Tuesday, 1 July 2014
An open letter to my guides..
For the past five years I've been in charge of a guide unit. As seems to be the way a lot of these things work, I was asked to take it on as a temporary fix whilst they found someone more local to do it (I've travelled a 35mile round trip each week). That still hasn't happened, so far as I know, but when my Unit Helper announced that she was coming to the end of her role as both of her girls have now outgrown guides and she wants to spend her spare time with her family (rightly so) and we couldn't find anyone to take over from her, I decided that perhaps it was time that I took a step back as well.
Having not come to this decision lightly, we chatted about how to break the news to the people in our unit. Just as we had got a plan together, someone else decided to turn up and break the news to our girls; telling them that we were "quitting as [we] didn't want to be a part of their unit anymore", which was a pretty horrible experience for everyone concerned. This leader, who has made it clear that she doesn't agree with the decision we've made, has since spent the last few months making things as difficult as possible for us to do the things we wanted to do, including refusing us access to the camping equipment belonging to our unit and refusing to give us the funding we had been promised towards one of our trips.
We haven't let this stop us, and have managed to pack a lot into our last term as a unit. Trips to Alton Towers, camping trips and a guides-only concert have all been enjoyed over the past few weeks and I'm really proud of all of the girls for many reasons. Mostly for overcoming their fears (in many ways, not just on scary roller-coasters, but that too!)
To them, I would like to say thank you for being a part of my unit, for supporting me my work towards licenses and awards and for always being on your best behaviour when it came to "testing time". For always coming up with new ideas and your endless enthusiasm for planning parties, putting up tents in the rain and trying to start the fires needed to earn their Camper badge, despite the drizzle. For showing me the respect they have, for returning to the correct place, at the correct time and for being pleased to be given the responsibilities they have. For never running out of things to make us all cry with tears of laughter - on just about every camp and trip I can remember taking you on.
Speaking to someone the other day, she mentioned that I ought to be proud that I've probably had an effect on these girls' lives. I'm sort of humbled to even consider that I've had a lasting effect on them, but would say that if that's the case then they've certainly had a lasting effect on me, too. I've changed a lot in the five years since I've been running this unit. I've gone from knowing next to nothing about Go For It's and the BP challenge, to being part of the team running county-wide camps and going to London to be presented with my Queen's Guide Award and celebrating with our County President.
I've learnt that however hard you try and plan a schedule, you'll always underestimate how long it takes twenty girls to clean their teeth and get ready in the morning, and that when menu planning, one slice of bacon per person is not enough for bacon butties! I've also learnt that being part of a guide unit can be a way to bridge the gap between different schools, different age groups and different social backgrounds and that's been lovely to see.
It's been amazing to watch that look of pride on a girl's face when you present her with an award she's worked so hard for; equally amazing to watch a group's plans come together, to see the designs they come up with when making sandcastles, plate bags or designing party invitations, and to watch the excitement on their faces when you announce that we have managed to get tickets to something they really wanted.
I know that my guiding life will continue, with my ranger unit and my various county roles, but I hope that I've left some happy memories with all of the girls who have been a part of my unit over the past few years. I sincerely hope that their guiding life will continue, too and that they remember that they can do just about anything they want to. I am proud to have been your leader.
(And I'm not even sorry for crying a little when they presented me with all of the cards and gifts above).