Guiding has been my life saver

Lifelong member Lauren (furthest right) shares how guiding has added smiles and adventure to her life living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

I would not be here today without guiding

I’m 18 years old and have been a member of Girlguiding since I was five. I started off as a Rainbow and have gone through all the groups to now being an adult leader with 1st Bitterne Park Guides!

In that time I have gone from walking to relying on a wheelchair. For the past five years I have had dislocations, joint pains, fatigue and lots of other symptoms but no one ever knew what was wrong. Last year I was finally diagnosed with a condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It is a problem with the collagen in my body and effects 1 in 5000 people.

On top of that, last year I became very sick and eventually was also diagnosed with a rare condition called Gastroparesis. It means that my stomach is paralysed so food doesn’t pass through it. Due to this I have been on and off feeding tubes and am constantly in hospital - I live my life there.

I couldn’t attend the second year of college because I was too sick. Last year I shaved my head for charity but this year I unfortunately had to shave it because my hair is falling out!

Throughout all this guiding has been my life saver

I help at a guide group and they treat me just like everyone else, I’m not the sick one. They all make me smile. I make sure I go every week when I can, it is the one thing that I look forward to most at the moment. It brings me so much happiness and has for 13 years of my life.

One of the best things is doing activities most people wouldn’t do and making them shocked when you tell them

I enjoy everything about Girlguiding but one of the best things is doing activities most people wouldn’t do and making them shocked when you tell them - so anything from abseiling to going away! I have so many favourite memories from guiding - like my most recent Wellies and wristbands where I celebrated my 18th Birthday or the summer camp when I was a Brownie and we all dressed up as underwater characters, or the first time I ever did archery when I was a Guide!

I am now working towards my Queen’s Guide award so experiencing lots of things along the way. We make memories every week at Guides too.

Guiding has changed me as a person. It has made me more confident, I know things that I may never have known and it has made me work to achieve the things I want in life. I don’t know what I would do without it. It has honestly saved my life!