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.

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.

IMG_5338

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…

20140523-153122.jpg

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…

IMG_5502

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.

IMG_5273

IMG_4846

602933_10152667903470274_108860270_n

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.

I volunteer to say thank you…and because I love it!

IMGP1416

Being awarded our Baden Powell in February 2000.

On Thursday evening I smiled as across on the other checkout a woman in Girlguiding uniform was rushing to get some shopping done. I know how that goes, and have several times been caught by friends in the supermarket running to buy popcorn or craft paper or glue sticks in my own Girlguiding uniform.

I bumped into her in the car park, smiled at her and said ‘It’s nice to see another Brownie Guider’ and she laughed. We got talking, and it turned out she is the Division Commissioner of the division I was part of as a Guide and Young Leader – where I began my warrant training. She also gave me news that uplifted my heart.

You see soon after this picture was taken, my friend and I decided to continue as leaders with the Brownie Pack we were doing our service flash with. I won’t go into details here but an upsetting incident led to the Brownie unit closing down. It was terrible. We had a great pack of Brownies, and the leader had been struggling due to a lack of adult volunteers. The incident (though it got quickly resolved) was the last straw. That was over a decade ago.

Apparently in December, the unit reopened. They have 18 brownies now attending every week. 🙂

It’s lovely that volunteers are being celebrated this week. But the truth is I LOVE volunteering. Volunteering with Girlguiding has been hard work at times, but oh how I love it.

In recent months, work has been tough, university has been tough…but Girlguiding has kept me going. Our Guide unit has more Guides than the one I was part of as a teenager ever had. Our seven Senior Section girls attend so faithfully and I’m so proud of all they’ve done to establish our unit which we established with no start-up fund, a teeny room to meet in and no clue about what Senior Section do!

I joined Girlguiding as a Rainbow in 1990. I loved it, and was thrilled to become a Brownie, thrilled when I became seconder of the Pixies, and proud to be their sixer soon after that. I anxiously awaited the graduation to Guides, enjoyed camping and when we knew I’d be moving house I was excited to discover our next door neighbour was a Guider who invited me to join her unit so I could meet girls I would be going to high school with. Two of the girls I met that first week in the new unit I’m still in contact with today.

It was that Guider who encouraged me into the performing arts opportunities in Girlguiding and brought the other Guides to performances to come and cheer me on. I learned all sort of skills from how to do my laundry (an important skill for university) to British Sign Language to First Aid to how to make the best treats on a campfire!

It was going on a national camp that introduced me to Rangers, and I’ll forever be grateful to our Ranger leader who took us on Scout camps down in England and kept a place for me to go to London with the unit even though by that time I was away in Aberdeen at university. The door was always open to join them for meetings any time I was home.

I want to thank those amazing volunteers – each one of the them such different women – who gave me a variety of role models and showed me that there was no ‘one type of woman’ that I could grow up to be. It is because of them that I am a Girlguiding leader.

And then there are our AWESOME Guides and Senior Section. Sure, sometimes they test my patience (mainly the Guides!) but when I think back of my last (almost) 3 years in Guiding I just think of the laughs. We invited the CEO of Girlguiding and made cakes out of shaving foam and played an invented game of pin the cherry on the cupcake. They’ve reenacted their own version of High School Musical. They have made dresses and head gear from binbags and newspapers. They have drawn around each other to learn about where the organs are. They have raised money for international causes. They have got us climbing scarily high walls and abseiling past parents. They have had me meeting church ministry teams while dressed in my pyjamas.

They’ve challenged me and I’ve learned a ton from them.

Like who The Wanted are. And I need never watch Hollyoaks because I get a running commentary of everything that’s happened in ?Chester? every two weeks from one of the Young Leaders. And how my trainers are actually called ‘blazers’ and they are the coolest shoes I could possibly own (apparently).

Plus I’ve made some incredible friends. Jo, Jenny, Ashleigh – I’ve loved leading with you three and hope we’ll be guiding till we’re the oldies no one wants to retire. 😉

So let me raise an imaginary glass to the volunteers past and present in gratitude….and to our Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, Rangers and Young Leaders. I only hope that I can be the positive role model for you that my Guiders were for me. And that as you grow older you’ll look back fondly on your Girlguiding days and be Adult leaders yourselves.

How many minutes of our lives have us Guiders stood like this? (lets not think about it too much!) tee hee.

How many minutes of our lives have us Guiders stood like this? (lets not think about it too much!) tee hee.