Girls need a safe space where they feel supported, respected and valued for exactly who they are. A safe space where they can use their voice. Fortunately, Guiding offers just such a space. And our volunteer Guiders play a huge role in creating the ultimate supportive and safe space for girls. As the winner of this month’s girl-driven storytelling contest, Guider Mandy from Burlington, ON shares how one Pathfinder found her voice in Guiding. We dare you not to be inspired by her story.
A girl came to us four years ago as a first year Pathfinder. She apologized profusely at our first meeting – for everything. Sorry for bumping into you. Sorry for being in your way. Sorry for having done nothing at all. She also struggles with anxiety. When asked to speak or share in front of the group, she freezes, stutters and clams up. You always want to give her an opportunity to share, but you often want to pass over her to spare her the embarrassment of freezing up. The silence is piercing in the room when it is her turn to speak.
She comes to everything. Camps. Parades. Every meeting. Her attendance is perfect. But we as a volunteer team wondered if her parents just signed her up for everything. She never indicated that she was happy at any of our events because she never spoke. One of our Guiders was making strides in building a special connection with her. But we still didn’t know… was she happy in Girl Guides?
We got our answer in her final year of Pathfinders. There was a talent contest being held at our meeting place. We put a call out to our girls to share their talents – guitar, dance, musical theatre. She said she wanted to participate in the contest. Now, we knew she was a talented artist – she doodled all the time while we were talking and the images were magnificent. But she did not want to share her art work… She said she wanted to sing.
We couldn’t have been more surprised. We had never heard her utter a word. We were worried for her – that she was setting herself up to fail, to feel embarrassed in front of her peers, who by this point were very used to the awkward pause when it was her turn to share. But as you do in a safe space, we of course encouraged her to sign up. Dress rehearsal day came and everyone was on edge as it approached her turn to sing. Would she freeze again?
A cell phone tucked into a coffee mug to amplify the sound played her background music. The song started quietly and she opened her mouth to sing. She seemed comfortable in her own world of music – seemingly unaware that she had an audience in front of her. And her voice was beautiful! More words than we had ever heard her speak in three years were shared in that song, in that meeting place, at that rehearsal. No one quite knew what to do. There were tears from her leaders and even some of her peers for what that moment represented for her and for us.
Guiding created a safe place for this young woman to find her voice. It took years, and consistent work and connection from our Guiders. But she speaks often now as a Ranger, after discovering that Guiding is a safe space. She will raise her hand and contribute to discussions. And everyone is so happy to hear her beautiful voice!
Thank you to Mandy for sharing this story. She wins this prize pack for her winning story. Look for this month’s girl-driven storytelling contest – focused on growth mindset – to launch later this week.