Ok so I’m a bit late to the party, but this week on the 5th of December it was International Volunteer Day. I am a volunteer, helping out as a leader at the local Rainbows group, and I love it. So, late as I may be, I felt compelled to write something about my experience as a Girlguiding volunteer.
I became a volunteer by accident really. Seeing my daughter Caitlin struggle to make friends, I decided to enquire about groups in the area that she could attend. Having been a Brownie myself as a child, I was pleased to find that there was a local girlguiding group, and hastily signed her up. A few weeks later I received an email from the local Rainbows group, and my excitement rose as I opened it. The excitement was short lived, as I read on to find out that the group was full. Caitlin was to be placed on a waiting list, and we would be informed if a place was to open up.
This all came at a time when I was in a bit of a bad place. I’d recently been placed on antidepressants for depression and anxiety, and honestly wasn’t feeling good at all. To add a bit of background story, I’d moved from North East England to Northern Ireland about six years previously, and still felt like I didn’t fit in in this new country. Other than going to work and doing the school run, I barely left the house.
Maybe that will add a bit of context to how crazy my next move was.
I hit reply on the email, and wrote something to the effect of “If you need volunteers to help out with the group, I’d be happy to help”. I clicked send before I could talk myself out of it, and then the email did it’s thing and I couldn’t take it back. A few days later I found the reply, which basically said it would be wonderful if I could help out as it meant they could take on some more girls from the waiting list, including Caitlin. And so, that was that.
I started my journey as a volunteer almost as nervously as Caitlin started her new journey as a Rainbow. We were both joining the group as complete strangers, and it was kinda nice to experience that together. I’m not going to lie and say I found it easy. As someone who has always been a bit odd with new people, I did not enjoy the first few weeks at all. Socially, I’m very anxious, and this was my idea of a nightmare; I couldn’t let Caitlin see that though, because I wanted her to see my confidence and copy it. So I faked it, and soon I started to ease in to things. Within a couple of weeks I found myself forming friendships with the other leaders, and building a rapport with the girls in the group, and I started to really enjoy myself.
I’ve been there a year now. Caitlin has moved on to Brownies, and I decided to stay in the Rainbows group. That decision was made mainly to allow Caitlin a bit of freedom to grow in the group without her mum watching over her back: But it was also partly to do with the fact that I now feel so comfortable in the group.
So what does my role entail? Well currently I’m working towards my leadership qualification. This means over the course of the year I work together with the other leaders to ensure I can help run the unit. I help come up with ideas for activities, spending time planning and getting things ready for meetings. This week saw me knee deep in craft materials as I planned my very own Christmas craft night for the unit. I can’t say I wasn’t regretting some life choices as I sat cutting hundreds of fiddly little snowman bits, but it was worth it to see the group enjoy the activity.
It’s great to be involved in the group each week. To hear the big hall fill with laughter, to watch and encourage new friendships developing, to see the girls try new things and grow in confidence each week. I like being a part of that.
It’s good for me too. I enjoy being a volunteer. I enjoy being a part of the girlguiding family, helping to empower girls across the world. It’s not something I thought would be ‘me’ if you’d asked me last year, but it’s actually something I feel quite passionate about now. I can’t say that volunteering is responsible for turning my mental health around, but I do know it’s contributing.
If you’ve ever thought of volunteering, I really do urge you to do it. Girlguiding is an awesome organisation to be involved in, but there are obviously thousands of charities and organisations crying out for new volunteers. Please do get out there and get involved if you can!
If this post has inspired you to get involved with Girlguiding you can click here to find out more information.