Calling all women of the Cowichan Lake district, the local Girl Guides chapter needs your help.
While there is no shortage of women-only community groups in Lake Cowichan such as the Red Hat Society and the Kinettes, the Girl Guides of Canada (which includes five age-based units: Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers) is in need of more leaders or else one or more units may need to close.
“The [Guides] unit is in danger of closing if we don’t get more help,” said leader and treasurer Nicole Berry.
There are currently three leaders overseeing about 20 girls over four of the five Girl Guides units. Sparks, which is for five- and six-year-olds, is not available in Lake Cowichan due to the lack of adult volunteers.
“[We] would love two new leaders to open Sparks so we can get the kindergarten-age kids in because once you start them at the younger age, you can get them to stay with it,” she said.
Berry has been involved since her 13-year-old daughter was in Sparks, but would now like to focus her attention on the older units. She said she would be willing to stick around with the younger units for another year to help new leaders become acclimated to the role, but ultimately if no one steps up the Guides unit will have to close.
To become a leader, volunteers do not need to have a daughter in the program or to be past Girl Guides themselves in order to get involved. Berry described one past leader who had three sons and no daughters but who got her “girl fix” by working with the Guides. Leaders just need to women over the age of 18 with a clean criminal record check. While each unit needs to have at least one leader with first aid certification, the Girl Guides of Canada periodically offers training to all leaders. Although Boy Scouts accepts leaders and volunteers who are male or female, Girl Guides leadership is only an option for women.
“We’re a women’s organization. We’re all about women power,” said Berry.
She said leaders must attend the group’s weekly meetings, plan meetings, help the girls to earn various badges and do some paperwork and monthly reporting. She said crafting experience is an asset for leaders but not mandatory.
“When you become a leader, even if you don’t have crafting skills, you can bring other skills to it,” she said. “Like we’re working STEM—science, technology, engineering, math—learning goals so anyone who has knowledge about any of those things it’s beneficial.”
According to Berry, becoming a Guides leader isn’t just an opportunity share skills or knowledge, it’s also a great learning opportunity.
“You’ll learn so much by getting involved. I’d never been winter camping before but we took the Rangers winter camping this year … I’ve got lots of good camping skills I never had before,” she said. “You get a sense of fulfillment being there and helping these girls, who can come to you and talk to you if they have any issues. I assume it must feel the same for teachers.”
Berry acknowledged that Lake Cowichan has traditionally been a hockey town, a sport in which more and more girls or getting involved, but she hopes that with additional leaders, the Girl Guides here will be able to increase their ranks as well.
“We would love to have more girls and the more leaders we have, the more girls we can have. There’s a ratio there we need to maintain,” she said.
Anyone interested in becoming a leader can apply online at www.girlguides.ca.