Guiding for all
Members share their stories of feeling welcome and what else can be done to include others
Connecting with others can be difﬁcult for a number of reasons. We believe in giving all girls equal chances and creating a space that is safe and supportive with a sense of belonging. The joy of guiding is that everyone is welcome.
Members are always looking for ways to make sure this is the case, trying different ideas to help girls build relationships and have fun. We spoke to members to hear about their experiences.
- Catriona, 27th Bristol Brownies
'Girlguiding has brought so much to my life. The biggest beneﬁt is the friendships. I think isolation can be a common problem for disabled people.
My condition, Ehlers–Danlos syndrome, is degenerative, so when I ﬁrst trained as a leader it wasn’t affecting me as much as it does now. But once it got worse, I was scared to ask for help. As soon as I spoke up, people were really supportive.
Some parents think Girlguiding is super outdoorsy, and we’ve had to explain that our unit doesn’t do that as much as other units. There are other units in the district that do a lot of outdoor activities and are happy to take my girls along if I can’t do it.
If leaders have disabled girls in their unit, I recommend they speak to the parents and the young person about what works for them and see how they can adapt sessions around that. And don’t be scared to just try things – one of my Brownies had cerebral palsy and we were able to take her camping and abseiling with the right equipment.'
As soon as I spoke up, people were really supportive.
- Adoela, Hurst Barnhouse Rangers
'The perception that Girlguiding is white and middle class was something that would often come up in our discussions when I was an advocate – that we still need to work harder to change. I think HQ have done some great campaigns showing girls from different ethnicities, such as the Every Girl campaign.
However, I think more can be done to attract young women of colour. The answer is to reach out to schools and local areas, and explain what’s in it for them – for instance all the skills they can gain, such as the leadership qualiﬁcation or greater conﬁdence.
What I’ve enjoyed most since volunteering is seeing the young girls grow their self-belief. Volunteering has also helped with my own conﬁdence.
One of my best guiding moments was attending two political party conferences as an advocate. Having politicians listen to us was an amazing experience. Conﬁdence building is really important for girls from less privileged and different backgrounds.'
I think more could be done to attract women of colour to guiding.
Guiding in hospital
- Laura, 1st Leeds Hospital Guides and Scouts
'We run a Guide and Scout unit for 5-16-year-olds every Monday night at the hospital. It’s open to inpatients, outpatients and their siblings. As well as giving the children something to do, it also lets the parents have a bit of time off to do some shopping or get dinner together. These activities can become very difﬁcult when you have a child in hospital.
Some members we see only once, others we’ll see for several months if they’re in long-term. One girl, 12-year-old Tegan, has been visiting us for two years, whenever she’s having treatment for her cystic ﬁbrosis. ‘It’s awesome, there’s always something to do and I like the arts and crafts,’ Tegan says. We help girls to ﬁnd other local groups when they leave.
There’s really not much difference in terms of planning the sessions and activities to running a non-hospital-based unit. We often have wheelchair users or members with dialysis machines, and there’s no reason why they can’t join in with the activities. The hospital has a fully accessible garden with ramps, so we’ll do outdoor camps with accessible tents. We also have specially trained leaders who can do bedside activities if children are too sick to attend, and we always have a member of the hospital trust on standby.'
Some members we see only once, others we’ll see for several months if they’re in long-term.
- Maureen, District Commissioner for Ross-shire
'Ross-shire is a largely white Scottish, rural community, but we’ve been making connections with the local Polish community and, more recently, Syrian refugees who have settled here.
I approached parents from the community through the Highland Refugee Support Group and built up relationships. They were looking for activities for their children and liked that guiding was led by women for girls, and that it’s non-denominational.'
We’ve been making connections with the local Polish community and, more recently, Syrian refugees who have settled here.
- Claire, Unit Leader for Dingwall Rainbows
'We have a Syrian girl in our Rainbows group. I didn’t want her to feel different from any other girl. The only thing we have to be conscious of is making sure she eats halal for her faith, but we already have several girls with dietary requirements anyway.
When she took our mascot, Olivia, home, she talked about showing it the culture of her community and family.'
I didn’t want her to feel different from any other girl.
- Sarah, 1st South Godstone Rainbows and Brownies and 3rd Oxted Guides
'I’ve been involved with Girlguiding since I was ﬁve years old. I used to be very quiet and was bullied at school, and it’s really built my conﬁdence. I’m proud to say it’s helped me become the person I am today.
I became a leader as part of my bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and loved helping the girls so much that I decided to keep doing it. Some struggle with the same things I did when I was younger. I like to support them and reassure them it will all be okay.
I’m also a carer for my younger brother who has autism and a sensory processing disorder, and my uncle who has special needs, so I tend to have my weekends taken up with looking after them. Girlguiding helps me to have a break from my caring role. The unit understands when something comes up or I can’t come away on a trip and is always very supportive of me. Providing ﬂexible options for volunteering commitment lets those with responsibilities get involved.
I recently won a local hero volunteer award. I knew loads of people had been entered, so it felt amazing to receive it. It’s given me extra conﬁdence to put my ideas forward at leader meetings.'
Girlguiding helps me to have a break from my caring role.
This article was originally published in guiding magazine.