I’m sure most people will already know that when I’m not guiding, I’m busy being a student - at the moment I’m in my final year reading Biomedical Sciences. That means I am, by definition, a ‘student volunteer’ so I thought that Student Volunteering Week would be the perfect time to share my experience!
I starting volunteering when I was still in High School. My local Brownie unit took on a very shy 14-year-old whose main interest in volunteering was to tick off that element of Bronze DofE. I’d been a Rainbow, Brownie and Guide myself and had just moved up to Rangers, but it was becoming a Young Leader which truly transformed my Girlguiding experience. I went from just attending weekly meetings, to really pushing myself out of my comfort zone, taking part in Action for Change, Task and Finish groups and County meetings. I started to tailor my involvement to my own interests, sharing the things I was passionate about with my Brownies and that’s when I completely and utterly fell in love with volunteering.
I could never have imagined just how much I’d grow to love my Brownie family, so much so that I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them when I started university… so I didn’t! I was in a really fortunate position that I only moved an hour away, so every other week I would take the train home for Brownies. Admittedly, any volunteer experience that involves a mad dash in Brown Owl’s car to catch the 20:33 train back to uni after Brownies, isn’t a usual one, but it was perfect for me. It really helped make the transition to university easier. For that reason, I’d encourage every Girlguiding member who’s a student to keep in touch with their home unit. It’s especially easy to stay connected at the moment as you can join their virtual meetings every week with no train journey’s involved! If your old unit isn’t meeting virtually, perhaps you could be the person to help them get started.
The next stage of my student volunteer experience started when second year rolled round, and I decided to find a local unit to volunteer with too. I still wanted to keep up the fortnightly trips back to Brownies, but wanted a slightly more normal weekly volunteer experience too. The local commissioner helped me to find a unit on a bus route, something that’s really important to consider when you’re a student without a car. Not that long after I started volunteering there the other leader announced that she’d be leaving to have a baby, so at 19 I became leader in charge of my very own unit! One of my friends from SSGAO (Student Scout and Guide Organisation) joined me and we became a completely student-led unit. Initially I worried that the Guides’ parents and carers would think we were too young and inexperienced, but they were all just really grateful that their girls still had a unit to attend. We’ve since grown the unit, earned lots of badges, and learnt so many new skills (Guides and Leaders alike!).
Being a Girlguiding student volunteer has truly transformed my University experience. Brownie and Guide meetings allow me to temporarily switch of from the chaos of lectures, laundry and socialising that is student life. I got to see a new area of the city, away from campus, and feel more integrated into the local community. As an extra bonus, my university recognise all the volunteering hours I achieve while studying and these go towards special leadership awards. I’d imagine most Universities offer similar awards for volunteering so it’s definitely worth investigating.
Even during the ongoing lockdown there’s still plenty of opportunities to volunteer. Whether, like me, you were a Young Leader or Ranger before starting uni, or you’re brand new to Girlguiding, there’s a range of virtual volunteer roles on offer. What better time to start your student volunteer experience than Student Volunteering Week!
If Emma's inspired you to become a volunteer with us, register your interest and a local volunteer will be in touch soon!