Our volunteers on the New Years Honours list 2024

This year, 6 Girlguiding volunteers were recognised for their services to girls.

24 January 2024

The New Years Honours list recognises the incredible achievements of people across the UK.

This year, 6 fantastic Girlguiding volunteers were recognised for their services to girls. Congratulations! We'd like to say thank you to all of our volunteers who work hard every day to help all girls know they can do anything. 

Find out more about the Girlguiding volunteers on this year’s list:

Sue Walker, awarded an Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Sue Walker, awarded an Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Photo credit: Steve MacDougall and DC Thomson.

Sue began her guiding journey as a Brownie in Lanarkshire in 1969, later returning as a volunteer when her daughter started Brownies. Sue later served as Girlguiding Fife’s PR adviser and county commissioner before becoming Scotland’s chief commissioner from 2012-2017.

'I love working with our young members and watching them grow,' Sue told us. 'Seeing a nervous Brownie grow in confidence so that she has the courage to go on a Brownie holiday is such a joy!'

'I have wonderful memories of centenary events, sleepovers, activity days and campfires,' Sue recalls. 'I loved our county commissioner events where we had so many laughs while supporting each other. Guiding has got to be fun for volunteers as well as for our young members.'

'I found out about the MBE on the day I arrived to visit my son in Australia,' she continued. 'I was amazed, delighted and humbled.'

I very much view this award as being a recognition of all volunteers in Girlguiding — this is for all of us! - Sue

Wendy Barnett, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Wendy Barnett, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Wendy became involved in Girlguiding aged 12 when she joined 1st Hakin Guides, a unit she now leads as an adult. Over the years Wendy’s served as district and division commissioner, county camp and outdoor activities adviser, and camp adviser for Guides in Cymru. She’s also volunteered as a guiding development coordinator and international adviser, and is still an active member of her county’s team.

'I love the outdoors and camping the traditional way', Wendy told us, 'helping girls learn life skills whilst having fun. And sleeping under the stars just watching the vastness of the night sky - a wonderful experience.'

'Some of my favourite memories are of being in Switzerland with a coach load of Guides and volunteers, and just being with guiding friends,' Wendy continued. 'Sitting around a campfire at the end of a busy day, making new friends that will last a lifetime.'

'It feels odd to open a letter that says "Cabinet Office" on the front,' Wendy told us. 'And when the letter says that you have been awarded the BEM in the New Year Honours list, you think "this is a joke, it’s not for me!" Then it sinks in that this is for real.'

'I felt, and still feel, totally overwhelmed. I’ve received many lovely messages and cards and people have been extremely kind in their comments. It makes me feel very humble and proud to be part of this incredible movement.'

I love guiding and what it stands for: helping girls reach their full potential whilst having fun. I see a leader’s role as a facilitator - creating opportunities for girls in their own safe space. - Wendy

Christine Beech, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Christine Beech, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Christine (Chris) joined Girlguiding as a Brownie in Coventry before progressing through Guides and Rangers, and later taking her leadership qualification as soon as she was old enough. She has since been a Brownie, Guide and Ranger leader, keeping up her volunteering wherever she moved to.

'My favourite parts of guiding are the many friends l have made along the way,' Chris told us, 'and the young people you first meet as Brownies who later return to bring their own children to Brownies.

'Some of my most special guiding memories are gaining my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award, seeing 3 of my granddaughters in Brownies, and being presented with a Chief Commissioners’ award.'

'When the letter with news of my nomination arrived, l was so surprised I had to read it a few times before it started to sink in,' Chris continued. 'But even after hearing it officially on the radio l still don’t think it has sunk in yet! I’m now looking forward to telling the Brownies on our first week back and showing them the award once l receive it.'

I love seeing the girls achieve something they never thought they could. - Chris

Sheila Betts, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Sheila Betts, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Sheila began her 20 years as a Brownie leader in 1992 when her daughter’s unit needed more volunteers. Since then, Sheila has held roles ranging from district to assistant county commissioner. She's now chair of the management committee of The Jarman Centre, Girlguiding Cambridgeshire East's residential and activity centre at Newmarket.

'My highlight as a Brownie leader has to be taking girls away on residentials,' Sheila said. 

'Volunteering on the Jarman Centre management committee has at times been hard work, but it’s worth it to help give Girlguiding members and other young people the opportunity to go on a residential and have adventures.'

'I always try to do my best in whatever I do', Sheila continued, 'just as it says in the Promise. I received a Laurel award in 2014, and that was just amazing. I really didn’t expect this!”

Brownies is a special relationship – not like at school or home – and I love seeing how the girls develop and grow in confidence.  - Sheila

Margaret Rae, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Margaret Rae, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Margaret (Mar) started her Girlguiding journey as a Brownie, and later achieved her Queen’s Guide award. Mar went on to become assistant outdoor activities advisor for walking for Renfrewshire county, and later for Scotland.

Mar also served as her county’s Trefoil Guild chair and Girlguiding Renfrewshire’s county president.

One of Mar’s favourite guiding memories include attending a 1957 international camp in Blair Atholl, Scotland. 

'More recently I had a wonderful Saturday helping at Santaland for Rainbows, complete with Shetland ponies masquerading as reindeer! The evening continued the pink sparkles at a Laurel award presentation to a local leader - where else gives you these experiences?'

'I could hardly believe I’d been nominated for a BEM and had to read the letter several times to make sure. Keeping the secret over Christmas when family visited was especially difficult and resulted in a lot of messaging when the list was published! The BEM will be presented locally by the Lord Lieutenant, and I hope to share the occasion with family and guiding friends.'

I treasure the lifelong friendships made through guiding, and the inspirational leaders who influenced my life and guiding journey. - Mar

Cheryl Smith, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Cheryl Smith, awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Cheryl’s Girlguiding journey started when she was first added to a Brownie waiting list and her mum became a leader. Aged 6, Cheryl joined the first Rainbow unit in Cornwall as it opened. Progressing through the sections before becoming a leader, Cheryl later became her county’s Queens Guide award advisor, her division’s residential adviser, and is currently a district commissioner.

'I’ve been lucky to have many mountain top moments in guiding,' Cheryl told us. 'My favourite guiding event is Cornwall county’s Service Camp. Rangers, young leaders and leaders spend a week each summer volunteering with 24 primary school-aged children who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the fun activities we put on.'

'I first volunteered at this camp in 1996 as a keen 14-year-old Ranger. By 2013, I found myself coordinating it and in 2016 met my best friend and life partner,' Cheryl continued. 'We give the children a week’s holiday so they can forget their worries for even just a short time.'

'When I first found out I received a BEM, I was very overwhelmed - I still am! I’d like to thank these people for making me the person I am today - especially my mum.'

My life is full of inspirational people, role models, and incredible friends I’ve met through guiding and scouting. - Cheryl

Did you know there are lots of ways to thank volunteers for their hard work and support? We have thanks badges, good service brooches and long service awards! Plus, our achievement awards like Laurel and Silver Fish.

Check whether your county and region have awards that you could give out too.

Read about our awards and recognition.