs

-First Aid training which all qualified leaders must do (this costs £25 per leader, though I think refresher training afterwards is less?)

-Cost of hall hire

-Trips or subsidising of trips

-Equipment and craft supplies

And every year we have to pay a census for every girl and leader in our unit which in our area is about £30 (always joyful when you get  a bunch of girls starting RIGHT before census!).

This isn’t counting the squillions of times that other leaders and myself have paid for things out of our own pockets or unit funds. I think I spent about £100 on ink cartridges printing out letters, programmes and so on last year before my Mum’s printer officially packed in. Then there have been times when we’ve bought decorations, stuff for Hallowe’en parties (have you ever had to clear food out your fridge so you could have four mixing bowls filled with jelly and plastic frogs, eyes and bats?). And I’ve lost count how many times the girls have realised that they need some flour or a box of eggs or a carton of juice or ball of string they don’t have with them for whatever activity they have done and have had money from one of us to nip to the Sainsburys or Scotmid round the corner from our hall!

I have to say that the parents at both my guiding units have been great. I’ve only once in my 2.5 years had a parent really get into me about something, which we settled and actually that parent used to always make sure we knew how much she valued what we did for her daughter after that. There’s always a couple that forget subs and need several reminders. And yes, I dread trips which involve other units for impatient parents wanting to get home so grab their child before we have a chance to acknowledge that they are leaving with a parent and tick them off a sign in/out sheet so we know they are safe.

But when I see messages about parents grumping about a subs increase of a couple of pounds a term, or constantly being late, or not bothering to let leaders know if their daughter is taking up a place in the unit/going away for a month and then just coming back with no communication…

…I wonder if they realise how many hours we put in.

The tagline of this blog is ‘only one hour a week’ – a running joke because often it is the recruitment phrase that volunteering is just an hour a week of your time.

But truth is, we have to type letters, do training, go to the Guide shop, be a treasurer for the unit, post vouchers to Sainsbury’s, work out how the heck we can print off the resource Girlguiding has only created for download, plan programmes, attend meetings…

…and we don’t get paid a penny for it.

We do it because we love seeing the girls achieve things. We do it because we were once their age and know how challenging childhood and teenagehood can be. We do it because we want to give kids and young people in our community a great outlet to be productive citizens. We do it because we do have fun. We do it because we can make friendships for life in Girlguiding. We do it because we see it a privilege to watch these girls grow from little girls to inspiring, wise women.

And truth is, behind every leader of a growing and happy unit is probably a whole bunch of family and friends that have been supporting her. I know that none of us would be able to keep things going without husbands to print things out at work on the sly, or mothers that will turn up to be an extra pair of hands when the new leader fails to show up yet again or be an extra person on trips, or friends that will come to fundraisers or collect newspapers/magazines/glass jars/supermarket vouchers. People we share a home with getting used to cupboards/tables/rooms filled with Guiding stuff.

If you’re the parent of a child of guiding – please thank the leaders. Especially the young leaders – who are juggling teenagehood, school, part-time jobs, college/university applications, extra-curricular activities on top of the work they do volunteering with Girlguiding!  Find out if there’s something you can help with if there’s something you can offer (it could be as simple as offering up the use of a printer twice a term!). We get that you’re busy. Just remember that we’re leading busy lives too. We’re attempting to be good bosses, employees, wives, girlfriends, daughters, mothers, sisters and friends at the same time as attempting to be the best Girlguiding leaders we can be.

Thank you to the parents of the two units I’m part of. You are fantastic parents and working with your daughters is a lot of fun and a real privilege. 🙂

I’ll finish off with this great video a girlguiding member created and posted on National Volunteers Day last year.