Rachael Rowbottom: Making a difference with a pair of shoes

RACHAEL Rowbottom tells how being a guide has helped encourage her to take on new challenges and be a force for good

Rachael Rowbottom, centre, with a pair of the shoes donated for a project run by charity Edinburgh Cares to collect shoes for Syrian refugees. Picture: Contributed

The refugee crisis is rarely out of the headlines at the moment. In the face of such an extreme and complex crisis it’s easy to feel helpless but guiding has taught me it is possible to make a difference. Since I joined as a Rainbow – age five – guiding has encouraged me to take on new challenges and be a force for good.

Now as a volunteer I’m encouraging other girls and young women to do the same. That’s why I’m so excited about the latest challenge that guiding has offered me – the opportunity to bring vital practical support to refugees.

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Along with several other guiding members from Glasgow, I have chosen to support refugees as part of my Queen’s Guide Award – the highest award you can gain in guiding.

We are working in partnership with Step in my Shoes – a project run by humanitarian charity Edinburgh Cares – to collect shoes for refugees fleeing conflict in Syria. Shoes might seem like an odd thing to collect but after learning about the horrific circumstances many refugees face we realised how big a difference a simple pair of shoes could make. Often refugees are forced to walk many miles to safety without any suitable footwear – risking frostbite and infection.

Our aim is to collect 3,000 pairs of shoes and warm socks for refugees – that’s one pair for every Rainbow, Brownie, Guide and Senior Section unit in Scotland. Of course we would love to smash this target and collect even more.

As well as shoes and socks we are asking everyone who donates a pair to attach a short message of support for the refugees. We hope this will encourage girls to learn more about this global issue as well as giving some comfort to people facing hardship.

It’s a big challenge but thanks to guiding I’m used to stepping outside my comfort zone.

From attending my first international camp to becoming a Peer Educator and helping girls to tackle issues like mental health and body image – guiding has given me so many memorable experiences.

Now as a leader with the 141st City of Glasgow Rainbows and 259th City of Glasgow Guides, I’m helping other girls to benefit from the fun and adventure of guiding. As a leader I love watching the girls grow and develop. It’s great to see shy little girls grow into confident young women. Knowing that I’ve helped them on their way is a brilliant feeling.

I’m proud to be part of an organisation that supports girls and young women to grow in confidence, raise their aspirations, and to be a powerful force for good in their communities and beyond.

Guiding has shown me that it is possible to make a difference – even in the face of complex global issues like the refugee crisis - and encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone and keep saying yes to new challenges.

Supporting refugees is just latest challenge guiding has offered me and I’m determined to give it my all.

Whether you join as a Rainbow – like I did – or as an adult volunteer guiding gives you a chance to learn new skills, take on new challenges and make new friends. To be a part of the fun and adventure of guiding visit Girlguiding Scotland at www.girlguidingscotland.org.uk/get-involved

• Rachael Rowbottom is a member of the Senior Section and volunteers as a Guide and Rainbow Leader in Glasgow. She’s shares how being a part of Girlguiding Scotland has inspired her to take on new challenges including doing her part to help refugees.

• Girlguiding Scotland is Scotland’s leading charity for girls and young women, with 50,000 young members. We build girls’ confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good. We give them a space to have fun.