At Girlguiding, we stand together

An end of year message from our Chair of the Board of Trustees, Catherine Irwin, Chief Guide, Amanda Medler, and CEO, Angela Salt OBE.

If there's one thing this year has demonstrated, it’s the power of community.

At Girlguiding, our community of girls, young women, volunteers, parents, staff and supporters has come together to get through one of the most challenging times in our history.

This year wasn't how any of us imagined it would be. Having launched our new strategy, we started the year with big plans and ambitions. Though our crisis response has meant we are perhaps more focused on our mission than ever, nobody could have predicted the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the journey of change, adaptation and resilience that followed for us all.

Rising to the challenge

What we've achieved together as a guiding community has been inspiring to witness and to be a part of. We all had to adapt, and adapt quickly, to make sure we could continue to support the girls and young women who are at the heart of our purpose.

When the coronavirus pandemic escalated in March 2020, we suspended our unit meetings. Within 10 days we launched our online guiding offer, Adventures at home. This included activities and resources from our world-famous programme to keep girls, and all young people, entertained and connected throughout the year, with a focus on supporting their wellbeing and resilience. This included Girlguiding’s first ever virtual festival over the summer and a festive virtual panto this winter.

Volunteers across the UK, and beyond through British Girlguiding Overseas, started to bring virtual guiding to life, which many of our young members are now able to enjoy. We put measures in place so girls and volunteers can meet with their units in person where restrictions allow.

In our continued commitment to safeguarding best practice, we adapted our safeguarding procedures for our new virtual world, keeping safety at the heart of our virtual offer and face-to-face meetings.

Together, across the nations and regions, we pursued creative fundraising; from a badge designed by a young member to thank our key workers and raise important funds for guiding and NHS Charities Together, to teaming up with Pudsey to raise money to support our units that are struggling, as well as children across the UK, in partnership with BBC Children in Need. We saw girls, volunteers, staff and our campaign ambassadors walk, swim, skip, sing and bake in a wonderful display of support.

Girls told us how this pandemic and resulting lockdown was affecting their lives and together we made sure their voices were heard on issues that matter to them. We took action by sharing this news widely and called for continued support and investment in young people to combat the mounting pressures girls and young women are facing, exacerbated by the pandemic and surrounding uncertainty of their futures.

We used our voice and stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, with our Black girls, Black volunteers, Black staff, Black parents and carers and all Black people, and reaffirmed our dedication to true allyship through action.

Overcoming challenges

The new year will undoubtedly bring with it new challenges. Our charity, like many others, has been greatly financially impacted by the pandemic. We know local guiding is struggling and some units are now at risk of having to close - directly impacting the girls and young women that benefit from guiding. With a loss of income this year of over £4 million, we anticipate further losses in 2021 despite implementing urgent cost saving measures. We've used some of our reserves this year and we will go into 2021 with the likely need to draw heavily on our reserves again to get us through to the other side.

Across the whole organisation, we've made difficult decisions to secure the future of guiding for the girls and young women we exist to support. We know that Rainbow, Brownie, Guide and Ranger meetings are needed now more than ever to support girls’ and young women’s mental health and wellbeing. Whether through virtual, indoor or outdoor guiding, this support matters.

To our members, you are not alone. We're in this together and that power of community is stronger than ever. If you're a unit leader and worried about the future of your unit, there's support available, including through grants for units who are struggling. Reach out to your local, regional and national guiding support networks, we're here for you. If you're a volunteer that has been unable to get involved this year, we understand and we're here for you too. This includes supporting you to meet with your units again as soon as you feel ready to. 

We're working closely with our youth sector friends to call for investment in young people now to allow the sector to continue to adapt, innovate and protect the futures of those that are at the heart of recovery.    

And we'll continue to be driven by a desire to provide girls and young women with the activities, friendships and experiences that will help them through the pandemic and the challenges they have yet to face.

Thank you

We've poured our collective efforts into responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and are grateful to every person that's been a part of this journey.

From our members, the girls and volunteers that are the driving force of Girlguiding, to our Trustees and dedicated and expert staff team; our country and region colleagues; to our partners and funders – you've all enabled Girlguiding to continue supporting girls and young women in a time when they need it most.

In whatever way you've been there for Girlguiding this year, sincerely, thank you.

Moving forward together

As the year draws to a close, we can feel proud that we've done our part to get through this year together. Let’s take this time now to reflect, to think of those who have suffered as a result of this pandemic and continue to look after ourselves and each other.

As we look ahead with determination, our focus will be to support as many girls’ and volunteers as possible to access the benefits guiding brings. This is our moment to reignite our Girlguiding community as we emerge from this crisis, until we can all be singing around the campfire again. We hope you'll join us there.

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Catherine Irwin, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Amanda Medler, Chief Guide
Angela Salt OBE, CEO