For the last few years the Winnipeg Grand Pines Area has supported a unit in a Manitoba Housing Complex. They met once a week in the Woodydell Family Resource Centre, but it was always very stressful on the Area’s resources, both financially as well as involving volunteer Guiders. We had to use our resources more wisely than this and make it a better place for both the Guiders and the community.
We started working with the Woodydell Family Resource Centre, and noticed a pattern in the community’s attitude towards the comprehension of ‘registering’ for Girl Guides of Canada. The majority of the families just didn’t understand that they ‘registered’ for a year because they were accustomed to the Woodydell Family Resource Centre’s own program structure of signing up per activity, on a daily basis.
We also noticed that the inconsistent attendance could be attributed to the nature of the housing complex: in this particular low-income housing complex the community consisted of young single parents, families that just immigrated to Canada, or single-parent families with either overwhelming debt or ones being affected by substance abuse.
Instead of hitting a wall and trying to fit the community into the Girl Guides of Canada program, we decided to fit the program into the community. We used our resources more wisely and designed a new program called the Girl Guides of Canada Craft Club (GGC Craft Club).
The Club meets once a month to create fun crafts designed around different branch level interest badges. Each session has its own sign-up sheet located in its usual spot at the Woodydell Family Resource Centre. Parents are required to sign-up their child each only a few days in advance of the actual date of the session, providing parents with a short-term date to remember. This reduces the number of no-shows, and Guiders now face a committed group of girls that are interested in the evening’s festivities. Also, Guiders don’t have to worry about ratio regulations because the maximum sign-up for the evening matches the availability of volunteers. More respect is given to Guiders because the children are familiar with the structure of a Woodydell Family Resource Centre special evening and abide by their rules, or lose their privilege to attend other Woodydell Family Resource Centre evenings/activities.
By using our resources wisely we have now provided girls at risk in low-income housing with a Girl Guides of Canada program that families are comfortable with. They gain a sense of accomplishment from earning an interest badge, and this allows the Guiders to do what they love to do in an environment that is pretty well stress-free.
It’s been a success! Not only are the sessions usually full, but we retain many of the same kids every session. Three of which used to come to the Woodydell Family Resource Centre Unit once in a blue moon and now have attended all of the craft meetings. Plus we haven’t abandoned anyone! At the beginning of the year we offered an information night to help families find the closest unit near to them and to get sponsorship if need be. One inspirational story? One girl started out with me in the Woodydell Family Resource Centre Brownie unit several years ago and has continued on outside of the community in a Guide unit. She will become a Pathfinder next year. We’ve sold ten cases of cookies to support the GGC Craft Club and we continue to get material donations to provide future sessions. Now, Guiders want to volunteer and stay volunteering because it can be a short commitment stretch or a commitment to a craft evening that is their passion. This year we are hoping that some of our Rangers will come out and plan an evening of crafts for this community and work their magic inspiring other girls to become Girl Guides on a continuous basis.
By guest blogger Jacqueline Watts, Guider. Winnipeg, Manitoba