9. Jump right in

Part 9 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“To keep young members on their toes, try to give them at least one brand new experience to enjoy each term. It can be as small or as big as you like – whether it’s a fun sports event, a food–tasting session or an international trip – all activities are enriching in their own way.”

This is a thought provoking topic! Are we giving our girls new experiences?

It is a difficult one to judge, what we think may be a new experience for the girls could turn out to be a little run of the mill. When we invited in a yoga teacher for a session, one parent commented how much her daughters enjoy yoga. Plus kids have so many opportunities to try out archery, climbing and pedal karts that a day at an activity centre may nor be as exciting as I would’ve found it.

This won’t be for every girl, but here are some of the experiences we have offered which have been quite unique:

Watching the Paralympic athletics. I cannot say another group will ever have this opportunity with us! In 2012 we took a group of Brownies to watch the events in the stadium, while some may have seen other events that year I think this is the only activity we will never be able to repeat! (Although taking the Brownies to another sporting event could be a good idea.)

Spy night. There was a lot of buzz following this themed evening in our unit. The Brownies and leaders dressed up, everyone had code names (I was Alpha Snake) and the Brownies took on four tasks, including a laser room, to claim the four clues to the whereabouts of their Easter eggs. I think these are the rare activities the Brownies cannot experience elsewhere.

Kidzania. This summer we’re hoping to take the Brownies to this interactive indoor city for kids. I know for some they will have visited before but as Brownies we haven’t, and I know some parents want their girls to go but cannot personally take them. I hope this will be an exciting new activity.

Visiting the Police Station. I think this has been the best unit meeting trip we’ve had. The police officers were so accommodating. The Brownies were very excited to see the  vehicles, handcuffs, cells, and all aspects behind the scenes.

4. Work Together

Part 4 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Being a great leader isn’t about taking on everything yourself – which is a relief! Knowing when to delegate a job to is a valuable skill. For example, you could ask your team to help you identify others’ strengths, and decide who is best suited to a task. By tackling things together, our lives can feel easier and more fulfilled.”

Star Quest District Event

For the Big Brownie Birthday in 2014 I was so inspired by the ‘Star Quest’ resource I wanted to run one for the district! It was hard work but it was made easier by the district team. The District Commissioner organised a venue, the Guide leaders arranged for their Guides to lead a ‘Future’ themed activity, and all the leaders in the district lead the activities I had planned. We had star headband boppers, a newspaper tower competition and  funfair side show games. Another leader then led the campfire songs at the end of the afternoon. It was  fab session that Brownies from 4 different units all attended and enjoyed. Without a team around the session would not have been such a success.

Brownie Holiday

Getting through a Brownie Holiday weekend depends on the team working together and taking on different roles. As the licence holiday I do most of the planning and organising leading up to the event. My fellow leaders tackle the first aid and medication side of things, making sure we have all the health forms, administering medicine at required times. They also lead on the food, preparing each meal with the help of the Brownies and ensuring we take breaks for drinks and snacks. The young leader team are on hand to help with activities, helping dish out meals and also lead the ‘midnight feast’ with the girls on the last night. Having a team of people makes the weekend run very smoothly.

I think for the future I should try to offer my assistance at more district level events, perhaps offering to lead on organising another fun day.

 

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!

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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.

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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!

My current happy lifestyles

Hello world. I’m sorry I’ve been so out of touch with this blog of recent. Last year I was working on and achieved my Look Wider & Commonwealth Challenges through Girlguiding, and due to the amount of time it took this blog took a backseat. Unfortunately, as a result I haven’t picked it up again as regular as I would like. So I thought I would check in today with a life update and how well things are going at the moment.

I was inspired to write this post as I was watching a lot of journal advice videos on YouTube. I wanted to start my own, but felt very strange about it. That led me to think I should just input all my feelings right now onto here instead! This post may be more of interest to future me than those of you who aren’t me that read this, but maybe you’ll find something of interest here.

Since February of this year I have been running regularly, which has been fantastic for me. I know now that I NEED exercise to live a happy existence. It is very noticeable when I don’t exercise how rubbish I become. I really started working on my fitness when I checked my BMI and I was 1 pound away from being considered overweight. And now, since May, I have lost over a stone. I’m loving running (hatching Pokemon eggs is an additional motivation) and I had an awesome run this morning! Smashing PBs.

I also realised a few months ago that overeating bad food is another thing that triggers me being rubbish. I had a huge pizza takeaway (I’m talking stuffed crusts, mozzarella dippers, wedges and all sorts of dips) and the next day was very difficult. It actually put me off my favourite takeaway for a while, and last time we had pizza we were both very careful with what we ordered. I also started eating salads for lunch at work, which I think has had a major impact considering I used to eat cheese sandwiches everyday. Our bread goes mouldy every week now. (Put it in the freezer!)

Another positive impact in my life is using a Bullet Journal. I started one in May as I felt my current day to view diary wasn’t working for me. I love my bullet journal. If you don’t know what that is please Google it, there is so much info online I’m not going to go into details here (but plan a post about how I use it in the future). I write daily lists of what I need to get done, check my daily intake of water, everyone’s birthday and special dates are there, and I use it to show gratitude, log my planking and make sure I keep up with my comic drafting. It takes a little time each week to draw up my weekly log but it is good to review where I’m at and ensure I’m not missing things.

I’ve also been meditating. I love to meditate for 5 minutes after exercising. I think it is having a positive effect on my outlook. I do struggle to find 5 minutes (yeah I know, right) on the few days I don’t exercise, but this is what I’m hoping to improve on. Then I can extend some sessions to 10 minutes. Just need to avoid being late for work!

In the last week or so I am starting to draw more. I am in the process if drafting my graphic novel, something I started in January, and I upped the number of pages I’m drafting per week from 6 to 12 and it is pushing me to draw more regularly. Some days I am just drawing very rough outlines but it is getting me closer to drawing the final pages. My other motivation is to post on Instagram every other day, so I need quality drawings for that.

I’m loving collecting and reading graphic novels. I picked up two today, Andre the Giant (I loved WWF as a kid) and Paper Girls. The first was something I wanted to buy earlier and didn’t, the second was an impulse buy following watching the awesome Stranger Things. I’m in the middle of reading Maus (I know, it has gone unread on my bookshelf for years) and it is an intense read but I’m breathing in anything comic right now. (That includes my 1996 Rugrats comics my Mum found in the loft.)

Brownies starts back this week. We had an awesome trip to the Science Museum this summer. Perhaps something I should’ve written about. And I’m going into this term determined to run a better programme. The plan is to run this term around taster activities from interest badges that the Brownies are interested in (while following You, Community, World and Promise activities) but I’m starting with a discussion on badges to get all questions answered, and then some pulse raising Healthy Heart activities for the first week back.

James and I have some adventures in the pipeline, both Paris and Reykjavik before Christmas so I should have some more inspired posts over the next few months. Plus my bullet journal and camp blanket are other topics to cover. I want to post about my favourite graphic novels too.

So there we have it. My September check in and everything is currently running smoothly, who knows what tomorrow will bring though!

Personal Values – Phase 3

Phase 3 of an octant is a long-term commitment and should take at least 30 hours, can include gaining a qualification or teaching something to others. I used my phase 3 as an opportunity to gain a new skill and share it with hundreds of young members…

Phase 3: Peer Education

I decided to apply for a Peer Education training weekend as I wanted to progress my skills as a leader, and also take on a specialist subject that I could share with other groups. I attended training from 10th-12th October 2014 at Heron’s Lodge in Milton Keynes. The weekend focused on teaching us how to run a project called ‘Free Being Me’ with Brownies and Guides.

Over the weekend we covered at least 14 hours of training. We experienced the Guide session of ‘Free Being Me’, looked at communication, safeguarding, and marketing, and then ran the Brownie session in small groups. We learnt through observing, discussions and role plays.

The weekend covered ‘Free Being Me’ – a programme helping girls to feel more body confident. The issue has become something I really care about. I have since become more aware of articles discussing the topic and hope to integrate this into the sessions.

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Following the weekend I spent time revising the programme so I could confidently run the sessions. I also applied for a grant to purchase my Peer Educator t-shirt, some flipchart paper, markers and post-its to help run my first sessions. Straight away I had a list of unit leaders to contact and book meetings with. I set up a spreadsheet to show who I had contacted, when I was visiting them, whether they were Brownies or Guides and that they had confirmed the session. Between January and May 2015 I was set to run a session every week.

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I ran my first session on Thursday 15th January with my own Brownie unit. There were some issues that arose, the perfect princess task didn’t lead into discussion quite right as the Brownies all drew very different looking girls! But they enjoyed the session and one parent said that after this session her daughter put a mirror up in her bedroom and wrote ‘I am beautiful’ beneath it, so I felt this must have been a positive session.

Including my own unit I have completed the sessions with eight units, sixteen sessions, and a mixture of Brownies and Guides. I have become confident in leading discussions and talking to groups of Brownies and Guides I’ve not met before. I enjoy seeing the girls’ perceptions change as they discuss issues with the media and decide for themselves that having fun is more important, and feel proud to be part of the Free Being Me movement.

Personal Values – Phase 2

Phase 2 of an octant should take at least 12 hours to complete, it can be a continuation of Phase 1 or something new. For my Phase 2 I took on a very personal challenge, which had me reflecting on the past 5 years…

Phase 2: Scrapbook of Guiding activities

Since re-joining Guiding at 19 as a unit helper and then leader in training I consider Girlguiding as something I really value. I want to be able to give the girls an assortment of opportunities they would be unlikely to do otherwise, while developing myself as a person too.

Through the scrapbook I have explored the activities and adventures that I have had, and helped organise as an adult member of Girlguiding. I hope that it will also be used to inspire me in the future to continue my work within the organisation.

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I enjoyed putting together my favourite memories by scrapbook. I tried to use photos of myself involved in the activities as a reminder of the things I have done. I also like to add comments and dates around some images as reminders, especially around mountain-top moments – either for me or the girl I was assisting. I tried to choose activities that were especially the sort that myself, or the Brownies, would only experience within an organisation like this, to show why I value it as a part of my life.

Over the last year I have worked hard to complete as many aspects of Look Wider as I can, and this has led me to try new things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. As more Guiding experiences I added these to the scrapbook throughout the year to remember the experiences I have had thanks to Girlguiding. The final page was reserved for me receiving my Chief Guide Challenge!

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International – Phase 2

Phase 2 of an octant should take at least 12 hours to complete, it can be a continuation of Phase 1 or something new. For my Phase 2 I took on a challenge with my Brownies which took up a lot of time and hopefully made a difference to some people’s lives.

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

In the Autumn term of 2011 we ran the Together We Can project with the Brownies. The girls tried out a range of activities based on the 8 Millennium Development Goals, such as trying to play a game without being able to read the instructions, collecting a meal with food from the different food groups on, a game around mosquitos and a game around being given food from aid helicopters.

After the Brownies decided on ‘Ending Poverty and Hunger’ as the goal they wished to help we ran more activities relating to this. One of these involved the girls making a football out of newspaper, plastic bags and string to show how children living in poverty need to be creative with what they play with.

Once the Brownies had learned more about poverty and how it affects parts of the world they wanted to take action. We gave them two options to choose between, fundraising to send farming animals to communities or volunteering to collect school bags and educational equipment for children too poor to attend school.

The Brownies chose to support ‘Mary’s Meals Backpack Project’ and volunteered to collect items to send in backpacks. In total we collected 11 completed backpacks filled with stationary, second hand clothes, flip flops, hygiene products and a tennis ball. The project took many weeks to complete, plus one evening for the girls to pack the bags and lots of time after the meeting to ensure the bags had all the right items inside. We also had extra bags and boxes filled with stationary and clothes that were also donated to the project. I then needed to arrange for the items to be collected and sent to Africa. A few weeks later the unit received a certificate confirming the backpacks had arrived and distributed in Malawi.

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