What inspired you to join Girlguiding as an adult leader? Were you a young member yourself? Did friends or family encourage you? Perhaps you just stumbled onto the organisation?
Girlguiding Edinburgh Marketing & Communications co-lead Steph Mlot (she/they) and Guiding Development chair Rosy Burgess (she/her) share how they found their way into the organisation:
Tumble Outta Bed and Stumble Into Girlguiding
Steph Mlot: New to Edinburgh, I was bored. I worked every day, and watched TV on my sofa every evening. I needed something to help me forget the homesickness I felt for family and friends I left behind in the US.
All it took was a simple Google search for ‘volunteering in Edinburgh’. Unsure of the right path, I was keen to stretch my journalistic muscles and tutor the next generation in writing. Instead, I found Girlguiding.
Though not the obvious choice for someone with an inherent aversion to children, something inside me insisted. I hesitantly registered as a volunteer, filled out the necessary forms, and eventually met with the leader in charge of a nearby Guide unit.
At first, I felt intimidated. Scared. Weak. Unsure how to assert dominance over the girls while showing I care. I, frankly, didn’t know how to act around kids. Now, nearly seven years later, I am a proud member of the Dream Team. I’ve made lifelong friendships. I have built confidence in myself and my leadership skills. I dislike children slightly less. And I occasionally get to feel like I’m making even the most miniscule difference in young people’s lives.
The J-Word or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Girlguiding
Rosy Burgess: Girlguiding has changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.
I joined guiding as a Rainbow, aged five. My earliest memory of being a Rainbow is from a World Thinking Day event where I had to walk on stage holding a sign that said ‘Ireland’, and I cried because I was scared. Today, nearly 30 years later, international guiding is the thing that has kept me involved in this wonderful organisation.
Shortly after joining Rainbows, my family moved to North Wales and joined Brownies as soon as I turned seven. Apparently, by the time I was nine, I was basically running the unit—my favourite activity was organising the badges and helping Brown Owl hand them out. (I think this is where my obsession with collecting badges for my camp blanket must have started.)
Despite loving Brownies, I hated being a Guide. I was bullied by some of the older girls, which made my first couple of years at Guides pretty miserable. However, I am also stubborn, and was determined to prove I wasn’t going to let them win. When the opportunity arose to attend our local INTOPS (International Opportunities) event and go on an international trip with Girlguiding Cymru, I jumped at the chance.
Since then, I have travelled all over the world with Girlguiding: as a Guide and Ranger, as a leader, and as an advocate. I have attended Jamborees in Europe, taken part in a GOLD (Guiding Overseas Linked with Development) project in Guyana, trekked the Great Wall of China with 31 other adult volunteers, visited World Centres in England, Switzerland, and India, and led a Girlguiding Scotland trip to Lesotho. Just before lockdown in 2020, I took two Ranger units on a trip to the Netherlands, and I have never laughed so much in my life. I’m excited that this has sparked their love for international adventures, and I can’t wait to take them away again when it is safe.
Most significantly, in 2013, I represented the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, as part of a 14-strong delegation of young women from all over the world.
Sometimes, I am still that scared five-year-old Rainbow, but guiding has shown me that I can be brave. Through Girlguiding, I have developed leadership skills, learned to adapt, face challenges head on, and trust my own instincts, as well as the importance of asking for help and working with other people. I’ve learned how to say yes to opportunities without worrying about tiny details; how awesome it feels to take Brownies on holiday for their first trip away from home without Mum or Dad; how to help a Guide achieve something she was adamant she would never be able to do; how to entertain 10 teenage girls on a 13-hour flight after two exhausting weeks in a foreign country when all I really want is a bath, a glass of wine, and a long sleep.
Most importantly, I have learned how to be me without letting my fear of what other people might think stop me from doing the things I want to do.
None of this would have been possible without Girlguiding.
Voices From Around the County:
Michelle: ‘I joined as a Brownie and never left. I’ve taken on various roles as an adult, currently Guide and Ranger leader, as well as District Commissioner. The reason for staying as a leader is because I want to give back to the girls all the fun and adventures I had as a girl. I’ve had some great times both as a girl and adult both here in the UK and abroad.’
Lucy: ‘Started as a Rainbow 20 years ago and never left.’
Sarah: ‘My mum was a Guide leader and my auntie a Brown Owl, so I was destined to join and am now in charge of my own Brownie unit.’
Fiona: ‘I was a Brownie and Guide (Rainbows [didn’t start] until I was in Brownies), and helped with Brownies whilst I was a Guide. Stopped for a couple years as [I] used to work evenings whilst at [the] end of high school. Left high school, got [a] full time job, and wanted to get back into helping with Brownies; the unit at my cousin’s church had closed and they were desperate for volunteers. I went along and helped open [the] unit back up again. Stayed with that unit for 8.5 years, then moved to a unit more closer to my home. Twenty years as a leader this year and love it!’
Emma: ‘I was a Rosebud! Rainbows had only just become a thing and we were a trial unit in Hamilton, so we picked our own name (original Brownie name). Then a Brownie again in Hamilton; Guides in Granton; young leader in Granton; Guider in Granton, Wardie, West Pilton, then Muirhouse. Done far too much in-between and even worked for Scottish headquarters at one point.’
Melanie: ‘A couple of university friends had been (young) leaders and that sparked an interest. Then one day, years later, I received a postcard looking for volunteers. I thought I’d just go along to a couple of unit meetings and see if I liked it.’
Susan: ‘My mum was a Guide and then in the Trefoil Guild. [I] started in the Brownies and [took] a break, and then went back as a leader.’
Lesley: ‘My daughter Abby came home from Brownies and said “I can’t go to Guides in the summer cause the leaders are leaving, so you need to do it.” So I did, and now she is a leader, too. Never looked back. Met lots of friends and both of us [have] been very fortunate to have done INTOPS, too.’
Lindsey: ‘My daughter, Lucy. She was a Rainbow and the unit needed another adult. The rest is history.’
Kelly: ‘I was a Brownie, Guide, and Ranger in Ayrshire North before moving to Edinburgh for university. I very quickly realised how much I missed Guiding, so became a Rainbow leader in Firrhill. [I’m] currently a Guide leader and soon-to-be Ranger leader, as well, at our new Firrhill Ranger unit.’
Karen: ‘I started as a Rainbow and never left. Twenty-four years later I’m a leader in a Guide unit and a District Co-Commissioner.’
Leigh: ‘I joined as a Brownie 30 years ago and never left. My own two daughters are now in Guides and working their way through, too.’
Fiona: ‘I started as a Brownie, went on to Guides, where I completed my Baden Powell; left, came back to the UK, started a unit in North Wales when I left came back to my old division to be a Rainbow and Guide leader in my old district; moved district to be a Brownie leader and occasional Guide leader. Never looked back.’
Fiona: ‘Started when I was a Brownie myself, did my Service Flash with the Brownie pack. I am still an adult leader many, many years later. Was a Ranger/young leader, too; helped out at Guides after, and helped when Rainbows were new.’
There are so many ways to give back to Girlguiding Edinburgh as an adult volunteer. Won’t you join us?