By Alix Evans, Frome Valley Division Commissioner and leader at 2nd Stoke Gifford Rainbows.
By the time you’re reading this you’ve probably eaten all the turkey and mince pies you can stomach, and you may be thinking of some changes you can make for the New Year. One of the best decisions I ever made was to return to Guiding as a volunteer leader – and I’d like you to consider doing similar. Volunteering is scientifically proven to improve health and wellbeing – and although I’m biased, I’d say Guiding is one of the best ways to improve your skills and experiences whilst having lots of fun.
Having been a Brownie when I was little, I knew the sorts of things that girls in Guiding get up to – having fun, building life skills and creating friendships that last long after their time in a unit. So when my daughter’s Rainbow unit was in danger of closing due to lack of volunteers, I stepped up and took on the mantel of Lavender. Since then, I’ve also become assistant leader at Brownies (as Hedgehog) and recently became Division Commissioner (DC), which means I support all the Guiding units in the local area. Being the DC has made me all the more aware of how hard it is for lone leaders – those who run a unit single-handedly – and this is why I’m concentrating on that in this issue of the Journal.
Like many things, being a leader on your own is hard – there’s no one to bounce ideas off, no one to cover if you’re ill or away with work, and no one to give you that little boost if an activity goes a bit awry. There are 26 units in Frome Valley Division, which covers the local area, and there are at least five with a lone leader.
The ways you can get involved are many and varied, and are on a sliding scale of commitment and involvement. I’d love to recruit people who are able to give hours and hours of their time face-to-face with the girls, however I know that we all lead very busy lives and for some of us that’s just not possible. And it’s not true that only women can volunteer – leaders are women only, but unit helpers and other support roles are open to men and women, subject to successful DBS clearance.
For those who want to help but can’t commit to weekly meetings, you could volunteer with a unit in a support role, such as being their treasurer – you don’t have to attend meetings with the girls, you just manage the accounts on behalf of the leader and keep them up to date for annual checks.
Or, if you can do one week a month perhaps, you could be a unit helper – and either turn up on the night as a spare pair of hands, or get involved in planning trips and activities under the leader’s supervision. This is how I would recommend anyone unfamiliar with Guiding gets started – really test it out before you commit!
For those who get the Guiding bug, you can become a regular (weekly) unit helper, or even a leader – for this there is an NVQ-style qualification which takes you through all the skills you’ll need to manage a unit and make sure you’re offering good Guiding. There are training workshops and support from mentors, so you’re never on your own, and once you’re qualified you can do all sorts of exciting things like attending international camps with Guides, or sleep overs at ‘We the Curious’ with the Brownies, or visiting Santa with the Rainbows.
Those who lead in Guiding are part of a huge family of women (and some men!) who get so much out of providing amazing opportunities for the girls in their units. You can’t put a price on the warm glow you get when a girl says: “I love Brownies cos you make it fun!” or you see a nervous Rainbow finally gain the confidence to join in at Circle Time.
So, to sum up, if you’re thinking that you’d like to do something to get your happiness points up, you could do worse than to follow the link below and apply to be a Girlguiding volunteer – to quote Dr Pepper, what’s the worst that could happen?
Photos: 1 Alix Evans. 2 Brownies taking part in the nature orienteering trail at Three Brooks Nature Reserve, Bradley Stoke.
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal news magazine (on page 28). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.