Bid to attract Girl Guide leaders

By Morag Kinniburgh
BBC News Scotland

Image caption,
A drop in the number of volunteers has left many unable to be a Girl Guide

It was a mild Monday evening when I ventured out to the Western outskirts of Edinburgh and the concrete grey of St Nicholas Church, Sighthill.

Echoes of excited children burst through the wooden swing doors towards me.

A dozen girls were chattering away, crossed-legged on the hall floor, paper plates of primary paints beside them and a giant sheet of paper to decorate.

Mia Redpath, six, squealed: "Ooh it's messy, so messy", as she painted her hand red and squished it down on the pencilled arch below.

Sarah Raynolds, also six, giggled: "Is it hot or cold?"

Their leader, Claire, replied: "No, I didn't warm the paint up for you!"

Rainbows (aged 5-7), Brownies (aged 7-10) and Guides (aged 10-14) were set up 100 years ago.

Their aim was to develop confidence and build respect through fun activities.

That philosophy has grown into a world-wide movement for girls and young women, irrespective of race, religion, class or ability.

There are currently about 57,000 members in Scotland.

Girl guiding Scotland said the chance to do something fun and safe after school is especially important in areas of social deprivation.

Working women

In Sighthill, cheerleading is the only alternative to Rainbows as there's not much else on offer.

Despite the obvious enjoyment of the girls here, this Rainbows unit is under threat.

Catherine Buchanan, Sighthill district commissioner, said: "Our Rainbow unit is actually losing two leaders around about Christmas time.

"If we don't find leaders now, we will have to close it. That has an impact on the Brownie units as well.

"In the Sighthill district, the girls don't have a lot of opportunities for other extra curricular things and we don't want these children ending up on the streets."

Without enough leaders, units will be forced to close, the girls will have to leave, and others will not be able to join.

There are about 4,000 girls in Scotland that are on the waiting list for spaces in Rainbows, Brownie and Guides.

The lack of leaders has always been a problem.

It is blamed on the fact that more women work and there are tougher training requirements now.

Girl guiding Scotland said a more flexible approach to recruitment and training was needed.

Scottish chief commissioner Dinah Faulds said "The more adults we can get, the more girls we can take into units.

"So we need more [volunteers]; if we had more, we could make the commitment for each individual adult less and I think that's a model we want to look at.

"Or possibly running units once a fortnight, or running units at a weekend, which we don't do a lot of but we could do.

"I think what we need to get across is both the fun and the self development that an adult leader - a volunteer - gets from guiding."

Centenary year

Oblivious to concern about their future, Sighthill's Rainbow unit moved onto a game of tig.

Darting and dashing around the hall, screaming and laughing as they ran.

This group is a tiny fraction of the 57,000 Girl guides in Scotland.

The movement celebrates the finale of its centenary year later.

It has held a series of activities ranging from rock concerts to abseiling, international aid projects to princess parties throughout the year - designed to give each girl a "mountain top moment".

The final celebration, planned for Wednesday evening, will also incorporate a vision for the next 100 years and the hope more volunteers will come forward to give girls and young women the chance to learn how to make the most of life.

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