I got a British Empire Medal at 29

Rowenna tells us why she loves Guiding and Scouting and what it feels like to be awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM)

Rowenna Woodward
10 Dec 2015

I was nominated for the BEM because my manager was impressed with my commitment to young people through Guiding and Scouting on a daily basis

But no volunteer gives their time just for other people – we all get much personal satisfaction and joy as we watch the Guides (and in my case Beavers, Cubs and Scouts too) grow into active members of their community.

In April I got a letter from the Cabinet Office asking if I would accept the Honour. It was very hard to keep it secret! It wasn’t until the news was published on 12 June that I was able to tell my friends, family, work colleagues and my Guiding and Scouting friends.

Of course, my Brown Owl and other Leaders from when I started in guiding, as well as those I volunteer with now, will be invited to the presentation in the autumn when I’ll receive my Medal from Susan Pyper, the Lord Lieutenant of Sussex.

I joined the 1st West Sutton Rainbows in 1990

Then while I was a Brownie we joined with the 8th Sutton Scout Group to become Trinity Scout and Guide Group - one of the few in the country.

I joined Guides at 11 years old and was soon back at Brownies to help out. It was a great challenge to become a leader of the girls who I knew so well. At 14 I went to Sutton Division Rangers and continued as a Young Leader with the Brownies and often my Mum’s Rainbow unit.

It was when I started my Duke of Edinburgh award that I started looking for a new challenge and volunteered to help at Beaver Scouts.

I celebrated my 15th birthday in Ukraine on an international guiding trip, where I made friends I’m still in touch with today.

Moving on

I have always been invited back to 5th Sutton Brownies as an honorary Leader for all their Brownie Holidays – I’m all set for their next one in a couple of weeks! One of my best friends is now Brown Owl. We met on the first day of secondary school. She asked to come to Guides with me and has never left!

After university I became the Assistant Leader with the 2nd Copthorne Guides and I’m still there eight years later! I also restarted Beavers in Smallfield. Now, I run Beavers, Scouts and Guides.

Giving time

I have always been aware of how precious the time people give to guiding is - it’s offered me opportunities I couldn’t get elsewhere. My favourite part of volunteering is when a young person does something for the first time which they have found challenging. I get great satisfaction when it is clear the young people are having a good time.

I do commit a lot of my time to Guiding and Scouting, but every little helps! If every parent or carer gave just an hour or two a year all Guiding and Scouting units would benefit from the support. Everybody has a skill or interest to offer.

Learn more about volunteering at Girlguiding

Inspired by Roweena's story? No matter how much time you have to give, there's a role for you.