Guiding provides opportunities for girls and volunteers

Volunteers help girls and young women experience new and adventurous activities. Picture: Neil Hanna
Volunteers help girls and young women experience new and adventurous activities. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A few hours over a year can be a huge help, says Sue Walker

The demand from young people to join Girlguiding, and other uniformed youth organisations, continues to grow across Scotland and I was delighted that we opened 49 new groups in 2013, providing even more girls and young women (from the age of five) with the opportunity to experience all the fun, adventure and amazing opportunities that Girlguiding offers.

We know that we are popular and girls and young women want to join us because we provide them with a space where they can be themselves, gain confidence, have fun, build friendships, have their opinions heard and learn valuable life skills, like team building and leadership skills; attributes that research shows are highly attractive to future employers.

We encourage our members to be a powerful force for good and active contributors in their communities – and girls and young women across Scotland sure do take this challenge on, whether it is through fundraising in their local communities, completing their Queen’s Guide Award or Duke of Edinburgh Awards, international camps, taking part in our Guiding Overseas Linked with Development projects all over the world, taking part in the Scottish Youth Parliament or by representing Girlguiding at the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) Girls’ world forum in Chicago or the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York.

The list seems endless and these girls and young women never fail to impress me.

It is through the enthusiasm and time freely given by our volunteers that we are able to deliver such a successful programme and make a positive contribution to the lives of girls and young women and to the wider community.

Our volunteers allow us to help girls and young women experience new and adventurous activities and opportunities in a safe environment, from their very own pop concert to their very first sleepovers and camping trips or the chance to try out climbing, zorbing or abseiling.

With increased popularity comes the need for more volunteers, and with 5,000 girls and young women on our waiting list, this is a challenge we’re always keen to tackle.

We want to ensure that we continue to grow and our aim is to ensure we’re able to deliver quality guiding, which inspires and empowers girls and young women, in every community in Scotland. Often people tell me that they’d love to volunteer but that they don’t have the time as they’re working.

I have two responses to that. One is that even a few hours over a year can be a tremendous help and we value what our volunteers are able to give. The other point is that for many of us, the sheer contrast between being a Leader and our day job (I’m an engineer) is so marked that guiding is not another burden in a busy schedule, but becomes something that gets fitted in first because it is so much fun for girls and volunteers alike.

We are inclusive and welcome all girls and women, whatever their background and circumstances, and employ outreach workers across the UK to grow our membership in hard-to-reach communities and extend the joy and fun of guiding across the country.

Last year,we updated our promise, which our members choose to make, and by doing so we continued to strengthen our commitment to being open to all girls.

As Scottish Chief Commissioner and a Brownie Leader myself I believe it is important to remember that guiding is fun for girls and adults alike.

Where else as an adult do you get the chance to cook out of doors on an open fire, or sing silly songs or go on treasure hunts, or fly kites on windy evenings or encourage a girl to reach her potential?

I started helping at Brownies when my daughter joined and enjoyed it so much that I stayed. I wouldn’t be without it now.

• Sue Walker is Chief Commissioner for Girlguiding Scotland


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