Holly Bretnall is a Leader in Training at 19th Lancaster (URC) Rainbows and Brownies and a unit helper at 5th Lancaster St. Bernadettes Guides. She explains how she's returned to guiding and is working on her leadership qualification
My guiding journey began in 2000 when I joined the Rainbows at five, I progressed through to Guides and had the most amazing time but decided to leave when I was 13. Skip forward to 2018 when I joined university as a slightly mature student, finally realising my dream of becoming a primary school teacher! By my second year of university I felt more established in Lancaster and in October 2019 I applied to volunteer for Girlguiding, never really expecting myself to go through with it. Literally a day later I received a message from our local commissioner and the next thing I knew I was headed to a meeting and I have never looked back!
I was asked if I would like to complete my Leadership qualification which I agreed to immediately and was introduced by our commissioner to the wonderful leaders and girls of our Unit. I was made welcome from the very first meeting and knew this was something I wanted to be a real part of. The thought of attending a meeting as a newbie was terrifying (I know… ridiculous!), but I had no reason to worry! My Leader is fabulous and supportive, and the girls are magnificent.
I started working my way through the online learning, I had arrived back into guiding at the same time as the new programme so at least it was new to everyone. The online e-learning sessions are great, short, informative, and interactive. By Christmas I really felt like one of the team and looked forward to meetings every Wednesday! Over the Christmas break I returned to my parents and dug out all my old Girlguiding things including my presumed long-lost camp blanket!
In February I attended my Safe Space Level 1+2 training and created a plan with my leader for the next term, all working towards my leadership qualification. We had planned my first full session for Mother’s Day and then a slightly late one for International Women’s Day, how exciting! Sadly, a week later or so the first mumblings about the dreaded Covid were muttered. I never got to deliver my session as shortly after sessions were cancelled. During lockdown, in a flat and with only a few others for company, I found myself drawn to keeping in touch with Girlguiding through the social media channels. I finally (12 years since I stopped earning them) managed to sew all the rest of my badges onto my camp blanket and waited patiently for it all to blow over.
Now, the couple of hours I spend on Zoom every Wednesday evening with Rainbows and Guides are some of the best of my week. I love to feel part of a movement that has refused to let girls down, even if I only play a tiny part in it. Yes, I haven’t completed my leadership qualification yet… but what I have done is witness and be inspired by the sheer force that are Lancashire North West and Girlguiding North West England’s leaders and I believe that when I become a leader I will have learnt so much from it, I will only become a better leader. Hopefully by the end of 2021, I will have completed the qualification, and I can start providing girls with those experiences that I experienced so long ago.