Hello and welcome to May's Chiefs’ Chat!
You will hopefully have seen - and shared! - the social media posts from HQ encouraging new volunteers to join us and we're delighted to say that since the launch of the campaign in April, there's been an increase in adult volunteer enquiries, so please keep sharing on your local groups and pages!
Alongside the national recruitment campaign, here at region we're also running two mini-campaigns this month. Every morning this week on our social media channels we've been focusing on volunteers who hold supportive and specialist roles which they can fit in around their busy lifestyles; and also kicking off this week is our Golden Opportunities series of events - virtual evening events looking at other roles available to members.
So this month, our three Region Chief Commissioners are looking at just that - the way their volunteer roles developed and the flexibility of many volunteer roles.
Region Chief Commissioner, Julie Walton
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a young member of Girlguiding, starting as a Brownie just over 50 years ago now, continuing to be a Guide, Ranger and Young Leader. As a Ranger I remember winning a competition to make a meal for a family on a budget and being interviewed on Nationwide, the BBC News programme! I don’t remember what the main course was but the dessert was called Mr Happy Flan – it had a smiley face on the top made with mandarin oranges, it was a kind of cheesecake-type thing. Shortly after this I went off to university and my head was turned by all sorts of other things whilst I was there. So it was a week after my honeymoon, on moving to Carlisle that I found myself volunteering as a leader and setting up a brand new Guide unit! I was given the telephone number of the local District Commissioner and within two days I was getting on a bus to County training day and the District Commissioner, Barbara, was coming down the bus saying “I’m looking for someone I don’t know...” – and of course that was me! What a great bunch of women I met that day and several of them are still really good friends. The joy we all get from volunteering is huge, seeing the smiles on faces young and old at every opportunity makes everything worthwhile, even on those days when part of me doesn’t feel like going, I put on my uniform, fix a grin and before you know it I am having the best time and getting so much out of everything I do, every opportunity is so rewarding and makes me feel so much better.
I would recommend to all of you the region and HQ campaigns for opportunities at all levels and for recruitment – please share all the social media posts as widely as you can. It may be that for all sorts of reasons someone can’t be a leader, but there are so many ways we need support. More volunteers means we can share the roles around and give those of us who are leaders more time to do things with the girls. There are so many experts and specialists out there who would be a real asset to Girlguiding.
Take care everyone, and hope to see you all properly soon!
Kathryn Qattan, Deputy Region Chief Commissioner
Although I was Brownie, unfortunately the Guide unit had closed before I had a chance to join. So, for me, most of my guiding experiences have been as an adult. Like many parents, I started to help at the unit my daughters joined. This was in a town in Texas and I was keen for the girls to join Girl Scouts to help them integrate into our new community. When we returned to the UK we immediately joined Girl Guides locally and I began to help with the Guide unit. In time, I found myself taking on the role of District Commissioner and later Division Commissioner. When I took on the role of District Commissioner I was following in the steps of someone who had not been a leader in Guiding but had been willing and able to take on the role of District Commissioner. She clearly demonstrated you don’t have to be a unit leader to have a valuable role in guiding.
Along the way, I have been a mentor as well as chairing the finance team in my county. The role of mentor is so important and I have enjoyed helping others to develop as they took on the role of unit leader.
I had an eye test recently, and wearing my Region face mask, I sat down for the first of the tests. The young woman recognised the logo as belonging to Girlguiding and she told me she had been a Rainbow, Brownie and Guide though there had not been a unit locally after that. I told her about Inspire and she said seeing me had brought back a lot of happy guiding memories and she will be taking a look online at what we are offering now!
There are so many opportunities for girls and young (and not so young) women in Girlguiding and we need to make sure we get the message to everyone we can.
Emma Dixon, Assistant Chief Commissioner
My guiding journey so far has been utterly incredible. Because of Girlguiding, I’ve become a better version of myself - more confident, positive, strong willed, and a real Leader. However, the start of my guiding journey, as a young member, was very ‘normal’. So what happened to change my path and see me where I am today?
I did love my time as a Rainbow, Brownie, Guide (obviously so, as I far outlasted all of my school friends!) and had fantastic leaders, but there was nothing which made my experience stand out above anyone else’s. I was a very ‘average’ young member. I turned up every week, had fun, learned new skills, earned some badges. Only when I turned 17 did my guiding journey take a different direction. My Ranger leader used to send all sorts of opportunities my way - Peer Ed, Advocate, INTOPS - but I would always ignore them (ahh, if I could go back and shake myself I would!). Eventually, I started to feel so bad for not taking them up that I decided to humour her just once - I applied to join a Region Task and Finish group. After applying to that I was asked whether I’d also like to join Action for Change, and the shy 17 year old I was back then would have found it too awkward to say no. So I said yes! Fast forward a few months and both my confidence and passion for Girlguiding had grown exponentially. The next year I applied to join the Advocate Panel, then to be an Action for Change coach, then ultimately to the Assistant Chief Commissioner role.
That’s a very long winded way to say that finally saying ‘yes’ to my Ranger leader was the best decision I’ve ever made. It set me off on this part of my guiding journey and no doubt will continue to influence everything I do during my time in Girlguiding. I have no doubt that I’d if just remained an ‘average’ young member, I’d have left Girlguiding when I went to university and who knows when, or even if, I’d have returned.
Some people will have an inspiring and rewarding journey in unit guiding, but for others, their passion will lie elsewhere. So for me, I believe that encouraging members to look for opportunities to use their skills and passions beyond the unit is incredibly important. Hence our series of Golden Opportunities events!
We hope you enjoyed catching up with us again this month. As always, you can find us on Twitter, where you can ping us any questions or simply share all of the incredible work that you are doing.
Julie, Kathryn, and Emma.