Why complaining has me exhausted…

Oh. my. word.

What a battle this week has been.

Last weekend really and totally sucked. I had to switch my Monday shift at work to a Tuesday one so I would be there to explain to client about the closure of the charity and what that meant.

After the weekend I just wanted to be back at work. It was lonely and horrible.

Monday I met up with my sister who was in town. In the evening I went to the Guides campfire. I came home to an e-mail from Girlguiding HQ that made me very angry as they’d changed the Young Leadership Qualification syllabus with no warning. 10 days after I’d given out the girls packs of the now ‘old’ syllabus. Because they hadn’t yet started, they have to use the new ones. A lot of time wasted as we heave a big sigh and start from scratch the work of printing out workbooks, speaking to leaders and commissioners…

To wake up on Tuesday discover mail at the front door regarding our Senior Section bank account. In September we’d sent off forms to add the other leader as a signatory. I feel comfortable enough sharing this photo as basically NONE of the information on it is correct. They have me married, they have the incorrect name, they have me living in a church hall in another part of Edinburgh (which has no connection to our unit whatsoever!) and they actually spelled the wrong address incorrectly. And apparently it took eight months for them to work out their mistake and send it to my correct address.

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I was later into work than I intended as I went into the nearest branch of the Bank of Scotland to make a complaint and try and get to the bottom of the mystery. The staff there was just as confused and ticked off as I was (and I got compliments for being very pleasant while making my complaints!)

The complaint making continued once I got to work as I made yet another call to our local Council. You see, the Scottish Government introduced a new law at the beginning of this year making it illegal for businesses to put anything recyclable into a general waste wheelie bin, or to dispose of recycling in domestic recycling bins. I’m sure environmentalists out there think ‘Hurrah! Great!’.

But there are a few problems. Firstly how crippling it is for small businesses to pay extra for all the different recycling bins and collections you now need. Secondly there was no exemptions or discounts for charities. We are classed as businesses. The government spent more money on fun ‘projects’ to teach about recycling rather than sending leaflets and information to businesses so they’d know this new law was coming and how it would affect them. And the local councils weren’t prepared for the sudden increase in workload.

Cue us spending 6 months with an ever growing pile of recycling in our office as we continually call our Council to speak to a Trade Waste officer to get a recycling contract. I’ve made complaints to local councillors, complaints to the Council, complaints to the Environmental Wardens…

Wednesday. I’m exhausted and I smell of campfire from a Soul Surfers marshmallow toasting session. I’m also slightly hacked off that out of a group of 9 students only two bother to turn up to a visit they requested. Kudos to the two who bothered to call to let me know they couldn’t come and apologised. I really appreciate you taking the time to do that, and wish the others had too. I head home from work and realise I’ve misplaced the church hall keys. I find them in a handbag. And I have to explain to the girls that the YLQ packs I gave them two weeks before are now out of date and I need to get them new ones.

Thursday and it’s another rubbishy day at work. At the moment there is such a state of flux and everything ‘dying’ that  it’s just not a great place to be. It’s also awful as we have to face the anger people express when we hear we are shutting down. Part of me is with them. The other part of me wonders where the heck they’ve all been the last seven years when we needed their support. Either way I get a grumpy feeling. I make it to Spanish class though, and get cheered up by a gorgeous view of the city in the evening light.

Friday and Jo comes round to help me count the Active Kids vouchers. I go onto the website to ‘bank’ them so we can then do our order. The website comes up with this message:

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Frustrating, but I figure I’ll just try again in 10 minutes or an hour. When I do, it informs me that I can’t bank any vouchers this year because my order is now in process. EVEN THOUGH I HAVEN’T ORDERED ANYTHING. I call their expensive “helpline” and speak to a friendly dude who basically tells me ‘Sorry, the website sucks and we can’t do anything to fix the problem. You’ll need to print off everything and do it by hand with the pack I got sent.” When I explain my pack has never arrived he says “oh well, sorry. Must have got lost in the post.” Yep. I wasn’t chuffed. I’m trying to imagine why a company would even bother having a helpline if it isn’t even going to attempt to fix problems that are not the fault of the customers?! I send tweets to Sainsbury’s and a strongly worded (but polite) e-mail.

Mostly, I don’t want to tell Guides I couldn’t get the stuff we’ve all been collecting vouchers for when I go back after the summer.

By this point I’m ready to lose it, and decide for my own sanity, it’s either buy a printer to use for Girlguiding or quit being a Girlguiding leader. So I go to buy a printer. Later that night I take it out and set it up try to print the end of term Guide letters……and it won’t print in black.

I really do lose it at this point.

Realising that throwing myself out a window is probably not a particularly productive option I resist the temptation to take that route and instead take to facebook and twitter to let out yet another rant. Because I realise that I’m going to have to phone another company and make another complaint. I’m also worried that it’s the printer that is faulty because did I mention the struggle I had carrying it up a hill in the warm sunshine while my flip flops cut up my foot with every step?

(It was the cartridge…and no I’ve not had the chance to go return it yet).

So yes. It’s been a battle this week. I don’t think I’ve had to make so many complaints in my life, and it is EXHAUSTING. The thing that has kept me going is remembering why I volunteer with Girlguiding. Why I go to work each day.

Thankfully, I’ve had a great day at a Girlguiding workshop helping to give feedback on developing new web platform for Girlguiding UK and went to the Zoo on my way home as it wasn’t raining (and days where it doesn’t rain in Scotland have to be utilised and appreciated wherever possible).

Rest tomorrow me thinks!

Free to be me

A few weeks ago, we began a discussion at Senior Section (this is a Girlguiding unit I run with girls aged 14-25) and body image came up. I can’t remember where the discussion had begun – it may have been talking about gender equality from one of the challenges in the Commonwealth Games ‘Ready, Steady, Glasgow‘ pack. I think we showed this video

We discussed how girls were concerned about being judged by other girls on how big their breasts were or their body size or what they were wearing.

You want to say it doesn’t matter.

And then you remember what you saw fill your twitter feed the morning after any film or television awards ceremony. And you realise that most of it is to do with what the women wore to the event more than how amazing their art work was that they were being nominated for an award for. I can’t help but cheer on Sarah Millican (who incidentally I think looks lovely in her dress from John Lewis that she wore to the BAFTAs in 2013) when I read this article she wrote in the Radio Times. And be raging at shows like Lorraine who spent time slagging off her outfit the next day.

When will this change?

I still remember a day sitting in a church office chatting the wife of one of our pastors. I ended up helping her with some simple admin stuff while I was in there and I loved having that opportunity to speak with a woman who had a bit more life experience than I. It was lovely to chat until a moment where she said out of the blue ‘Oh, you know if you did X, Y, Z with your hair it would look so much better’.

I smiled and nodded. But inside I felt so disappointed. Yep, I know my hair is mental and messy. Sure, if I got up an hour earlier every morning I could probably do something to make it look slightly more presentable. But really? Does it really matter what my hair looks like? Does my worth come from how good my hair looks? How clear my skin is? How put together my outfit is?

Quite frankly, my hope is that people look past my mismatched hoodie that I’ve shoved on over my outfit to keep warm or the messy tangle of frizz that I’ve tried to get out my face by pulling back into a bun or ponytail that has started falling out while I ran for the bus…I want people to care about the levels of wisdom, intelligence, kindness or compassion I show over how good my wardrobe looks.

I want to be able to do exercise to feel healthy and socialise with my friends rather than to look like an airbrushed photo in a magazine.

And I never want to be one of those people buying magazines or watching television which is just tearing apart my fellow women.

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has teamed up with Dove to run a programme and challenge badge for Brownies and Guides called Free Being Me. As I watch some of my Guides walk in with their face hidden in heavy make up and telling me they think they’re fat – I’m seriously considering suggest to my fellow leaders that we should put it on the programme after the summer.

I feel sad that my old pastor’s wife felt the need to comment on my looks that she couldn’t see past them very far to what really counted. I like making the effort to make my nails more colourful, or my hair more tamed and enjoy wearing some crazy shoes every once in a while. But the majority of the time – sleep and comfort have a higher priority, and the highest priority is how beautiful I can make my character over how beautiful the package my character comes in…

I want to be free to be me, and I want my fellow Guides – adults, young leaders, rangers, Girl Guides, Brownies and rainbows to feel they can be free to be themselves too.

I want to be part of creating a world where that can happen…who’s with me?

**This post is also published on my other blog, The Girlguiding Life, where you can find out more about what I do volunteering with Girlguiding UK**

Because balloon antlers are fashionable…honest…

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Oh man, what a crazy week it’s been! I didn’t sleep after coming home from Guides last Monday, and when my alarm went off on Tuesday morning I was feeling very pathetic and miserable. I just couldn’t get moving and felt pretty ill. I knew that the last two classes days before going to Germany are important for our final assignment for this module though so I managed to get out the door – though very late. Lucky for me, the 8.30 train to Glasgow was running just as late as me so I ended up being to class just in the nick of time. Phew! I was however, very grateful for a lift home in my friend’s car to our Soul Surfer gathering – the thought of repeating the subway-train-bus journey back home wasn’t an encouraging thought.

By Thursday I was full of the cold. I had Friday off to do uni work and to go to a meeting about the workloaad for Germany. Saturday I had promised to volunteer as a Steward at the Alpha Scotland vision day being held at our church. It was an early start, but lovely to see some old friends – including my pastor and his wife from my Aberdeen days (and two of their sons I babysat sometimes when I was a student. They introduced me to Star Wars). I did however get SOAKED trying to get home – I really miss having a car. Pilates got cancelled for the third day in a row. 

Finally on Sunday, we got there. And my friend came with  a flashdrive full of photographs from the Baden-Powell Award party we had for two of our ‘graduated’ Guides taken by her husband. The photo above included…

Now, I’m feeling much better, though still a little scabby and sneezy. There’s a lot happening on the Landlord duty front. A friend of our family was buried today having lost a battle with an extremely rare form of cancer a couple of weeks ago. We just had the CEO of Girlguiding UK visiting our Guides (more of that on The Girlguiding Life soon). I have my last uni class tomorrow. I head to Germany this coming weekend and I’m trying not to freak out about it.

Oh, and I still need to finish the reading for my class tomorrow. And it’s almost Midnight. 

Deep breath.

Phew.

I can do this. 

:)

Life as a Girl Guide…

post climbing curls

I forgot to tell you that I’ve started a new blog. I realised a lot of my blog and twitter chat these days is very girlguiding orientated. When I came back to Girlguiding in 2011 and began my leadership qualification (or at least tried to begin it…with no handbook or registration on Go!) I hunted for blogs and websites to help me understand the current Girlguiding programme and the structure of meetings and all the traditions that I vaguely remember but can’t remember the exact details of.

Now that I’ve been back in Girlguiding for over two years, I wanted to be able to share more about what we do, what has been done in the past and my guiding memories. Maybe even have some friends to share as well. Who knows? So I’ve now moved the main girlguiding posts I’ve done on this blog and continuing the stories of my Girlguiding life over on The Girlguiding Life which can be found at http://thegirlguidinglife.wordpress.com

For those of you who have been interested in that part of my life, I hope you like the blog and find it helpful.

:)

December has arrived…

I submitted my final assignment of the year on Friday morning. The weight of relief to have that DONE is more than I can describe. This whole studying business has been more stressful than I ever anticipated it to be (and I didn’t anticipate it being a picnic!). Every time we start a course, I start searching for books on our reading list only to find that barely any of them can be found in our university library. I’ve now twice requested books from other libraries, but it takes a while to get them and that’s frustrating. Once again, books I wanted weeks ago have finally turned up AFTER the assignment is handed in.

Just another thing we’ll be giving in as feedback to the long list we have to challenge the university with.

:)

Anyway, the weekend didn’t stop as I got an emergency call from work only about 6 hours after I’d gotten to bed. We had our fundraiser on Saturday (St Andrew’s Day). And of course there was the terrible tragedy of the helicopter crash at The Clutha bar in Glasgow on Friday night too. :(

Today has been the first day of restfulness, where I’ve been able to sleep in, take my time, start to sift through the mess and carnage the last three months has created (you literally couldn’t see the carpet in my room). I visited my friends as Miss Sweetroot celebrated her birthday. Her Auntie had made these AMAZING minion cupcakes…
minion cupcake
I felt bad eating a cute minion, but he tasted oh so good and chocolatey!

And of course once I got home, as it was December 1st I had to make sure to put up my Christmas Tree covered in hats collected from supporting The Big Knit. Last year I had so many I gave some to a friend, and a few I sent back to Innocent so they could reuse them. This year I have some set aside for my sister since she can’t collect them in Cameroon.

big knit 2013

 

Tomorrow night we will be awarding two of our ‘graduated’ Guides with the Baden-Powell Award – the highest award that can be achieved in Guides. Both girls are now members of the Senior Section I run, and I’m sure they’re going to continue achieving great things… tomorrow is going to be about celebrating what they’ve already done.

So yes, today I’m taking pause. I’m grateful for this month ‘off’, and looking forward to having a couple of weeks off work at Christmas and Hogmanay too to rest, relax and read fun books, and do some writing and scrapbooking.

For now, life is going down a gear from mental busy to normal busy. And the snow is falling on my blog…

Remembering…

At 10.30 a.m. today, I’ll be gathering with pupils from local schools, representatives from Girlguiding, The Scouts, The Boys Brigade, The Police and many other members of the Corstorphine community as we prepare to pay our respects for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in wars at the local Cenotaph.

At 11 a.m. we will salute, and come hail, rain or shine stand in silence for 2 minutes as we remember them.

I will remember my grandfathers who fought in the war. I will remember my Nana who used to be on patrol during the Blackout in London before she married and moved to Scotland. I will remember my Great Aunt and Uncle who were evacuated as children from London and sent to live with a horrible family in Wales (they tried to run away with some other children by following the railway track back to London but not surprisingly the grown ups caught up with them fairly swiftly – just as well as they’d underestimated the length of the walk and I think they only had a packet of sweets between them for sustenance!) I will also my Great Uncle who also survived World War 2, and recently died. When I met him 6 years ago, he told me of our relative who survived World War I only to drown yards from home as the yacht bringing him home sunk on the coast of Stornoway on Hogmanay. I now know this man was my great, great grandfather – pictured here a couple of years before his death on the HMY Iolaire. His death left my teenage great-grandmother an orphan.

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The video below was made by a Canadian, but for me it brings home some of the reality of the wars we have thought (as Britain and Canada have fought together as allies). One of the most poignant pictures being the army medic treating a small boy, with the medic’s hat on his head – the army medic looks no more than a boy himself.

Learning also this year, the role that the Girl Guides played before and after war (we were trained to try and prevent war buy bringing friendship amongst those from other countries, and trained to be able to help with the recovery effort through war years ready for the war ended). The incredible tales of Girl Guides from all over the world during World War 2 has been beautifully put together in this book by Janie Hampton.

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I hope that the girls I lead will never have to experience the terrors of war, but I also hope if the people leading our country go to war ever again, we too would be the peacemakers and healers, and have courage to keep going and boost morale under oppressive regimes.

One Promise for All…

Well, I was about to do a ‘Quote of the Week’ post inspired by my amazing Senior Section and other Girlguiding ladies, but apparently there’s a demand for people to speak about an article that appeared the Telegraph on Wednesday. You know, the last day of term for us as Senior Section was the day after the new promise announcement. Several of our girls were hurt by the things said by outsiders about Girlguiding in the press as they were so excited about the wording change and asked me if they could remake their promise. I know I was hurt by it – especially by some of the things I saw on being said on Twitter. I spent 2 days defending Girlguiding and trying to explain what the press had warped and gotten oh so wrong. The one thing that encouraged me was the lovely feedback I got (especially from some nay-sayers) who read my post about the new promise and said they’d found it really helpful. Thank you for being willing to listen!

Planning for next term of Guides

As the Girlguiding members gear up to return for a new term and the new promise is about to come into action, a ton of us leaders were disappointed to see the Telegraph article appear. (And surprise, surprise, a photo with the old uniform!). And then today apparently we were discussed on The Wright Stuff and referred to us being a religious organisation?!!

A few things to say.

First of all, Girlguiding and Scouting is different from the Girls and Boys Brigade. God has never been at the ‘core’, and the promise reflects an era where there wasn’t as much cultural diversity and more people participated in religion because it was what you did, not necessarily because you actually believed. We have never been a Christian organisation.

However, a lot of Parish churches have welcomed and accommodated Girlguiding units (who often don’t have ‘Guide Huts’ – we don’t have the same money that Scouts do!). Just as they’ve accommodated Mother & Toddler groups, Women’s Institute groups, fitness classes and many other community activities. We so appreciate this!

Second, is the idea that a leader should encourage young girls aged 5 or 7/8 to continue to use the old promise when they might not believe (or know what they believe yet) is in my mind, spiritually abusive. And it might not be what the parents want! I don’t think that the new promise excludes Christians at all, or Muslims or Jews or Sikhs or any other faith groups. In fact, it encourages girls to make a commitment to exploring their personal values and beliefs.

Third, is the idea some have made about having two promises. I’m against that, because I think this is the big area where Christians historically have made a real mess of things. I remember having a conversation with my Pastor about one of the saddest sights in Edinburgh: Holy Corner. At a crossroads stands 4 churches on different corners of the intersection. Why do you need 4 different churches in one place? Because of disunity. Let’s find the things we agree on and be united with One Promise for EVERYONE! One that everyone can say truthfully, and make an honest commitment to! That’s what Girlguiding has done.

The Telegraph quoted a lady called Jem who said: “The pack leader’s insistence on keeping the old promise excludes me and any atheist girls from the troop, or asks us to lie when making the promise, something that surely goes against the Guiding principles.

That second part there is what bothers me most. Because lying when making a promise is not just against the principles of Guiding and Scouting (part of the Guide law is that ‘A Guide is honest and can be trusted‘). It also goes against what I understand, as a follower of Christ, to be against the teaching of the bible too.

We had our first day back on Wednesday at Senior Section. All 6 girls made a return and were so excited to be back (or they did a really good job of pretending to be if they weren’t – ha ha!). We had a new seventh member coming for the first time. We had an eighth new member apologetically e-mail me saying she couldn’t come this Wednesday but really wanted to join. A ninth girl e-mailed me last night after meeting some of the girls asking if she could join our group too! I’d made the girls folders to record their progress with the ‘Look Wider’ programme and used this is a base for planning their activities for the coming term.

Senior Section prep

Here’s some of what they decided to do:

A Pizza and Pyjama Party (they want to make the pizzas themselves)

Tie Dyeing t-shirts

Hallowe’en party

Diwali night

and…they want to go back on the Ferris Wheel at Christmas time, and re-do their Promise. I’m going to have to gear myself up for that one because this is what happened last year!

Some of the girls are thinking about exploring their beliefs by going to church as part of the ‘Personal Values’ octant of the Look Wider programme, as they asked Jenny and I what sort of things they could do for that octant. As I’ve said before, some of the girls while we were discussing the promise confessed they weren’t sure what they believed, or that they’d like to go to a church because their families do but they find the teaching there irrelevant or disagree with some of the messages being put out there by prominent people representing Christianity which takes stances on social issues such as homosexuality or women’s health they disagree with. I have girls who are intrigued by other faith beliefs or realise they know little about them. I have girls who regularly go to church and know they believe in God. I have girls who respect people’s belief in God but have looked into it all and know they don’t believe in a God at all.

And we all get along. We might have different beliefs about some things, but we’re ONE UNIT. We’re proud to be members of Girlguiding.

And these girls are AMAZING. The four of them who were in S4 and S5 kicked serious butt in their exams before the summer, one is now in college, the other three are still at school and looking into university options. One is doing her Duke of Edinburgh Award (she says the expedition was the worst experience of her life…but she sucked it up and got through it). Two of them have just finished their Baden-Powell Challenge Awards as they’ve come up to Senior Section. Six of them volunteer as young leaders and have a great rapport with the kids/young people they work with each week. One of them is volunteering to help tutor younger pupils at her high school. All of them are involved with a range of different extra curricular activities from playing instruments, to costume design for drama groups, to singing, ballet, badminton and being a first aid cadet…

They are caring, compassionate and stand up for injustice. Don’t tell me that not believing in God means they have a dodgy moral compass or that because they promise to be ‘true to themselves’ means they act selfishly. Their actions prove otherwise, and to me actions always speak louder than words.

 

**Update: I have since watched the segment on The Wright Stuff televised this morning on Channel 5. I was totally shocked by the lack of research and tweeted as I watched, totally understanding why my facebook had blown up with raging Guiders and volunteers wanting to throw stuff at their TV screens!

Some points:

1. Girlguiding did not change the promise ‘to gain more members’. It did so after a consultation which happened after many existing members expressed their discomfort about the wording of the promise, and their wish to be able to mean the promise they were making.

2. The logo shown  is not our current logo.

3. The oath is not usually said at the beginning of every meeting, though certainly it is discussed through the activities we do in all sections. This oath is known as ‘The Guide Promise’ and is said at a ceremony when someone joins a section of Guiding. For example, I made it as a Brownie, a Guide, a Young Leader, a Ranger and as an Adult Leader.

4. We don’t have ‘troops’. We have ‘units’ or a ‘Brownie Pack’ or a ‘Guide company’. Troops are what the Scouts have.

5. We had a consultation, and we wanted ONE promise that could include everyone rather than having 2 (or more)

6. We did not ‘get rid of the Queen’. Our new promise changed the line ‘to serve the Queen and my country’ to ‘serve the Queen and my community’ – which incorporated a line from the promise that Rangers and Young Leaders make.

7. ‘to be true to myself and develop my beliefs’ is encouraging girls NOT to be ashamed of what they believe.

8. We were not losing members. In fact in the last 2 years 16,000 new members have joined Girlguiding in the UK. And there’s more on the waiting lists.

9. Girlguiding and Scouting was never a recognised ‘religious organisation’, though true Christian principles were (and still are) the influence on the core of Girlguiding and Scouting (caring for creation, treated those as you’d wish to be treated). Robert Baden-Powell always incorporated other religions as Scouting and Guiding spread as a worldwide youth movement. He didn’t keep it limited to Christianity.

I am sad that the producers and people talking on the show didn’t know anything of the history of guiding, the Consultation, not to mention that this debate is being shown like…9 months after the consultation began, and 2+ months after the new promise was announced. **

Guiding 101: The wonders of boxes, scrapbooks & planning sheets

When I first came back into Girlguiding, I wasn’t sure what the history of our unit was, wanted my fellow leaders to like me and did not want to tread on any toes. I really spent the first 2 terms watching. And trying to work out things like Go For Its, the new badges (there are so few now!) and the G-File. We had 5 girls who were getting older and I watched them struggle with the younger ones. There was a lot of disrepect (the younger ones to the older ones). Sometimes the older ones just did it all out of frustration.

Once I’d got myself a G-File (I use it as a reference) worked out what a Go-For-It was and had chatted with leaders, we discussed ways in which we could improve the overall atmosphere, interactions and encourage the girls to take ownership. We wanted the girls to get as much out of guiding as possible. We observed who brought the best and worst out of each other, and organised the patrols accordingly. We also wanted to have a mixture of ages in each patrol.

Then, at the beginning of this school year, we brought in something from my guiding days that I hoped would help the girls work better as patrols.

Patrol boxes.

Patrol Boxes

Now, one of our Guides came up to Senior Section, and this apparently is a  highlight memory. “Awww! The boxes. I loved my patrol box”. (never mind when we had the Jubilee Beacon night, or went rock climbing. The plastic boxes I got 3 for £10 in Poundstretcher were the highlight – ha ha!)

The other brilliant idea that joined the patrol boxes was scrapbooks. Jo found some bargain ones in Ikea, and bought one for each patrol.

The idea behind these patrol boxes, is that the girls had a place to put their patrol things – bits of unfinished work, the Go For It or Badge resource they are working on etc. In each box I gave them a copy of our Unit Guidelines (which the girls work out and decide on together at the beginning of each year), The Guide Promise & Law and their scrapbook. We may in future put some pens in each one too! I think the night I went to get felt pen packs the shop only had one pack left.

I also made sure the boxes were exactly the same – I knew our Guides would fight/go in huff if one colour got preferred over another, so I bought 4 purple boxes.

The scrapbooks have also been great. Because of the recent ‘anniversaries’ and events like the Queen’s Jubilee, the girls have seen and heard about the history of Guiding. I’ve been encouraging the girls to document their history through the scrapbooks, explaining that one day future guides can see what Patrols did ‘back in the 2010s’.

This term I made sure to take pictures of what all the patrols were doing, and then printed photos so on the last night of term they could use the pictures in their scrapbooks however they wanted.

The difference we see in the girls since we introduced the patrol boxes has been incredible. Like it was something so simple, but the girls seem to like having their own box and it’s brought some extra unity into the patrols. It also means we leaders aren’t finding as much scribbled bits of paper and half finished work and trying to work out which patrol it belongs to!

The last thing we introduced was something I found on an old Guiding website totally by accident. GFI planning sheets.  We usually get them to pick by laying out all the Go For It and similar resources (e.g. On Your Marks) on the stage. We ask the patrol leaders to take a couple at a time to take back to the patrol and help their patrol decide which one they’d like to do. Once a patrol has picked a Go For It, we give them a planning sheet, so they can plan their 4 weeks of Go For It activities. The sheet is then kept in their patrol box. This is especially great if we have a break from usual patrol nights in the middle for an activity outside the uni or there is a bank holiday – when they ask ‘What are we doing next week?‘, we can say ‘Where is your planning sheet? What did you write down?

I have fuzzed out writing to protect identities of the Guides

We’ve also seen a notable improvement in their organisational skills, though we still need to make sure they’ve remember and written down what they need to bring – or check if they need the leaders to bring anything for them for the following week.

One of our ‘graduated’ guides is now working in our unit as a Young Leader, and she has testified to other members of the Senior Section who were in our unit that ‘the girls are so much better now’. The best thing is we’re seeing the girls take ownership and gaining confidence in leadership skills. We’re still struggling with the teamwork aspect at times, and that’s something the leaders will be taking into consideration when we have our planning meeting before the start of the next school year in August.

I hope this helps some other Guide leaders, and if you have any questions, please just ask. We’re always looking to learn as well as share the things we’ve found that work well to run a unit relatively smoothly!

The New Guide Promise

Yesterday I came home to the news that after January-March’s consultation on the Guide Promise, a decision had been made. The promise is changing. Two thoughts sprang to mind. Firstly I was relieved I hadn’t said to Jo to get some more promise cards when she was at the Guide Shop this week. Secondly, I was pleased that the 3 main points I’d hoped would change/stay the same, did.

All members of Guiding had been told to keep quiet until the media announcement today. But as the clock struck twelve the articles started appearing. You know that saying ‘Don’t believe what you read in the papers!‘ – well, today just proved why you shouldn’t. I’ve been utterly appalled this morning as I’ve seen such terrible misleading journalism in tv, online and on paper. First Guiding and Scouting isn’t the same thing (you wouldn’t believe how many newspapers had pictures of girls dressed in Scout uniform). Some people had used pictures of the Old logo and old uniform from over a decade ago. One newspaper droned on about our CEO ‘Julia’ (that’ll be Julie Bentley then!) and her previous job. I haven’t seen one piece of unbiased journalism, and it’s been very unhelpful.

You might remember me writing about the promise back in January. A number of our girls were not comfortable with the wording and what it would mean they were promising to do. I was uncomfortable with allowing and encouraging people to make a promise to a God I avidly believe in that they might not believe in.

So let me take the promise piece by piece to explain why I like it, and why I believe it is a better reflection of what the core values of Girlguiding are. These are my own opinions and is my own interpretation and understanding of the words that are going to be used come September.

I promise that I will do my best:

Let’s start here. I promise is a serious statement to make. It’s a vow, an oath. The words following it should be meant and not taken lightly if you are promising to apply them to your life. We’re not perfect people, so we don’t promise that we will definitely do something, but we make a public commitment that we’re going to do our best to keep our promise!

To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,

This replaces ‘To love my God’. Now, ‘God’ was allowed to be replaced with another word for God (e.g. Allah) if appropriate. However, this was not great for girls who didn’t believe in God or just weren’t sure if they did or not. In fact I know at least one of my girls when we were looking at the promise last Autumn confessed ‘I don’t know if I’m a Christian or not‘.

Exploring spirituality (or as my current counselling training would say ‘exploring the transpersonal aspect’) is important and has always been a core part of Girlguiding and children’s education. Even as a youth and children’s leader in a church context, I would not be comfortable unless we allowed children and young people to ask questions and choose whether or not they believe or don’t believe in something. It’s also important that we allow people to change their beliefs. One of my friends from when I went to Guides used to go to church as a teenager, and is now an atheist. I used to be an agnostic, now I am a Christian.

To be true to ourselves, is key part of having integrity. Girls with faith beliefs should be encouraged to stay true to them even if some of it seems ‘uncool’ to their peers. Equally girls who have no faith beliefs should not feel they have to pretend to believe in something they don’t. I kind of think that ‘To be true to myself‘ is a bit like ‘On my honour‘.

Developing our beliefs means that we are always learning, always evolving and hopefully respecting each other despite differences in what we do or don’t believe in, and not teasing people for not knowing yet for sure.

Now girls who do not love a ‘God’ can keep the first part of the Guide law…. ‘A guide is honest…’

To serve the Queen and my community,

There was a chance that ‘the Queen’ would be taken out, but after the consultation most said they wanted to keep the Queen in. She is our patron, and I think that is great. I’m not sure how I’ll feel if we have a King in future mind you! ;)

One of the things I could never understand was why Senior Section said ‘to serve my community’ but the rest of us didn’t, when a huge part of Girlguiding has always been serving our communities and making them a better place to be. In fact a big part of why I encourage girls to take part in Remembrance Sunday is how it brings communities together and encourages the older generation that even though we ourselves weren’t around when the World Wars occurred, we are working to remember what happened and standing by them in their losses.

As leaders, we are trying to serve our community by providing Guiding programmes in our areas. And community is much more understandable than ‘country’. Community can be local or global, and Guiding has always been a local and international organisation.

To help other people

This was in the old promise and remains the same. I think it’s self explanatory!

and To keep the  Guide Law.

This is the Guide Law:

A Guide is honest, reliable and can be trusted.

A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.

A Guide faces challenges and learns from her experiences.

A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.

A Guide is polite and considerate.

A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.

I realise that today, some are not happy with the news of this new wording. I was raging myself when I heard some of the comments from a lady from an organisation called Christian Concern (well, I’m a Christian and I have concerns about Christian Concern). I actually believe that they really missed the boat with this new promise because it is actually actively encouraging leaders to get the girls to think about the words they are saying, what they mean and how we support girls in applying that promise to their life. They are missing an opportunity to help girls keep that part of the promise to ‘develop their beliefs’ and help them learn about the faith they believe in. We have world culture and discovering faith badges for the purposes of girls learning about lots of different things in a way that is less prescriptive than a school curriculum. I also think some of these people representing ‘Christians’ need to take a good look at the bible and notice that the Christian God is one who does not believe in dictatorship but free will and choices. Oh, and community. :)

Today, I’m prouder than ever to be part of Girlguiding. I do not feel anymore that I need to be uncomfortable about my faith. I am happy that all our members can make the same promise honestly. I look forward to supporting our girls, present and future, to explore what it means to keep the promise they make.

I’ll end with this message from our Chief Guide…thanks Gill, for representing us so well! :)

This weekend was brought to you by the letter G…

1300 members of Girlguiding Edinburgh attending the Diamond Jubilee Beacon Night

1300 members of Girlguiding Edinburgh attending the Diamond Jubilee Beacon Night

Nicola asked about what her blog readers’ weekends have been like. Well…

Our Guide unit (the Monday night group of 10-15 year olds) have been asking about camping. The generation that came before them (a few of them now in the new Senior Section Unit) were not fans of camping. I’m sure they won’t mind me telling you that the idea of living without use of a hairdryer for an entire weekend (never mind week) fills them with mild horror.

However, our current generation seem to want to camp. Jo is a Mum of three kids aged 6 and under, and I’ve never seen a day where Ashleigh didn’t have perfect hair, make-up and beautifully manicured nails. I was away from Guiding for 9 years…sooo…none of us has our camping and holiday license required to take a unit on any overnight camp (tented or otherwise!). And so we’re trying to find a way forward.

Enter ‘Camp Out‘ Go For It.

We’re going to be doing the ‘Camp Out’ GFI which kinda prepares girls for what camp involves and gives them ideas about how to plan camp activities and so on. While the patrols chose their own Go For Its to do this term, we’re going to be doing ‘Camp Out’ on the weeks where there is been a holiday the week before. The reason for this is that we find that the girls tend to forget to bring stuff they need for the activities they’ve planned if there’s been a week away from Guides! Our hope is to then have a night at Trefoil (a campsite not far from us) with a campfire and outdoor games at the end of term.

We did a night at Trefoil last year as part of a combined ‘Be A Good Sport’/Olympics/Amelia’s Challenge night with a campfire I built with very soggy wood, and we had a night at Trefoil with the rest of Girlguiding Edinburgh for the Queen’s Jubilee where I discovered most of our Guides don’t know any Campfire songs.

And so this weekend, I’ve been putting together a selection of activities from Camp Out and an older related GFI activity pack for the girls to choose from, and tracking down Campfire songs in preparation for teaching the girls them.

Of course, this is in between keeping up with the European Gymnastics Championships where our British Team won 5 medals (2 Golds, 2 Silvers, 1 Bronze). Our mens team have come home the most decorated mens team. Although the Russians won 3 Golds, they only got 4 medals in total. I’ve begun to update the gymnastic pages on wikipedia (with others doing the same) – there’s a lot of gaps with nothing updated since the Olympics in a lot of places. Some gymnasts don’t even have their own entries. My hope is that by doing this, people new to watching the sport can understand who people are, what they’ve achieved and get interested in following the sport more! I was also super pleased to wake up this morning to the news that University of Florida women’s gymnastics team won their first ever National Team title. I was hoping they would, as they’ve been top most of last year and this year – and it was British Olympian, Marissa King‘s last NCAAs on the Gator team. They won the title on her birthday too. What a gift! You might remember I was hoping to be at the NCAAs this year as they were scheduled to be in Los Angeles the same week as the Q conference. I wish I’d been there last night so bad! :)

Now, I just need to make some cupcakes for a memorial celebration/fundraiser a rainbow unit have organised in our area, in honour of their Rainbow leader who lost her battle with cancer last month. And then I’ll be ready for Monday!