The Girl Guides’ motto is “Be Prepared”. But to be honest, I was not prepared for the impact the organisation would have on me when I volunteered to set up a new Guides unit in Milton Keynes.
Formed in 1909 as the girls’ counterpart to the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides is now an international movement for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 with more than 10-million members worldwide. My involvement, however, didn’t begin until I was an adult.
It all started when I occasionally helped out at my daughter’s Rainbow and Brownie units, the organisations for younger girls up to the age of 10. Six months before my daughter was to progress to the Guides we learned that her local unit was oversubscribed and the situation was unlikely to improve for at least a couple of years. Sadly, this meant a number of Brownies, including my daughter, would not be able to join their local Guides unit.
I was then approached by the Guides District Commissioner who asked whether I would consider opening a new unit. As my daughter and her friends were very keen to continue in Guiding, I got stuck into all the required training which I completed within two months. I learned later that this is a record as most people tend to take somewhere between six months and two years.
In September 2017 the 1st Broughton and Monkston Guides Unit in Milton Keynes met for the first time with just three girls, but we quickly attracted new members and soon reached our capacity of 30 girl guides.
As unit leader I always find it moving when these young girls make their Guides Promise, which shows commitment not only to Girl Guiding but also to being a good citizen.
“I promise that I will do my best, to be true to myself and develop my beliefs, to serve the Queen and my community, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.”
Their enthusiasm to learn new things that will benefit others always impresses me. In October 2018, in response to a request from the girls I was able to arrange First Aid training where they all received a three-year certificate. But the learning is not all one way, I too have acquired new Guiding-related skills, such as arranging and hosting weekends away for the unit and singing camp fire songs.
The girls especially like going on recreational and educational trips, and in the past we’ve been to Cadbury World, Milton Keynes Museum, iFLY Indoor Skydiving, the Open University Observatory, the theatre, cinema, indoor trampoline parks and climbing centres, to name just a few of the places we’ve visited.
Coronavirus has, of course, put a temporary stop to all these activities. Nevertheless, the Girl Guides have adapted to the situation and have been using digital technology to ensure we stay in touch with the girls and they stay in touch with each other.
One example of this was our virtual sleepover. By using an online conferencing platform the girls and their families were able to participate in a choice of activities including making bird feeders and dream catchers or recording a vlog. Alternatively they could go into the garden to do stone painting, mud sculpting, or building a den or raft.
Cooking is always popular and those wishing to expand their culinary skills had the opportunity to discover new recipes, including the Girl Guides favourite – armpit fudge. After placing all the ingredients in a re-sealable bag, the air is squeezed out of the bag which is then placed under the arm and squished until all the contents are mixed and creamy. The girls always find the process hilarious and the fudge delicious.
Although becoming a Guides leader wasn’t planned, it’s now an important part of my life. I find it immensely rewarding to witness the personal development of these young ladies as they gain confidence through learning life skills and having fun with friends outside of the home and school environments.
Volunteering, as I have found, not only changes the lives of others, it can change your life too.
Anyone interested in volunteering with the Girl Guides can find information at https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/get-involved/become-a-volunteer/
Patient Safety Coordinator
Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group