COULD you promise to do your best? If so, pop a clean handkerchief, notebook and pencil in your pocket and skip along to your nearest Brownie or Guide pack.
The plea for more leaders has gone out from Mary Rumble, Divisional Commissioner for Brighouse and Elland, who reveals that Calderdale is facing the same challenges as many other parts of the country.
“Basically we need more leaders for our Brownie and Guide packs because we cannot replace those who are leaving quickly enough,” she says.
“I have dedicated people involved including two ladies who have been in my division for 50 years but we need some new blood. We need young people who are willing to get involved.”
The result, she says simply is a growing number of waiting lists from girls wanting to join local Brownie and Guide groups.
“In the past there have been waiting lists in Calderdale but that’s usually been because we haven’t had the room to take on more Brownies or Guides. The reason for the waiting lists at present is that we cannot take girls because we don’t have the leaders. The groups are there ready and waiting, if only there was someone to lead them.”
Calderdale is not unique. National coverage has been given recently to Girl Guide and Brownie groups across Wales facing closure because of a shortage of volunteer leaders, and Girlguiding UK has revealed that there are around 50,000 girls on waiting lists nationally, waiting to join up.
“I know other areas are having the same problems but it is very frustrating and it’s worrying,” says Mary.
“We don’t want our groups to close. It’s such a shame because in a way we have become victims of our own success. It’s wonderful that we have so many girls who want to be Brownies and Guides and we want to encourage them but the fact is we have waiting lists in Brighouse and in Rastrick and if we had more leaders willing to volunteer then that would solve the problem.”
In Calderdale, 2,000 girls are involved in the Guiding movement. The figure includes Rainbows (for those aged five to seven), Brownies (seven to 10-year-olds) and Guides (10 to 14.) There is also a senior section from those aged 14 to 25. In total, Calderdale has five divisions.
No one endorses the movement more than Mary herself who has been involved for almost four decades.
“I joined up 38 years ago at the age of seven when I was growing up in Essex,” she recalls.
“I had a sister in the Guides and we lived on an estate. I guess it was part of the community really being a Brownie or Guide. You felt like you belonged and I loved it - apart from wearing the felt cap. But that’s gone now,” she laughs.
She jokes that there is barely a position she hasn’t held over the years and she is just as enthusiastic now as ever.
“It’s not just the girls who get so much from the movement, anyone volunteering to be a leader would see that because if anything you get more back than you put in.
“I organised some bulb planting at Elland Cartwheel Club with my group (Mary is in charge of the 8th Elland Brownie pack) and they were filthy when they had finished but the looks on their faces said it all. They loved it and of course they were making a difference to the community.”
Mary stresses that anyone interested in becoming a leader would receive full training which would cover working with children, funding and handling money.
“We don’t just throw people in at the deep end. New leaders would be assigned a mentor who would work alongside them. We also carry out full CRB checks and we use something called the Go system.
“If people felt they could not commit to one unit on a regular basis then we are always interested to hear from people who could spare some time sharing their skills/Perhaps they could come along and help with crafts or cake decorating for example.
“At one time a lot of our Guides became leaders themselves but now many girls go off to university or college and of course they have other things taking up their time. Sometimes we attract them back again but often once they are gone, they are gone for good. This has contributed to the shortage.”
Next year the Rainbow movement will celebrate its 25th anniversary and in 2014 it will be the centenary of the Brownies - the Girl Guide movement celebrated its 100th birthday last year.
“The movements have changed over the years and that’s why they have remained so successful because they have kept modern and fresh, adapting to meet the needs of today. Girls learn wonderful skills which set them up for life. The opportunities are tremendous - camp and pack holidays are just a couple. We really need leaders to help our groups carry on,” she says.
Calderdale Councillor Pat Allen has recently been made an ambassador for the Brighouse and Elland Division and is now encouraging Brownie and Guide leaders to come forward.
“It’s such a worthwhile job for such a worthwhile movement. I know people are busy and there are lots of demands on people’s time but if they could spare just a few hours a week, they could make a real difference,” she says.
l Anyone willing to get involved or needing more information should contact Mary on 01422 311224.