My guiding family

Written by Kirsty Elphick

"We are a family, and I honestly don't know what I would do without my guiding sisters."

I have been in guiding since I was born. My muma was a Guide leader, and so I went with her to unit meetings every week. I started going on Guide camps when I was two and a half - some of my earliest memories are actually of those camps!

I was so used to being around older girls and doing the activities that Guides were doing that when I turned 5 years old and became old enough to join Rainbows, I went to two sessions and then left. It was too “babyish” for me because I’d been doing “big girl” stuff!

When I turned 7 years old, I was given the option of joining Brownies but again I felt like the activities weren’t “exciting enough”, so I didn’t join. Because of this, I consider myself unofficially a Guide from birth.

I couldn’t wait to turn 10 and officially become a Guide! I had already practised my Guide Promise over and over so that once I was old enough I would know it by heart. I did my first Promise while on camp at Blackland Farm in the indoor swimming pool!

By the time I turned 14, I had been a Guide for so long that I had had enough. I went through the typical teenage phase of being 'too cool' for everything, and too worried about boys and having a social life. I decided not to stay and become a young leader. Honestly, I can’t even remember if there was a Ranger unit available at the time for me to join! Even if there was, I probably wouldn’t have gone to it because I was going through my teenage phase.

After a couple of years, I got dragged back into my unit by my muma when I was 16. They needed some extra hands, and so I became an unofficial young leader. I was still “too cool” to be back for good, so I just came and went as I pleased (and when my mother was desperate for help).

Now we get to when I was 18 years old. By this point, I was over my phase, and I wanted to come back. I didn’t want to start my leadership qualification at the time because I was working shifts and couldn’t commit, so I asked to be a unit helper for my unit. The most exciting part of turning 18 was that I was able to join the division leadership team going to Disneyland Paris that year! The downside to that was that I couldn’t go on as many rides as I would have liked because I was responsible for a group of girls... but it was still worth it!

Sadly, shortly after this, I had to step down from guiding again as my muma was diagnosed with cancer. She was too unwell to continue as unit leader, and so I became her carer at home. When she was well enough, I would take her to visit the unit, but those days were few and far between. When I was 19, my muma lost her battle to cancer and I couldn’t face returning to Guides without her. My entire experience in guiding was with her. All of my memories there included her.

When I was 22, I was invited to a tea party at my unit to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday. It was a wonderful party, and I got to see a lot of familiar faces. I loved being back, and the girls were so welcoming despite most of them not knowing me or my muma.

I made the decision on that day to come back to guiding, and I told my division commissioner (also a guest at the party) that I wanted to do my leadership training.

Since then I have achieved my leadership qualification for Guides, went to Disneyland with my division again as part of the leadership team, was approached to take over the Ranger unit in my division with another leader from my unit, started my leadership qualification for Rangers, volunteered to be part of the Rangers sub-camp team for our county international camp, Olave, completed The Senior Section Octants (before they were phased out), was assessed for modules 1-7 for my Going Away With qualification for Guides, and I am hoping to complete my Queen’s Guide award by this July!

I’ve got future plans to complete my camp module and international module for my Going Away With (as well as the programme module again for Rangers), attend Wellies and Wristbands with my Ranger unit this August, attend Octagon 2021 with my Rangers and Guides in Ireland, and I’m hoping to reopen another Guide unit in September 2021 with my friend and fellow leader.

My take-home message from my experience in guiding is this: you will experience some downs. There will always be politics, pettiness, and people you don’t get on with. And being a leader does mean sacrificing some of your own enjoyment for the sake of the girls. But it’s worth it. We are a family, and I honestly don’t know what I would do without my guiding sisters – they have supported me and encouraged me with everything that I do, inside and outside of guiding. Coming back to my unit feels like coming home, and I know my muma would be proud that I’m keeping her spirit and memory alive.

My absolute favourite part about guiding? Watching girls grow into incredible young women and being able to support and encourage them like my guiding sisters have done for me!

If you've been affected by the issues raised here, the following organisations may be able to help.

Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan Cancer Support provides medical, practical, emotional and financial support to cancer patients, their carers, friends and family.

Visit the Macmillan website

Cruse Bereavement Care

Cruse Bereavement Care provides support after the death of someone close including face to face, telephone, group support, as well as bereavement support for children and young people.

Visit the Cruse Bereavement Care website

We love to hear your stories about your experiences with guiding and what it means to you. Please get in touch if you have a story to share!

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