In April I was named the second ever Glasgow Times’ Young Scotswoman of the Year for my writing and campaigning work. However, I’ve not always been the confident, outspoken individual that many now know me to be. During my childhood, I moved houses and primary schools a lot due to my parents’ jobs, and since most of the time I was the only Black kid in my class, I didn’t really want to draw any extra attention to myself. So, I stayed quiet and rarely voiced my ideas, relying instead on my louder, more confident friends to be my voice.
But, as I’ve grown up, I’ve grown in confidence, and joining Guides definitely helped. I’m forever thankful for my Guide leader, Kirsty, who has always been so kind and encouraging, especially when I first joined Guides as a nervous 10-year-old. I’m also thankful for the other girls there who were really friendly and welcoming to me and the other newbies. I really enjoyed my time in Guides and the safe and relaxed environment it provided. I look back on fond memories of bonding with other Guides round campfires, the smell of toasted s’mores and the voices of cheery singers filling the air, and going on holidays abroad with some of my best friends, facing and overcoming new challenges together. Girlguiding helped shape the person I’ve become today, and I no longer needed to rely on my friends to be my voice – I’d found my own.
After leaving Guides, I was keen to stay in Girlguiding and volunteer my free time to give other girls the same great experience I had. Inspired by Kirsty, I became a Young Leader at a local Brownie unit. By working through and completing my Young Leader’s Qualification, I developed my leadership, communication, and team working skills. The best part about volunteering at Brownies is being able to encourage young girls, who sometimes aren’t initially that confident, to join in with the activities. Watching them grow in confidence fills me with hope, and it’s been a joy seeing first-hand the difference I’ve been able to make.
I’ve also been a Girlguiding Advocate since October 2019, and I’ve loved every moment of it. Advocates are Girlguiding’s spokespeople who speak out on issues that matter to girls and young women across the UK. During lockdown, I helped to deliver Advocate-led campaigns such as #SewcialDistancing, where we challenged Guiding members to sew a badge on a blanket every day and share the story behind each badge, and #Uniform4Uniforms, where we encouraged members to wear their Guiding uniform during the weekly clap for keyworkers. The response was overwhelming, and it was incredibly touching to read messages shared by members about their experiences in Girlguiding.
It’s this supportive community which makes Girlguiding such an incredible organisation to be part of and this has been especially true throughout the pandemic. It’s incredible how so many volunteers have adapted during the lockdown and continued to deliver guiding. Virtual meetings and outdoor meetings have been such a lifeline to many, providing fun and familiarity and helping members feel connected during these challenging times.
If you’re inspired by my story and fantastic leaders like Kirsty, my message is short and simple - go for it! I cannot recommend being part of Girlguiding enough. It’ll shape and develop your character and provide you with experiences and friendships that you’ll treasure forever. It feels amazing to give back, both locally and nationally, to the organisation which helped me when I first started.
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer or know a girl who would like to join guiding, please visit www.girlguidingscotland.org.uk/get-involved/ to find out how to get involved.
Amanda Amaeshi, Girlguiding Advocate, Girlguiding Scotland