Rhona Smith is an assistant Ranger leader in Fairmilehead, and the county’s Disability Inclusion Advisor. Here she discusses how a physical disability hasn’t stopped her from enjoying years of fun in Girlguiding—and why it shouldn’t stop others, either.
(Pictured [left] with fellow Fairmilehead Ranger leader Rosy Burgess, receiving her Girlguiding Leadership Qualification.)
GGE: How long have you been a member of Girlguiding?
Rhona Smith: Since I was a Rainbow. I started when I was five and worked my way up through Brownies, Guides, and Rangers. I was even a Lone Ranger [a member who does not attend group meetings for a variety of reasons] at one point, and I even did Rangers when I was at [university] in Stirling. I was part of Polaris, which used to be the youth forum that reported to the Girlguiding Scotland executive and elected the members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs). I was lucky enough to be elected and I was part of that for two years, and then I became the support worker when I was too old to be an MSYP! I started working on my LQ [leadership qualification] with Guides about four years ago.
GGE: What is your favourite guiding memory?
RS: At the Horizon International camp, I got to be part of the colour party and I got to bring down the Scottish flag. Somebody said nobody in a wheelchair could do it and then I proved them wrong! Going to camp for me was my first real experience of being away from my parents. The earliest memory was when my Brown Owl [Brownie leader] took me on a pack holiday and we made Toy Story placemats! We also had a temperamental fire alarm, which had us stuck outside at midnight! At other camps we had campfires and songs, zip wires, canoes, trampolines, and evening ceilidhs—all of which I embraced and have fond memories of them all. My love of camping hasn’t stopped; as a leader, when I went down to Netherurd for the day to help at a County Rangers camp, and I wanted to stay!
GGE: What does earning your LQ mean to you?
RS: It means a lot, because I have had so much fun in guiding that I want to continue on doing all the things that I did when I was younger. I want to feel that I can give something back. I have a real sense of achievement and I feel like I’ve shown people that despite having a physical disability, you can do whatever you want to do if you have the right support around you.
GGE: What tips do you have for other people working toward their LQ?
RS: Make sure you have the right mentor and you blend with the leadership team you are trying to do it with. Otherwise you might start off on the wrong path. If you have access problems, don’t let that stop you—there is a disability team that can help through your LQ. (You can contact us at email@example.com.) Don’t be scared to use other friends’ knowledge that have done it before.
GGE: What, if anything, are you planning to achieve next with Girlguiding?
RS: I was recently appointed to Girlguiding Edinburgh’s Disability Inclusion Advisor role, so I would like to raise awareness that Girlguiding is for everyone and there’s a way around every barrier that you face as a disabled person. Guiding has made me feel not disabled, so I hope we can increase the support for disabled members.