Emma Guthrie explains how Girlguiding has opened her eyes both at home and abroad
I’ve been involved in Girlguiding for 17 years now. What probably keeps me going is the chance to meet so many people – I have become friends with and worked with people I normally never would have met.
I’ve just recently came back from a three-week trip to The Gambia where I led a team of five others from the UK to help develop the Gambian Girlguiding Association. We worked with the existing leaders and young leaders to develop their leadership skills and to develop the organisation as a whole. Our aim was to help it grow and encourage advocacy with their members. We ran 11 training courses for 390 people with the youngest girl being about four and the oldest person being 60 or 70.
My visit to The Gambia was made through a Girlguiding programme called Gold, which stands for Girlguiding Overseas Linked with Development. It has been running for about 23 years and Girlguiding UK run eight projects a year. It sees a team of six women, aged between 18 and 30, going to a different country for three weeks to run a sustainable community project with a local organisation.
It’s given me a lot of skills by giving me the opportunity to do different qualification and awards – I have become friends with and worked with people I normally never would have met.
It was the third year of the project in The Gambia but my first time there. I went to Armenia last year and ran a similar project. I had a great time. In my team in Gambia I was the only Scottish person, there was a girl from Wales and the rest were from different parts of England. I would never have met any of them and would never have had the opportunity to go to Armenia or The Gambia without Girlguiding. My team was excellent – we were put together at an international selection weekend – but from The Gambian experience the overlasting memory is the dancing – I’ve never danced so much. We would plan sessions to finish at a certain time and many hours later we would still be dancing.
Here in Scotland Girlguiding takes up a lot of my time. I run a unit in Falkirk with girls aged 14 to 26. I set up that unit when I was 18 because our area didn’t have one for that age group. We have about 12 members. I’m lucky because of the age group the members tend to know exactly what they want to do and come up with ideas themselves. It’s a really good age to have. We meet twice a month but outside of that I also do some other roles within Girlguiding including being involved in the national council.
Girlguiding takes up a lot of my time but I can see the benefit it has. I was originally in the Girls Brigade and went to Brownies when I was six, then moved up to Guides. It’s given me a lot of skills by giving me the opportunity to do different qualification and awards. I’ve done a couple of leadership qualifications, my Duke of Edinburgh and Queen’s Guides award. That’s given me a lot of confidence and they help me show a lot of the skills that I have when I go for job interviews or for university applications.
Emma Guthrie (23) is a Girlguiding Scotland leader and international volunteer