I saved our Brownie unit when I was just fifteen

Meet inspiring Guiding Star Laila who, after her mum’s sad death, stepped in to keep her local Brownie unit open

When Laila was 15, her mum, Hebron, was all ready to step up from her role as Unit Helper. She’d been going along to Brownies to help out, and the Unit Leader Kathy Straw was shortly to step down.

‘The car accident happened just weeks after my mum had decided to take over as Unit Leader. So afterwards, Kathy was facing the idea that the unit might close – I felt how hard that was for her because she’d been running it for so long.’ says Laila.

It did look like the future of the unit was in doubt. But Kathy found help in an unexpected place ‘Although Laila was then only 15, she was determined to do all she could to keep us open.’

I think in that moment I would have made my mum so proud. And that’s something I try to achieve every day of my life. - Laila

Laila says, ‘Initially I went to support Kathy – who had been my Brown Owl, and because I didn’t want children to miss out on the experiences I’d had in Brownies. But it became something I enjoyed at a time when there wasn’t much else to enjoy.

‘I was studying for my GCSEs when everything happened, and guiding gave me breathing space and a little time to get away and do something for myself.’ The unit has now gone from strength to strength. Division Commissioner, Sarah Clarkson, sees it as one of the Girlguiding Mansfield's biggest ‘success stories’ and the girls love it so much they asked for a Guide unit in their area.

Guiding Star award recognises Laila’s bravery and hard work

Laila is still helping out at Brownies. She decided to go to nearby Nottingham Trent University to study English Literature which means she can return to the unit in Blidworth on Tuesday evenings to run the unit.

When they announced what the event was really about I started to cry. I was so proud of everything; so happy that I’d managed to overcome the obstacles I’d faced - Laila

So this year, four years after Laila stepped in to save the unit, Kathy and Sarah decided it was time to show their appreciation.

They quietly nominated Laila for the Guiding Star award – for showing exceptional courage in a challenging situation - and invited her to a ‘meeting’.

‘I thought it was about the Quality Pilot we were doing!’ Says Laila ‘When they announced what the event was really about I started to cry. I was so proud of everything; so happy that I’d managed to overcome the obstacles I’d faced.

‘I think in that moment I would have made my mum so proud. And that’s something I try to achieve every day of my life.’

It’s the Brownies who really benefit

‘Laila is a brave and inspirational role model for our girls,’ says Sarah. ‘She’s continued to develop the unit while supporting her younger sister and her grandparents, balancing all of that with commitment to her studies.’

For Laila, being able to talk to her Leader – Kathy – when she was a Brownie was one of the special things about going. Now she does the same for the girls in her unit.

‘We regularly remember my mum at Brownies, which I think helps the girls realise I’m not just a Leader, I have been through things and they can talk to me about stuff.’

Sarah agrees, ‘Laila is very good at talking to children who are upset.’

Next, Laila is going to do teacher training. We can’t imagine anything more perfect for her - with her special skills working with children, and all of the experiences she’s had leading Brownies.