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Blog / November 29th, 2023

Uniformed Youth Fund – December 2023

1st Thedwastre Guides opened on 11 September 2023 with a meeting night held outside. The unit has been financially supported by our new unit grant and forms part of our Uniformed Youth Fund project. I caught up with their leaders, Claire and Tracy and commissioner, Viv to see what it’s like to open a new unit and what their highlights have been.

Viv, has there been a Guide unit in the area before? What made you think it would be a good idea to open one and how did you go about finding a leadership team?

Before opening Thedwastre Guides, there was 2 thriving units in the district that were full or nearly full. Looking at the numbers of Brownies in the district made me realise that the existing units would be full and there would be no places locally for Brownies to go once they got to 10. Knowing the amazing and varied opportunities that guiding gives girls, I was keen to find a way to increase capacity for Guides in the district. We had also had a district holiday in the May and all the Brownies units had attended. They saw the Guides camping and cooking their food on a fire and so we had a lot of very enthusiastic girls to accommodate!

Finding a leadership team fell into place naturally – I had a new leader join the district that had previously had a lot of experience with Guides and another leader who is a Snowy Owl at one of the Brownie units and was also keen to increase Guide spaces so it naturally worked and the two leaders made the leadership team for the new unit.

I heard that everything has fallen into place nicely but I’m sure there was a lot of activity and sensible decision making in the background to make this happen. Can you let us in on your secrets please?

Ha ha I’m not sure I have any secrets! What I do have however is relentless enthusiasm, a brilliant district and lots of Curly Wurlys! In all seriousness there genuinely aren’t any secrets – it started off as a mathematical exercise looking at the numbers of Brownies in our area that would be reaching 10 over the next year or two and then looking at how we could provide Guide spaces for them to go to. I soon realised that the answer would be opening a new unit and so from there it was a case of lots of conversations to find the right venue and right team to lead it.

Claire and Tracey – how did it feel on that first night and what did you get up to?

We were both very excited. We already knew all the girls because they had all be in our Brownie unit. Instead of a first meeting in our usual meeting place, we decided to open with a bang so arranged with Elmswell Guides to have a joint meeting for a campfire (what better way to open a new unit than with a few verses of ‘This Little Guiding Light of Mine’ and a s’more). However, because the weather has been exceedingly hot, we decided it was not a good idea go light a fire so we just played a variety of wide games with them, sang songs, taught the girls taps and how to march into a horseshoe – something which both units have enjoyed having a go at!

What have been your highlights so far?

There are too many to mention really. The girls are a great bunch, albeit very excitable at times. On the first week in our meeting place they decided whether they wanted neckers and what colour, which patrol names they wanted, who was going to be patrol leaders and what they were going to call us. The following week they started to plan their promise ceremony party, assigning each other different roles and came up with a list of Unit Guidelines. Claire’s dad made us some patrol boxes so the girls painted them with the help of Tracey’s Cricut machine making stencils for. This week we made pencil cases with them using our sewing machines, which they loved.

What would you say to other areas that are thinking of opening a new unit?

Go for it! It is not as difficult as you may think. We only finally decided at the beginning of the summer holidays that we were definitely going to open and were ready to go come September when they went back to school. We borrowed resources from another unit in our district to plan the terms activities and applied for grants to help with funding. I think it helped that we were both experienced leaders, both having run Guide units before but it is not difficult, especially if you get support from other unit leaders in your district as well as your local district or county commissioner. We were also lucky because we are both already involved with our local Brownie Unit so had access to those where were leaving at the end of the previous term, and with word of mouth from them to their friends who had already left our unit and moved onto Guides we had another three transfer to us from another unit in our district whose waiting list was already quite large. We started with 7 girls and have at least another 3 starting after Christmas.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.

It’s so easy to think that success is the number of badges our young members earn or how big our unit is or how much fundraising we do. Actually, success is a whole range of girl-led activities – from s’mores to sewing, from making a horse shoe to making a patrol box! Thank you for all that you are doing for the girls in your unit, we really appreciate all the time that you give and the skills that you share.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog and would like to read more about the project that funded 1st Thedwastre Guides, do read our first blog or November’s edition.

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