On Purpose

A time to volunteer: How giving my time to Girlguiding led me to On Purpose


“We have so much fun”, “you make new friends”, “everyone listens to you”, “we have really nice leaders”, “we are always laughing here” - just a few quotes from my Brownies group when asked why they like coming to Brownies every Tuesday. “We get to eat lots of chocolate” was also a popular response... this isn’t a regular thing, but clearly a memorable one!

I started volunteering with the Girlguiding community last year when I was disillusioned with my job and looking to do something fulfilling with my Tuesday evenings. I instantly fell in love with it. Being around 20 girls aged 7 to 10 and hearing their take on the world is so refreshing, especially at a time when it feels like there is a lot of doom and gloom about our future.

These girls are the future and the Girlguiding community looks to empower and inspire them, whilst they inspire us.

With more than 80,000 volunteers across the UK, Girlguiding is a charity that look to positively impact the lives of girls and young women across the UK. Their mission is as follows:

Through fun, friendship, challenge and adventure we empower girls to find their voice, inspiring them to discover the best in themselves and to make a positive difference in their community.

Girlguiding is for all girls aged 4 to 18, with 'Brownies' being for ages 7 to 10. Brownie ‘units’ get together weekly to play games, learn new skills and make new friends. The activities and challenges they take on encourage them to discover and express themselves, be adventurous and to take action for a better world. Each completed activity is progress towards earning different badges to recognise their skills and accomplishments. Taking home these badges to sew on to their Brownies uniform gives them a real sense of achievement and reiterates what Girlguiding is all about. In providing this space for the girls to be themselves, they grow in confidence and discover passion and talents to help shape their futures. 

“Girls take what they do in guiding with them as they grow up. Everything from working in a team, to taking the lead, to speaking out on issues they care about. It helps them develop the skills and confidence to become the young women they want to be. And to make a difference to the world around them.”

Activities include learning sign language, doing arts and crafts, public speaking and discussing important topics. For this year’s ‘World Thinking Day’ we looked at ‘The Environment and Gender Equality’ and how we can take action for a better world. We had meaningful discussions around the importance of gender equality, with one girl saying how Brownies had given her the confidence to speak up in the playground to ensure the boys included her in a game of football. One girl also asked why women have to wait for men to propose. “Why don’t girls propose? What’s the worst that can happen – he could just say no and then you’d move on..!”

In a climate change guessing game, their descriptions of the ‘o-zone layer’ and ‘greenhouse gases’ were impressive and when doing some taste tests, a girl asked whether anything contained palm oil because we shouldn’t eat it if so. 

Seeing this younger generation of girls feel empowered to tackle issues such as gender inequality and climate change is inspiring. They are feminists, environmental activists and just all round great girls. They are the future.

Girlguiding would not be able to happen without its volunteers, and the same can be said for many charities across the UK. In 2020/21, it is estimated that 16.3 million people volunteered through a group, club or organisation and many more than this volunteer informally (https://volunteersweek.org/).

Volunteers' Week takes place 1-7 June each year in the UK and it is a celebration of the contribution that millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. It reminds us all to take the time to say thank you to the volunteers who give their time to improve the lives of people in the community.

But often through volunteering, the lives of the volunteers themselves can also be improved, and this is definitely true for me. Watching girls who come to Brownies shy but develop into confident young women is so rewarding. A girl who used to struggle to walk into the door each week now runs in and cartwheels and laughs her way through the whole evening. For me, I initially just wanted a break from my day job, but the sense of purpose Brownies has given me is really special and hearing hilariously honest feedback such as “I love our leaders because they are not strict like our teachers” is a breath of fresh air. I have grown to really care for these girls and it feels special to be a part of nurturing their ambitions. 

If you want more reasons to volunteer, here are a few, with some quotes from volunteers at Girlguiding and my fellow On Purpose Associates:

  • It provides you with a sense of purpose – “My time volunteering with The Felix Project gave me an immediate sense of purpose & well-being. I was buzzing the whole time I was volunteering and for days after!”
  • Personal Growth and self-esteem – “The most rewarding part of volunteering is seeing the Guides grow and become confident within themselves, like I have.”
  • A chance to give back – “I enjoy the way we can give these children a few hours of fun through physical games that can also help them build social and emotional well-being, while also providing their carers with a few hours of respite from their care responsibilities each week.”
  • Gain valuable work experience – If you’re considering a career change, volunteering is a great way to get some professional experience whilst doing good. One of the volunteers I work alongside at Brownies has enjoyed it so much that she’s moving into a career in teaching!
  • It brings people together – “Volunteering with Foodcycle gives me a chance to meet with and chat to people within my community that I wouldn’t normally meet.”
  • Do something different – “I enjoy the practical side of the work as a contrast to the mainly screen facing work I do during the week.”
  • You learn a lot – “From a personal point of view, it has been an opportunity to challenge myself to work with, and learn from, children with sometimes severe needs such as autism and downs syndrome and to develop communication, caring, and coaching skills.”
  • It saves resources – “It felt so good knowing that I was helping reduce food waste AND ensuring people were getting access to a good meal.”
  • It’s FUN! – “Volunteering with Brownies gives me the opportunity to feel like a big kid and just have lots of fun.”

I can safely say that my voluntary work is what led me to On Purpose. The feeling of making a difference really cannot be beaten, and I wanted that to be my every day, not just my Tuesday evenings. Maybe you’ll find a new career path through volunteering? Or maybe you’ll just have a great time. Either way, why not give it a go this Volunteers’ Week?