International Pen Pals!

For Thinking Day 2017 I organised a pen pal exchange from our Brownie unit with some American Girl Scout troops. Being in the UK it is very easy for us to find international pen pals as there are so many more groups in America having the same idea. I found some troops by placing a post in the appropriate WAGGGS forum and leaving my guiding email address. It didn’t take long to receive floods of requests, more than I expected, and set about selecting 2 units that would add up to the same number of girls (American troops tend to be a lot smaller than ours) and sending my apologies to the others.

We were now linked with a Brownie troop from Georgia and a Junior troop from Illinois and we all set about writing letters! Having run a pen pal exchange before I had experience with girls missing the sessions, girls leaving mid project and new girls starting so requested that instead of writing to a particular girl all the letters were addressed ‘Dear New Friend’. This also worked well in making sure girls who write very long letters are linked with a likewise girl!

Penpals2

Of course we had a mixture of letters. Some of our older girls wrote full a4 pages with careful handwriting and drawings and lots of information about Brownies. Others it was a little more of  struggle to get a letter out of but it was a great excuse to chat with the girls about their favourite things at Brownies, and lots drew their favourite things as well as a bit of writing. One of the troops introduced us to SWAPS. Little crafts with a safety pin in them that are often exchanged between groups in America. I found a simple cute trefoil craft that the Brownies spent 15 minutes making for their new friends.

PenPals1

I also wrote up some information on Girlguiding and what we do at Brownies in the UK, and we also sent over badges from our county.

Then in late January we received our parcels! It was very exciting to see what they sent over. The Brownie troop sent us letters, badges and swaps (some cute red, white and blue gems), they also sent us some American currency and a ‘Try Its’ book of American Girl Scout activities! The Junior troop sent us long letters, photos and more badges!

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It was such an exciting evening to give out the letters. The Brownies spent a lot of time reading their own, sharing them with their friends and comparing who’s pen pal was friends with who! We also prepared a print out with a drawing of a girl scout so they could colour in the uniform, and space to write down where their new pen pal was from and their troop name. The evening passed so quickly we forgot to even take photos! We were so happy to receive some photos from the Junior Troop with the letters we sent. them

Overall I felt it was a fantastic World Thinking Day activity, and one where the Brownies have a special memory to keep of a friend they now have all the way around the world. I’d highly recommend this experience!

Independent Living Octant – Phase 1

Phase 1 of an octant must be about trying new things and should last for a couple of hours. These are the adventures I had to achieve Phase 1 of the Independent Living Octant…

Phase 1: Budget for buying a house

The very first aspect to work on when we considered buying a house was setting a budget. Setting up the figures on a spreadsheet I set a budget based on our net incomes, and researched the likely costs for utility bills, council tax and insurances.  I also considered how the costs would differ in two different towns, looking at travel, house insurance and council tax. Also on my budget was the cost of running two cars, a food budget, TV licence, healthcare, mobile contracts, clothing, gifts, and a reasonable amount of savings.

I then researched how much we would need for the cost of moving. This included the deposit, stamp duty, possible conveyancing costs and homebuyer survey.

Once we knew how much we could pay monthly for mortgage repayments I started to research how much local banks and building societies could lend to us.

Phase 1: Research solicitors and conveyancing

Having never needed a solicitor before, researching one was completely new to me. I started by finding names of solicitors that family and friends have used. I then called around these companies to get quotes for conveyancing. I found other local ones and could receive online quotes to compare the prices. We wanted to have all the possible searches so I ensured the quotes we were given included these.

The first house we put an offer in on fell through, and this gave us the opportunity to review the service we had received from our chosen solicitor and decided to research again to find someone more approachable. This time we chose a solicitor who was not recommended to us by family but someone I found myself. This solicitor kept in regular contact with us, answered all our questions and helped us through to buying our house.

Phase 1: Decorate and furnish new home

On moving into our home we needed furniture. As affordable options, I bought a range of flat pack items from Ikea and spent the first week building them. This included a TV stand, a dining table, six dining chairs, a sofa bed, a coffee table, two chest of drawers, two sets of bedside tables, a shoe rack and three bookcases.

While the room was empty we also decided to paint a wall of one bedroom. We chose the colour, bought rollers, masking tape and a step ladder, and prepped the room with plastic sheets and newspaper. The wall took one day to paint two coats.

Will boys be joining Brownies then?

The Scouts were in the news today for appointing their first female chair in its 108 year history. You can read one of the articles about this topic here:

Scouts’ first female leader vows to get more girls round the campfire

Queue the comments. There are few positive ones, but many negative and usually from those who do not understand either organisation. Some ignoring the fact that girls have been able to join scouting for 20 years and telling them to go back to Guides. Others dismissing the values guiding has to offer and suggests it should close down. Very frustrating read following an awesome fun day with a group of Brownies just yesterday.

My view may be controversial, and having not been a part of Scouting may be biased, but I do feel there should be an option for all boy Scout groups. Not to take opportunities away from girls but to give extra opportunities to boys. There may be many boys from very female oriented homes who would prefer the all male space, that is the opinion of my boyfriend who went to an all boy scout group. But the obvious difficulty here is the lack of volunteers to run so many different charity groups. I worry with Guiding already being the larger organisation, and with so many girls also join the Scouts, the number of places for boys is decreasing.

However, my main topic for this post is as the heading says, will boys join Brownies? No. Not right not, no. For those who flippantly ask this, please consider the history of girls getting Girlguiding to begin with.

When Robert Baden-Powell starting the Scouts it was boys only. Many girls showed interested in the groups but were turned away. Some girls even formed their own Scout groups themselves, they completed all the work required to earn Scout badges and they wrote to the powers that be to receive their badges. And they did receive them, but only by omitting their first name and using their first initial instead. They were only allowed to achieve these badges if they were boys. The powers that be became aware of this ‘fraud’ and demanded the girls return the badges they earned – they were not even allowed to keep them!

In present day Britain I am not aware of boys desperately taking part in their own Guide groups, sneakily working at badges not designed for them and pretending to be girls to own their badges. They don’t really need to, the Scouts have what they need. If I heard there were boys doing this I would be outraged and willing to see what we are offering the the Scouts don’t.

I looked into both programmes of Cubs and Brownies to see the difference. Both have three main themes.

Cubs: Outdoor and adventure, World and Skills.

Brownies: You, Community, World.

So both groups have a theme of ‘world’, so that should be quite equal. In Brownies this would encompass the ‘World Traveller Badge Day’ we attended yesterday and the ‘Space Adventure Night’ we’re having next week.

I imagine ‘Skills’ and ‘You’ to be of a similar thread. In Brownies ‘You’ also includes friendship, confidence and learning about yourself – your interests, skills and beliefs. Cubs focuses more on building skills, which depending on the leader could incorporate some of the things I listed above for Brownies.

So the main difference is the third theme, ‘Community’ Vs ‘Outdoor and Adventure’. Firstly, in Brownies we often go on walks around our local community so I would group these activities together. In our community actions we are often outside helping with the Church garden, or visiting the local police station. There isn’t too much by adventure we can fit into our weekly meetings so am interested to see what Scouts offer that covers this. I also believe many Cub groups would also take part in community action and visiting their local community too.

A reason Girlguiding is girl oriented is because it is led by the girls. They choose their activities and choose what sort of organisation they want to be a part of. The surveys show that girls would rather keep their all girl environment for now. And while we still live in a world will all boy schools and all girls schools I cannot see how it is sexist to have a club that functions just the same.

From my perspective, both organisations offer similar activities but to a slightly different audience. Both are relevant, both are beneficial, and both require to hard work of volunteers to allow it to be offered. Those who like to post negative comments about either should really experience either of them before the cast judgement. I hope both organisations continue to go from strength to strength and work together to give children even more opportunities to develop into well rounded citizens, rather than the ones who enjoy leaving nasty comments about people bettering themselves.

Boys won’t be choosing to join Brownies right now, when the boys start demanding something of their own the same way the girls did 100 years ago perhaps perceptions will change.

The Bucket List

While I’m on holiday with plenty of time for my mind to wander, I end up considering all the things I want to achieve. Coming home from holiday, I find myself very low. The thought of having to continue on with my precious little life. To get past it I need to consider again those things I had been thinking about – what I still need to achieve. So here lies the bucket list.

Done

Visit Rome and the Colosseum

Ride a segway

Complete a scrapbook

Buy my first home

Run 10k

Climb the Eiffel Tower

Try white water rafting

Go to Florida

Swim with dolphins

Try yoga

Get a tattoo

To Do

Write & draw my graphic novel

See the Northern Lights

Visit Iceland

Get a nice hairstyle

Learn Spanish until fluency

Develop my wardrobe of clothes

Learn to meditate

Develop good posture

Create a family cookbook

Right, no more time today wasted on fantasies, time to get to work!

Look Wider. The challenges I’ve taken on in my life so far…

I’ve toyed with the idea of Look Wider for a few years. I never figured out doing it as I had many other responsibilities. Look Wider is The Senior Section programme for 14-26 year olds. It is about personal development and should be filled with personal challenges.

Next term one of our Brownie Helpers (a Guide) becomes a Young Leader so we have purchased her TSS top, badge tab and the booklet for the Young Leader qualification. Included in the booklet was space to complete Look Wider. Reading through it I remembered some of the weird and crazy stuff I’ve done over the last few years. So I dug up my very first blog post and will fill in the things I have done.

Personal Values:

Phase 1: Donate blood

Phase 1: Understanding the new Promise with Brownies

Phase 1:

Phase 2:

Phase 3:

Community Actions:

Phase 1: Stall at Church summer fete to raise money

Phase 1: Organise Bring and Buy sale with Brownies to raise money for local animal shelter

Phase 1:

Phase 2: 

Phase 3: Peer Education

Creativity:

Phase 1: Try writing reviews of places I’ve been on blog

Phase 1: Try creating ‘feltie characters’

Phase 1: Try scrapbooking

Phase 2: Make a range of ‘feltie’ characters including my own designs

Phase 3: Improve illustration through lots of practice!

Fit for Life:

Phase 1: Learn to play Table Tennis

Phase 1: Tried Archery

Phase 1: Try Davina McCall Fitness DVD

Phase 2: Complete couch 2 5k programme and continue running 3 times a week

Phase 3: First Aid Qualification and refresher courses

Out of Doors:

Phase 1: Tried segways through the forest

Phase 1: Planting flowers with Brownies

Phase 1: Nature day with Brownies with Wildlife Trust

Phase 2:

Phase 3: Brownie Holiday Qualification

Independent Living:

Phase 1: Budget for buying a house

Phase 1: Research conveyancing and solicitors

Phase 1: Learning to sew (via camp blanket!)

Phase 2:

Phase 3: Buy a house! (Well, I hope so soon)

Leadership:

Phase 1: Assist on a Guide trip to local campsite

Phase 1: Organize trip to Paralympic Athletics for Brownies

Phase 1: Create a unit website with input from Brownies

Phase 2: Organise a district Star Quest event for 4 local units

Phase 3: Adult Leadership Qualification

International:

Phase 1: Start a new pen pal exchange through Guiding website

Phase 1: Brownie meeting on Japanese culture

Phase 1: India Project with Brownies including friendship bracelets to Sangam World Centre

Phase 2: Complete Together We Can Volunteer with Brownies – Backpack Project (Millennium Development Goal)

Phase 3:

So I’ve completed a lot of it (the leadership part was the easiest, could think of a lot more challenges I’ve undertaken for this!) This is just the stuff I can think of this morning. Will have a think about this and decide whether to actually go for it.

3.3km run

So I need to start writing about running again. I read an article on staying motivated that said keeping a diary reminds you of your past efforts and achievements and this can keep you going. This works. By coincidence I started writing this blog again last summer when I first started the couch 2 5k plan.

There was a long lull of non running this year. My work pattern made it difficult to run more than once a week, and with one run a week I lost all motivation to do it. However I am back to my old working pattern and can schedule my three-four runs a week into my diary.

This is my third week back running and I’ve restarted the couch 2 5k plan to get back into it. I started on week 3, but running four times a week. I just completed four runs of week 5, although I had an incident this morning that hindered it a little.

Before sleeping last night I checked my ipod as I knew there was little charge on it. There was just enough, so I turned it off and fell asleep. This morning, 6:30am, I threw on my active gear, tucked my keys into my wristband, tied my trainers and ran my ipod down my back into my waist pocket and switched my ipod on. Nothing. I’d accidently run the battery down overnight by NOT turning it off!

I hadn’t exercised without music for a long time, I knew it didn’t work well for me. But surprisingly I kept going this morning. I planned a route in my head that I imagined to be roughly 20 minutes. It was too easy so it may have been shorter time, but without a watch I will never know.

What I did do though was plot my route on google and found I ran 3.3km. A little way from the 5k target but I think I must be on track to get back to my 30minute 5km run.

So that is why I’m back on the running blogs, I must stay motivated this time.