I was a first-year university student when I signed up for a course that included a requirement of 10 hours of community service. “What a great time to get back to Guiding!” I thought to myself. I had been a Spark, Brownie, Guide, Pathfinder, and Junior Leader, but having taken a couple years away from Guiding, I decided it was time to return.
On the occasion of National Volunteer Week , I’m prompted to think about what volunteering with Guiding means to me. What makes so many of us stick around, year after year? What makes Guiding feel like more than just another community service gig? What is it about watching a Brownie tie her first bedroll or watching a Ranger take charge that gives us so much joy?
I am constantly amazed by the girls I work with. They are proud Guides and proud feminists, passionate about evoking change in the world. When I look at the girls I’ve come to know through Guiding, I feel a great sense of optimism. I see girls and women who want to support and build each other up, rather than tear each other down. I see girls who are empathic and accepting, who understand the imperative need for diversity, acceptance, and critical kindness. I see girls who are engaged with issues of social justice, equity, and human rights.
I volunteer because it brings me into contact with some of the most magical people on our planet: girls. Girls who remind me it can be fun to experiment, get messy, and play; girls who have taught me about the power of make-believe, friendship, and teamwork; and girls who have shown me incredible courage and strength while learning who they are, defining their values, and finding their voice. Today’s world is different, and today’s girl is different, too. I am glad I can walk beside her, holding her hand and having her back, as she learns to navigate the world.
I’m proud to be a volunteer and proud to be a part of an organization that constantly seeks to provide a safe, inclusive, and relevant space for today’s girl. For me, Guiding is more than volunteer service. It’s friendship, community, sisterhood, and inspiration. It’s the Brownie you meet again as a Ranger, and the Ranger you now call a friend. Ten years and certainly more than 10 hours later, I’m still here, swinging along the road with a pack on my back and Guiding in my heart.
Rachel Collins is Youth Forum Coordinator for Ontario Council and a Pathfinder Guider in Guelph.