I have had an on and off relationship with guiding since 1976, when I was enrolled with the local Brownie pack. In 1990 I started my PGCE and thought I needed some relevant work experience so I helped with a Brownie pack in Uxbridge for five years. I never undertook any training but was given the name ‘Fluffy Owl’ by the girls. I then had my own children, including two daughters, who loved being Rainbows, Brownies and Guides. Although I would occasionally help at meetings as a parent I never imagined running my own unit.
Four years ago I started work at Northwood College for Girls which has its own Rainbow unit. After working at the school for a year the teacher who ran the unit left and a ‘volunteer’ was needed to take over. It seemed such a shame to close the unit as I remembered how much pleasure my own daughters had got from guiding, and how it had help shape the young women they had become. Despite colleagues telling me ‘you must be mad’ I decided to volunteer and give it a go!
I started running the unit as a ‘leader in training’ and, as a teacher, found it easy to plan the sessions. Over time I started to work out how the programme actually worked and how to ensure the different themes and skills were covered. After about a year I discovered you could buy and download the unit meeting activities. That was a great help! Throughout my training I was very well supported by my mentor, Janet Brock and District Commissioner Jenni Maidment. Both these ladies are absolute stars. They welcomed me to the district answered all my questions and queries.
Janet helped me to work my way through the training modules and offered such good advice. Jenni was able to explain how to use the GO online programme to help me organise my plans, enquiries and waiting lists. It was marvellous to have the support of these two very experienced members of guiding. It took me about eighteen months to complete my leadership qualification and I was actually so excited when Jenni delivered my badge to me personally!
I now have fifteen girls in the Northwood College Rainbow unit and a huge waiting list. Two members of staff help me run the sessions which take place after school every Monday. During lockdown we continued meetings via Zoom. The girls were all still so keen to join in and, once I had mastered Zoom, I found loads of ideas online for ‘virtual meeting’ activities. One of my funniest memories is of organising an online scavenger hunt, not realising that a couple of our Rainbows were joining the meetings from loft conversions and had to run up and down two flights of stairs to the kitchen to find potatoes and a spoon. The Mayor of Hillingdon, Councillor Teji Barnes, joined us for one meeting and we also held an online talent show. The parents all commented on how much their daughters loved meeting online and doing fun things during lockdown when there was very little to do.
Now we can meet face to face there are so many opportunities to do fun and exciting things with the girls. They love helping to plan the programme and have so many good ideas about how to approach the different themes. We have organised collections for Hillingdon Foodbank, collected litter from around the school and sent thank you messages to the support staff. We even managed a ‘camp out’, putting up tents in the school hall and cooking outside.
I can honestly say I love being a Rainbow Leader and would encourage anyone who is thinking of training to give it a go. The programme is easy to follow and you will be given loads of help, advice and support.
I find it so rewarding when you see the girls working together, helping each other and just having fun. Last year one of our Zoom meetings was a complete disaster. The girls had to cut out a flag shape which they could not do, even with instructions and a demonstration. The task was just too difficult and my helper and I felt the session had been a complete disaster. As we were all logging off we over heard one of our rainbows shout across to an adult in the room ‘that was brilliant!’