Across the country there are thousands of people volunteering to work with young people every evening. I went down to help out at 2nd Cheadle Heath Guides based in Edgeley to find out more. The evening started with a tuck shop and my mental arithmetic skills were challenged especially when the girls picked things that didn’t add up to round numbers of five or ten. I had respect for shop keepers everywhere. After the shop was packed away the girls continued with the badge they were completing which was on Holland. I remember doing badges when I was a Guide on cooking and housekeeping but things were different now. Even the uniform was more causal than the blue hat and skirt I remember and what was that thing? Oh yes a woggle. No woggles in sight. The girls had made windmills and this evening the leaders were sharing more facts in creative ways. It turns out that people from Holland are quite tall and they are one of the happiest nations in the world. There was a height chart and the girls made post boxes to post messages about what made them happy. I helped the girls to plant tulip bulbs to take home and many said they were going to give them to their mums. It was quite striking how different the girls were from 10 to 14, in height, looks, attitude and confidence. The session ended with the news of a trip and I got to say “Goodnight girls” and to my surprise they screamed “Goodnight Louise” back to me. It made me feel happy but I hadn’t truly experienced what it was like to lead a session so Kirsten the Guide leader suggested I return another time.

Kirsten asked me to share my skills with the girls so I returned with anticipation. How hard can it be? Unfortunately the girls seemed particularly boisterous on the night. Luckily some of the young leaders started with a game and then one of the Guides presented a short talk about their experience as an Air Cadet. I noted that the girls were very good at asking interesting questions. I got everyone to sit in a circle and I started my session. I asked the girls what they thought I did for a living and they guessed gardener, ah yes I had helped with the tulips. Other suggestions included nurse, fire fighter and librarian. I explained I was a radio presenter and it might be something they might consider as a career themselves. The girl sat next to me said “no”. We played some games to look at aspects of presentation. Some girls were confident and others more quiet. I asked why? Some of the quieter girls said they felt embarrassed and others said they were naturally loud or confident. I explained how important enthusiasm is in presenting and all the girls volunteered to try the exercises even if they felt not too sure. We then learnt interview techniques in smaller groups. It wasn’t long before the younger girls were acting out interviewing One Direction complete with accents. It was hard to engage such a big group of girls with different interests, ages and personalities but it was so wonderful to see them learning and being willing to try things out. My final task was to explain why I was there. To find out and experience what it was like to volunteer as a leader. I asked them with their new found skills to do my job for me and interview their leaders on volunteering. I couldn’t have been more proud. They asked interesting and insightful questions and I will share some of their answers and questions here.

Why do you volunteer? Kirsten said to help young girls. The younger leaders said they had been there since Brownies and had never left; when they officially left Guides they had returned the next week to volunteer. What do you do for a job? University teaching, college with restaurant jobs alongside. What has been your worst moment? When we organised a One Direction party and got shaving foam everywhere. What has been your favourite moment? The younger leaders said travelling as they had been to Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin already. Kirsten said when she has been thanked for what she did. As the questioned ended there felt a realisation that Kirsten was more than just an adult running a group but a volunteer and I think the girls were very grateful.