“For 115 years, since a small handful of girls gate-crashed the first ever Scout rally in 1909, Girlguiding has grown into a vast and vibrant network of members across the UK,” says Sue Corrance, the commissioner of Girlguiding’s Godstone Division. “Those first girls refused to accept that they shouldn’t learn to sail, to fly, to wire a plug. We are still teaching our young people to push boundaries and to stand up for justice, on whatever scale.”
Today, the Godstone Division covers an area roughly approximate to Tandridge District, and has almost 600 members in 43 units in Whyteleafe, Limpsfield, Lingfield, Chaldon, Oxted, Caterham and Warlingham. The girls meet almost every week during term times, as either Rainbows (age 4 – 7), Brownies (7 – 10), Guides (10 – 14) or Rangers (14 – 18).
As well as unit leaders (many of whom hold roles across multiple groups), the division also has approximately 100 other adult helpers of varying qualifications and time commitments. All, Sue says, are ‘immensely valued’.
“Volunteers are crucial for Girlguiding sessions to run smoothly. Whether it is assisting Rainbows with their first arts and crafts project, supervising Brownies while they are rock-climbing, sitting around a campfire with the Guides or organising sailing trips for Rangers, these experiences help girls grow in confidence, and it is the adult leaders who make that possible.”
She is keen to encourage people to sign up to the Girlguiding movement.
“Our leaders do move on for a variety of reasons, including changes of job, relocations or family demands, or simply because they’ve been doing it for a long time (over 50 years in some cases!), so we’re always looking for more people to join us.
The demand for Girlguiding is not diminishing: there are 160 girls on the waiting list for Rainbows alone, and I’m passionate about involving more adults. The more adults we have helping regularly, the more places we can open up, and the better the offering.”
Sue, who within Girlguiding is known as Dragonfly, first became involved in the organisation when she started occasionally helping out with her children’s Rainbow group. As the years progressed, she realised she was enjoying it so much she wanted to do more. After working through her leadership qualification – now known as the Leadership Development Programme – she became co-leader for both Rainbows and Brownies.
It was Sue’s ‘amazingly inspirational’ fellow leaders who persuaded her to put herself forward for division commissioner:
“When the role became vacant, I felt supported to take it on, even though I was not the most experienced in the area. The leaders are hugely encouraging and I couldn’t tackle the role without them. Every organisation needs its hierarchy but this feels like a great big family.”
This sense of community is integral to Girlguiding, and it is something Sue hopes all new volunteers feel when they first join. There is a mentoring scheme in place to help new volunteers settle into their role, as well as training days for leaders to develop their skills.
“We are held together by our Girlguiding promise to do our best and help other people… and those qualities are what we seek in anyone who joins us as a volunteer. We recognise that life’s emergencies can put obstacles in our path, that’s why it’s important to have a strong team to share the leadership, where everyone has a role to play.”
And those roles are hugely flexible: helpers can choose how much time they can give, and their responsibilities are varied, including helping deliver activities for the girls to enjoy, recording badge work and creating social media posts to spread the word about Girlguiding’s mission.
Sue hopes that the Godstone Division will also be able to do the latter in person soon, by having a pop-up shop in the area so people can meet the leaders and get a feel for the type of activities they do.
Girlguiding is still as important today as it was a century ago, perhaps even more so. As our society becomes increasingly digital, Girlguiding helps remind us of the importance of social interaction and allows young girls to form friendships which can last a lifetime.
If you’d like to make a positive impact on girls’ lives and develop skills that will help you in your personal and professional life, visit Girlguiding’s website or contact Sue on email@example.com.