Are you looking for a meaningful way to spend your free time? Find your way to the blue and gold.
The answer is to join your local Girl Guide Association. Ladies under 18 can join as youth members and for adult women, there are roles in and out of uniform. There are also roles for men too in Support Groups, which are essential to the ongoing success of Girl Guide Districts.
Girls can join a Guide Unit or, if distance or time make this impossible, then there are Lones who have a leader and 'meet' through digital and traditional communication channels. And before you say it, Girl Guides don't just sit around sewing and cooking. But you might find them doing that in between camping, exploring the wider world, caring for the environment, understanding more about themselves and giving back to the community.
The girl-led program encourages girls to explore widely with leaders to facilitate an environment that inspires growth. The aim is to enable young women to grow into confident, self-respecting, responsible community members.
As adults, there are uniformed roles for women as leaders or unit helpers. No guiding experience is necessary, just a willingness to help and learn. There will be no shortage of people to back you on your journey.
If finding a regular weekly gap in your life is not possible, or to involve the men in your life, the Girl Guide District Support Group will welcome you. These groups are the backbone of Guiding, doing all manner of things from paying bills to working bees to fundraising. All the little things that make Guiding easy for leaders and keep huts functioning for the girls.
Being part of the support group, or as a leader, you can see you are giving plenty, but what is not immediately obvious is what you get.
You will find friends from a diverse background, together in a common goal, providing opportunities to be a part of a team and to nurture leadership skills. This environment is the ideal breeding ground to challenge yourself, safe and supportive. In Guiding the core belief is that every person will 'do their best.' After every activity, the group evaluates what went well, what went poorly and what will be done differently next time. In a world that doesn't often provide opportunities for the less than perfect, this is a space where you can explore and improve.
Then, there are the countless experiences provided by a worldwide organisation, 10 million strong. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is the largest united body of girls and women, giving us a powerful voice. Through Guides, I have travelled to places both nationally and internationally. I have been welcomed by strangers and left as friends. I have had adventures, kayaking, abseiling, surfing, hiking, eating, sleeping under the stars and so much more.
High in this list is the joy of seeing a young, and sometimes awkward girl, find her place in the world and become a more incredible version of herself, enabled with the tools to continue becoming more brilliant. I know this because I once was that girl. I now have the pride of seeing my girls, who in 15 years of guiding, never cease to amaze me with endless possibility.
For every moment Guiding is a struggle, the rewards are tenfold. Guiding is something, once you let it in, it's with you for life. For all I get and for all I give, I will never give it up. Girl Guides for life!