Every February 22 members of the Scouting movement celebrate the birthdays of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell. On this day, Guiding members are supposed to think about Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world. You may think of Girl Guides as a craft and camping club, but the fact is that Guiding is still a relevant and powerful agent for female empowerment around the world. See the World Association’s Thinking Day website here: http://www.worldthinkingday.org/en/home
In honour of Thinking Day, I’m thinking about Guiding. Excuse my rambles down memory lane. I spent many years gathered around Girl Guide camp fires as a girl and woman. The women I met in Guiding exemplified the idea that “you can grow older, but you don’t have to grow up.” These women know how to have a good time with a bag of bottle caps, tin plates, corks, and pins! They can make an oven from a cardboard box, tin foil and pop cans. They can make a toaster from a clothes hanger. This isn’t silliness, this is about thinking outside the box, using resources in creative ways; learning how to do such things empowers girls.
These women can teach a dozen or two 8 year olds how to make a bed roll in 2 mins, or set up a tent in 3 mins. One of my favorite memories of camping is when mothers dropped off their 8 and 9 year olds at our Guide camp site. One mother asked, “Do you want us to help set up the tents?” I replied, “No, the girls will do it.” The mother’s expression reflected her doubt that her little darling, who probably couldn’t pull up bed sheets would be capable of such a project. I smirked, clapped my hands and gathered the girls. “Do you know who your tent mates are?” I asked. The girls grabbed each other in tight little groups of four. I pointed to the pile of tents in their bags. “Set ’em up!” Girls flew to the tents, grabbed one and in under five minutes each group was proudly loading their bed rolls into their perfectly assembled tents. Mothers stood with mouths agape. Of course we’d practiced this skill in races at meetings over the year, so even though it was a first camping trip, the girls had developed skills. Girl Guides teaches life skills. In that moment they demonstrated independence, team work, organization. That’s real life problem solving and fun with a purpose!
The high point of my Guiding life was an international camp that I attended in Trail, BC. Over three thousand girls and women, mostly from BC, but also representing every province in Canada, several American States, and several foreign countries, gathered together in a most phenomenally well organized week of camping I’ve ever experienced. Girls participated in community service projects, athletic, artistic and craft activities, as well as hikes, outdoor cooking, and tent life. Friends were made. I wrote a British Guider for several years afterwards until we both moved and lost touch (Hmm. Facebook…). The event, The Spirit of Adventure Rendez-Vous or SOAR, still occurs regularly (every 3 years, I believe). It is hosted by the Girl Guides of British Columbia. This is a SOAR year, so I suggest if you’re in Guiding, that you get together a patrol and apply to attend for SOAR 2011! You won’t regret it!
Young people benefit from the character that is developed by this movement. The practical lessons, new skills and experiences they would otherwise not have all serve to expand horizons broaden minds. There are a lot of famous former Girl Guides and Scouts like Roberta Bodnar the astronaut, Phyllis Maundy the conservationist.
What famous person do you know who learned skills in the Scouting movement? What did you learn?