Once a Guide…Always a Guide

Sometimes I start a blog when I think about it, and then finish it some weeks later…This is one such blog.

The 22nd February, saw millions (around 10 million) of Guides and Girl Scouts around the world remember their founders (Lord and Lady Baden-Powell). The day has been named Thinking Day.  Guides and Scouts think about their “sisters” and “brothers” in all the countries of the world, the meaning of Guiding/Scouting, and its global impact.  There are

The theme for the World Association of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides was “connect” inviting members to “explore and celebrate the meaningful connections that make our lives better, whether to the people closest to us, to a place we care about, or to a Girl Guide or Girl Scout friend on the other side of the world”.

Both Eleanor and I have made our promises. Eleanor as a Rainbow, the youngest for the Guiding family, and me as an adult leader. Having gone right the way up from “Bunnies” (rainbows in my day!), I have been involved in Guiding since I was about 4. When I went to Aberystwyth for university it was the most natural thing to find a Guide unit to help with. When I went to Utrecht, I travelled each Friday to the British School in the Netherlands, got on the train, did one change and got off at Voorschoten outside The Hague. Again going to Exeter, I helped with a unit and when I finally settled in Somerset, I helped with a unit in Sherborne (Dorset), and helped set up a unit in Templecombe (Somerset), and for a while I had a foot in both units before it all became a little bit too much and I settled for the unit that Naomi and I had re-established in Templecombe.

I knew that in coming to China I would be suspending my guiding ties, and doing the same for Eleanor. And so on arrival I tentatively searched for a guiding unit. Girlguiding (UK) can be done all over the world under the auspices of BGIFC (British Guides in Foreign Countries) – like my time in the Netherlands. And so I was told that there was one in Shanghai. However, I hadn’t quite appreciated how big Shanghai was until Martin and I went to the Tennis Masters in the October. So realistically commuting to a guide unit was not like the hour I had commuted in the Netherlands. Soon after,I heard that the unit had folded.

My friend, Katie told me that her husband was volunteering was the Boy Scouts of America and I realised that there was a Girl Scout unit too. But a little too late as then the leader left and Eleanor was in any event committed to an after school club on the day that the group met.

So…when Thinking Day this year came around, it also coincided with two very good friends telling me that their girls were moving up to Brownies. (for girls aged 7-11) And it hit me that Eleanor would possibly not experience the most popular section in the movement. I could always start a unit of my own, but I don’t have the appetite for that just now. And whilst there are a 146 member organisation of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, China is not one of them.

I am so fortunate to have had amazing Guiding experiences, camping in Denmark, helping Guides in South Africa, going to conferences in Iceland, Bratislava and South Africa, meeting hugely inspiring people, Leymah Gbowee (now a holder of a Nobel Prize), Graca Machel, co-leading a group of girls to Canada, helping organising national guiding conferences for UK young women and an international youth forum on the Millennium Development Goals, being a trustee of Girlguiding UK and taking our guides on camp in Dorset. All of these experiences have shaped me (hopefully for the better), and I hope that whilst Eleanor and I are not actively guiding it will still be a part of me/us.

So on the 22nd February, whilst we are not fully paid up members of the movement, there was still connection with my many many friends from around the world, and of course I have some very dear friends that I met at a conference in Birmingham when I was 17 that I am still friends with and love very dearly. And from that conference, my view of the world suddenly expanded, guiding truly became worldwide for me and it created many friendships.