Have you ever wondered just how many posters it takes to plaster a town? Or how many thumbtacks and rolls of packing tape you will need? I didn’t, until I moved to a small community that didn’t have Guiding!
Guiding has pretty much always been a way of life for me; you can almost say that it has become my song and over the years no matter where I moved or traveled to, it has always been there in some form. I have traipsed all over western Canada and the UK and have always found a hub of Guiding in each community I have come across; having Guiding there not only meant a sense of home, but it was an immediate way into the community and a way of automatically having new friends!
So I am sure you can image my shock when I found out that the new community I had just moved to – didn’t have Guiding! For the first time, I found myself without that immediate home comfort and decided that something needed to be done to change that. If Guiding wasn’t there for me, I was going to try my hardest and get it back into the community.
It took about a year of hard work and determination, but I am now pleased to say that we have over 25 girls and adults registered in the town and now have a very active group of Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers!
Through trial and error I learned a lot about what it takes to get Guiding up and running:
- Get a hold of the Guiding Area that your community is in and get support from them in terms of PR material and some finances.
- Get involved with the closest District to your community and ask for their support as well. Chances are, that if you get Guiding up and running in your community you will become part of that District.
- Plaster the town with PR material – but make sure to include a local contact number. The 1-800 is wonderful, but people want to be able to talk to someone who is local and understands the community.
- Get involved in the community, whether it’s a kids’ carnival, a community fair, a parade, or another community event. Get Guiding volunteers from your Area and District to come to your community and help run an activity at one of these events. Having girls and Guiders in their uniform and visible goes a very long way in promoting Guiding.
- The hardest step is finding the first couple of women to be leaders with you. I lucked out with having a former Guider volunteer again. She happened to be a teacher at the local school and convinced a few other teachers to join in our cause.
- Try to find a meeting time that doesn’t step on other organizations’ toes, especially if you are in a small community. You not only want to keep as many friends as possible, but you also don’t want to limit the potential number of girls that can register.
- Be prepared for girls and their parents to just show up at your meetings. In small communities, word of mouth goes far, and everyone wants to see what Guiding is all about.
- Try to get as visible as possible within your community. Get out and do the community events, try to get in the paper, take tons of field trips and make sure the girls are in their uniforms! A wonderful challenge to help you with this is the Fraser Skies Area “Hear Our Voice” community challenge. It works with all the girl programs so you don’t actually have to do anything extra to earn the cool crests that they have!
- The last items that you will need are your determination to not give up, and to throw the idea that Guiding is only a couple of hours a week out the window! It is going to be a long year, and you will be required to wear multiple hats, but once you start seeing Guiding growing in your community and start having fun with the girls again its all worth it!
At our last Unit meetings, I decided to ask the girls what were some of the reasons that they decided to join Girl Guides. I ended up being very surprised with some of their answers, but also found out that I had been on the right track by how I approached getting Girl Guides up and running in my community.
- Many of the responses had to deal with the fact that they saw the girls and Guiders out having fun in the community and thought those activities were something they wanted to do as well.
- Others dealt with the fact that it’s something to do in a small community that doesn’t have many activities for kids. Which is another reason that we tried our best not to have our meetings at the same time as the other kids’ activities in town.
- We had a couple of girls mention that they were in Girl Guides when they were younger and had such a wonderful and amazing time that they wanted to join again.
- Finally we had a couple of older girls who are looking at post-secondary education and realized how much Guiding can help them with it.
All in all, it has been an adventure to get Guiding up and running in my community. On top of the fun we have had making new friends, helping the community and showing off just how amazing Girl Guides is, we have also learned a little more about what we are capable of doing in this world!
I can’t wait to see what adventure next year brings our way!
By guest blogger Jenni Halladay. Jenni is a Girl Guide lifer who grew up Guiding, and is ecstatic that her daughter will be joining Sparks next year to continue on with the Guiding experience. She is the Hope Girl Guide Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders & Rangers Contact Guider; Chilliwack District, Fraser Skies Area, British Columbia AND Fraser Skies Area Program Adviser, British Columbia.
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