Every year, it seems like there are more activities in which you can enroll your kids. Dance, music lessons, art, sports of every sort, languages… it can be overwhelming to schedule, to budget for, and to choose between. Of course, you want your child to have every opportunity to discover what speaks to them but two lessons after school on a Wednesday just isn’t feasible if you want to eat dinner as a family. As a child, the rule in my house was that if you start an activity, you see it through for the school year before dropping it, a rule put in place when I refused to go back to tap even though expensive shoes were purchased and a non-refundable fee paid. Picking more carefully, I was fortunate to be exposed to so many facets of life, all possible paths for me to take in the future (and indeed, I have taken several of them!), but the most long-running constant in my life has been Girl Guides. And there’s a good reason why.
Girl Guides, which is an umbrella for Sparks (ages 5&6), Brownies (7&8), Guides (9-11), Pathfinders (12-14), Rangers (15-17), Trex (12-17), Lones (those who live out of meeting range but communicate with a group as they work on Guiding challenges), Trefoil Guild (those involved in Guiding in a helping and alumni capacity), Junior Leaders, and Leaders, offers diverse programming and sets its members up for success in leadership positions. It’s inclusive to everyone who identifies as a girl or woman, and its benefits span a lifetime. As a child going to weekly meetings, I enjoyed trying activities I wasn’t otherwise enrolled in like outdoor adventuring, folk dancing, and boating, but I also loved getting the chance to help other girls when we were doing things I excelled at like singing, writing, and drawing. That’s a biggie in what makes Girl Guides different from all other activities: because the programming covers so many interests, every girl has a chance to be a star and to be a pupil.
It’s also a global sisterhood, offering connections with people who have different customs, beliefs, and languages. Later in life, the opportunity for travel exists but even when the girls are young, they learn about their counterparts in other countries within the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and they gain respect for other cultures, learning to embrace differences. There are pen pal relationships between groups of girls oceans apart, and there are chances for the girls to be an ambassador for their own heritages.
With its focus on leadership and compassion, Girl Guiding has been instrumental in the lives of many influential women. Sports legends like Venus Williams and Peggy Flemming, musical greats like Celine, Taylor Swift, and Mariah, Nasa minds like Sally Ride and Roberta Bondar, speakers like Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright, and stars like Lucille Ball, Carrie Fisher, and Mary Tyler Moore all make for impressive alumni. Scroll through to see a few other leaders who flexed their leadership skills early on with Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. (p.s. That's Queen Elizabeth and her sister in the first photo, in case you don't recognize them without their crowns.)
So, why am I telling you all of this just as all the other activities in town are starting up? Partially, it’s a reminder that girls do need Guides—it’s the one no-pressure (no try-outs), low-cost (with financial assistance available), accessible (no experience necessary, everyone who identifies as a girl is welcome, and you can join at any age), and diverse (no religious affiliation and all abilities are accommodated) activity out there. But more so, I’m writing because it’s not just girls who are needed to make the programs happen. In my Brownie unit alone, we’re up to 22 girls and there are still a couple of weeks before our year begins. Leader-wise, we’ve only got three and one of us has to miss the first five meetings. Oh, and I’m due in November, so…
Guiding needs you. My unit isn’t the only one that could use another leader, and though it might seem like your plate is full without a night of volunteer work, let me tell you I’ve been leading for over ten years and I get more out of that one meeting a week than I put in. Time-wise, it takes me about an hour to prepare my part of the meeting thanks to the program book we follow and the fact that the planning is shared between leaders. Our Brownie meetings are an hour and a half, so in terms of what you can expect to give in total, that’s only two and a half hours per week plus a weekend camp in the summer. Pro tip: add field trips or special guests into your planning and your work becomes even lighter.
What will you get out of it? Affecting young people’s lives in positive ways shapes an active and welcoming community in the future, so you can look forward to reaping that reward when you’re old and grey. ;) But the immediate benefit is seeing the kids find their niches, watching them help each other, and being inspired by their wonder, creativity, and intelligence. Just like the girls, you don’t need to fit a certain box to be involved in Girl Guiding; leaders come from all sorts of backgrounds, bringing their individual skills to the mix. My counterpart of ten years, Sharla “Brown Owl” Daviduik, works in management at the University which means she keeps our unit organized and has connections to get phenomenal special guests and campus field trips. I, on the other hand, am a musician and an artist so I bring a completely different vibe to the table. We probably wouldn’t have met and become friends without Girl Guides but I’m grateful that we did—we complement each other so well in a leadership setting and she’s a special person in my life.
You don’t need an ounce of experience to be a Girl Guide, just a willingness to try new things and to lead where your passions lie. To register your child or to volunteer, visit girlguides.ca.