I have been volunteering with Girlguiding for over 8 years now. Recently, I was asked to speak at two volunteering appreciation events run by the Education Authority. At both events I was one of two speakers talking about their personal experience. Below is the speech that I said at both events (because I am lazy and didn’t change it between the two events!!)
Hi everyone, my name is Nic and I am representing Girlguiding Ulster. I have been a member of Girlguiding since I was 7 years old and joined Brownies. I moved through Guides and Senior Section and more recently became a leader.
I have also just finished a master’s degree in Biochemistry at Queen’s University Belfast.
I decided to start volunteering when I was 15 because I had always been interested in being a leader and starting my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh award proved to be the ideal catalyst. I became a Rainbow Helper with 6th Larne Rainbows and soon discovered that I loved working with the girls and helping them to learn new skills every week. I never left. I started working on my Adult Leadership Qualification when I turned 18. I then started working with 5th Larne Guides when all my friends left to go to university and I was still wanting to go along every week.
I became a Peer Educator in 2014, so I am trained to deliver sessions on topics such as mental resilience, body confidence and fighting gender stereotypes to groups both inside and outside of Girlguiding aged 7+. I am also one of Ulster’s Peer Educator trainers and I have trained new Peer Educators all over the UK.
My most recent roles in Girlguiding include being one of the young member representatives on the regional executive and being in charge of a Rainbow unit in Belfast.
Through volunteering with Girlguiding, I have gained qualifications I never would have had the opportunity to get otherwise. My confidence has increased in bounds and I now have experience in planning and implementing activities for up to 24 children aged 4-7, which isn’t an easy task! The main thing I have got from volunteering, and the reason why I go back every week is seeing how the girls develop, grow in confidence and experience something new. It’s always the evenings where you’re having a bad day and just want to go home and cuddle your puppy that a girl will show you that they can do something they weren’t able to do even 6 months before and makes everything worthwhile.
One major high I have got from volunteering with Girlguiding was being one of 6 members from across the UK to be selected to go on a Guiding Overseas Linked with Devlopment (GOLD) project to Zambia in 2018. In the three weeks we were there, we worked with the Girl Guide Association of Zambia (GGAZ) to work on key issues that they had noticed in the organisation. We trained leaders in leadership and confidence and girls in assertiveness and advocacy. We were only there for a short time but we made such a difference to them, especially in the more remote communities who rarely receive this kind of training.
My life has been impacted by volunteering in many ways. I have experiences and qualifications that make my CV impressive, especially for someone my age. I have also made some of my best friends through Girlguiding. I can go to an event knowing nobody and leave with a whole lot of new friends, and as we like to say, Guiding friends are the best friends!
However, the biggest impact it has had on my life is by giving me purpose. I was very unwell through most of my degree, but through Guiding I had somewhere to go and something to do. I saw the difference , even if it was small, that I made in the girls lives and realised that I mattered. Since Guiding has been in my life for so long, it was one of the only points of stability in my life when I moved from school to university, moved out of my parents house and all of the other changes that comes with being a young adult. It gave me a reason to continue. And if I can do that for even one other girl, then I will all be worth it.
I received good comments from the people who attending both events and I have to say I was massively proud of myself for doing it. Especially the end where I shared something incredibly personal which I had never really spoken about in public before.