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Brownies Centenary: Why do thousands of women dedicate so many hours to Guiding? The answer is simple.....

17 Brownies from 8th Witham Brownies enjoyed the weekend trip to butlins, Skegness - pictured with their leaders Natalie Sadler, Rosemary Oakley, Kerry Brothers and Jo Gibson and young leader Jenna

17 Brownies from 8th Witham Brownies enjoyed the weekend trip to butlins, Skegness - pictured with their leaders Natalie Sadler, Rosemary Oakley, Kerry Brothers and Jo Gibson and young leader Jenna

Archant

A quarter of all eight-year-old girls in the UK are a member of a Brownie Pack.

Natalie Sadler Brownie Pack Holiday summer 1993 - Natalie second left on back row Natalie Sadler Brownie Pack Holiday summer 1993 - Natalie second left on back row

I first read this statistic last week and it provoked some strong emotions, writes Natale Sadler, Archant Suffolk’s digital editor, and it gave me a renewed sense of belonging.

Like many women reading this, I was a Brownie in my younger days, and 22 years later Guiding is still a key part of my life.

According to the Guiding website, adult members like myself give an average of 120 volunteer hours a year to Guiding.

So far this year, I and many of my Guiding colleagues in East Anglia have already clocked up 60 or even 70 volunteer hours, and there is a busy weekend ahead as we launch the centenary celebrations.

Natalie Sadler Brownie Pack Holiday summer 1992 - Natalie on left as Mary Poppins Natalie Sadler Brownie Pack Holiday summer 1992 - Natalie on left as Mary Poppins

Why? is a question I am asked on a regular basis. Why do you give up so much of your own time on a voluntary basis?

The answer is simple, I do it because I am proud to be a member of the largest women’s movement in the world, and because, as District Commissioner for Witham Newlands, I work with some extraordinary women who have ensured that Guiding has continued to reinvent itself, move with the times and embrace change.

We have helped ensure Guiding is still as popular and relevant as it was 100 years ago, more popular even.

But while we give so much of our time, running weekly sessions, taking the girls on holidays and camps, organsing trips and actitives, seeking out cut price baubles in the January sales ready for a Christmas craft later in the year and filling out paperwork, what we get back is worth so much more.

We get to share experiences with the girls, try new things, learn from them and help them overcome their fears, we get to see them grow, both in real terms and in confidence, as they progress from Rainbows to Brownies and on to Guides and then complete the circle when they return as a Young Leader.

And that is why I, and thousands of other Guiders, dedicate so much time and effort to the movement.

In Witham Newlands, we have seen a surge in girls wanting to join Brownies in recent years. We have around 100 Brownies on our books and units keep expanding to meet the demand - which is ever-increasing despite the fact there are so many others forms of entertainament vying for the girls’ attention.

It is easy to see why Brownies was so popular 100 years ago, when there was little else for girls to do in their spare time, and even 20 years ago when i joined when there were fewer TV channels and computer games were in their infancy.

I remember peering around the door and watching as my sister and the other girls from 1st Hornchurch Brownies were called to order around the toadstool, willing my seventh birthday to arrive.

When it did, I was straight through the door, chuffed that I was one of the first to get the ‘new uniform’ - culottes, a sweatshirt and a sash. I was so proud I even wore it to school on Thinking Day and stood up in assembly with my fellow Brownies to explain why.

I fell in love with Guiding at an early age, and how could I not? Brownies gave me the first opportunity to stay away from home and introduced me to the great outdoors.

I learnt valuable life skills during my time as a Brownie, I remember Brown Owl teaching me to sew and on pack holiday I learnt how to make Angel Delight - every great cook has to start somewhere.

More importantly, it helped shape my values and beliefs.

And now we are offering those same opportunities and more to a new generation of Brownies. We started the year with a trip to Butlins, in Skegness where the girls tried archery, learnt circus skills, tried street dancing, watched a performance by X Factor star Sam Callahan and spent two nights away from home.

Memories of this trip will, hopefully, live with the girls (and us leaders) for years to come.

Anyone who would like to volunteer, or apply for a place for their daughter, should register their interest at www.girlguiding.org.uk/interested

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