Today is World Thinking Day, which is a very important date in Girlguiding. The 22nd of February is celebrated every year in Guiding, as it’s the birthday of our founders. We do this by thinking about our time in Guiding, and all our sisters around the world who celebrate it with us.
As a tribute to all of my sisters in Guiding, I would like to share my experience in Guiding so far with you all.
I have been in Guiding since I was born. My muma was a Guide Leader, so I went with her to unit meetings every week, and started going on Guide camps with her from the early age of 2 years old. Some of my earliest memories are of those camps!
I was so used to being around older girls (10-14 year olds) and doing the activities that the Guides were doing, that when I turned 5 years old and became old enough to join Rainbows, I didn’t want to. I went to two sessions and then left, because it was just too “babyish” for me after doing all the “big girl” stuff with the Guides!
When I turned 7 years old I was given the option of joining Brownies, but I didn’t even attempt that one. I still felt that the activities weren’t going to be exciting enough for me. I decided not to join the Brownies, and so I was unofficially a Guide from birth pretty much.
I couldn’t wait to turn 10 and officially become a Guide! I had practiced my Guide Promise over and over, so that once I was old enough I would know it by heart. I did my first Promise while on camp at Blackland Farm, in the indoor swimming pool there.
By the time I turned 14, I had been a Guide for so long that I had enough. I went through the typical teenage phase of being too cool for everything, and too worried about boys and having a social life. I decided not to become a Young Leader, and honestly, I can’t even remember if there was a Rangers/ Senior Section unit available at the time for me to join! Even if there was, I probably wouldn’t have gone to it seeing as I was too cool. The joys of being a teenager.
After a couple of years out of Guiding, I got dragged back to the unit by my muma when I was 16. They needed some extra hands, and so I became an unofficial Young Leader. I was still too cool to be back for good, so I just came and went as I pleased – and when my muma was desperate for help and dragged me along.
So now we get to 18 years old, and by this point I was over my phase and wanted to come back. Or at least, I wanted to be involved again, but not necessarily tied down. I didn’t want to do my Leadership Qualification for a couple of reasons – I was working shifts at the time, and so I wasn’t really able to commit the time; and I didn’t want to get “stuck” in Guiding. So I asked to be a Unit Helper instead.
The most exciting part about turning 18 in Guiding was that I was able to join the Division Leadership team to go to Disneyland Paris that year! The downside to being part of the Leadership team was that it meant I actually had to be responsible for a group of girls. Thankfully, because it was my first event as an adult I shared responsibility of the group with my muma, which meant that I still got to go on some of the rides! Worth it.
Sadly, shortly after this I had to step down from Guiding again, as my muma was diagnosed with cancer. She became too unwell to continue as Unit Leader, so I became her carer and stayed with her at home most of the time. When she felt well enough I would take her to visit the unit, but those days were few and far between. When I was 19 my muma lost her battle to cancer, and I couldn’t face returning to Guides without her. My entire experience in Guiding was with her. All of my memories there included her. It was too painful to go back.
When I was 22, I was invited to a tea party at my old unit to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday. It was a wonderful party, and I got to see some familiar faces. I loved being back, and the girls that were there were so welcoming despite most of them not knowing who I was, or my muma. I made the decision on that day to come back to Guiding, and I told my Division Commissioner – who was also a guest at the tea party – that I wanted to do my Leadership Training and become a proper Leader.
My dad didn’t want me to go back into Guiding, because he didn’t want me to end up like my muma. She gave up all of her time for Guiding, never said no to anyone, and so she was out most nights of the week. My dad hated this. He felt like Guiding took her away from him. I understood. I felt the same in some ways. And I found out that when she was really ill right before she died, she actually told my dad that she regretted giving so much for not a lot in return. I promised him that I wouldn’t let that happen to me. I would only say yes to things I wanted to do.
Since being back, I achieved my Leadership Qualification for Guides, have been to Disneyland Paris again with my Division as part of the Leadership team, was approached to take over the Ranger unit in my Division with another Leader, started my Leadership Qualification for Rangers, volunteered to be part of the Rangers sub-camp team for the Olave international camp in 2018, completed my Octants before they were phased out, have been assessed for modules 1-7 for my Going Away With Qualification for Guides, became Young Leader Advisor for the Division, became a Leadership Mentor, have been approached to become Peer Educator Advisor for the County, and I’m hoping to complete my Queen’s Guide Award by this July!
I’ve got future plans to complete the camp module and international module for my Going Away With – as well as completing the programme module again for Rangers, attend the Wellies and Wristbands festival with my Ranger unit this August, attend Octagon 2021 in Ireland with my Rangers and Guides, and I’m hoping to reopen another Guide unit in September 2021 with my friend and fellow Leader.
My take home message from my experience in Guiding is this: You will experience some downs. There will always be politics, and pettiness, and people you don’t get on with. And being a Leader does mean sacrificing some of your own enjoyment for the sake of the girls. But it’s worth it. We are a family, and I honestly don’t know what I would do without my Guiding sisters – they have supported me, and encouraged me with everything that I do, inside and outside of Guiding. Coming back to my unit feels like coming home, and I know my muma would be proud that I’m keeping her spirit and memory alive. Finally, my absolute favourite part about Guiding? Watching girls grow into incredible young women and being able to support and encourage them like my Guiding sisters have done for me.
Have a great World Thinking Day!
I’ll see you all again soon. xo