Kim Jakubiszyn works for housing association Southern Housing Group as a Community Partnerships Officer. For the past 23 years in her spare time she has been volunteering as leader of the 5th Tilehurst Guides, supporting Guides from the age of ten up until they become Adult Leaders to give young women a space where they can be themselves, have fun, build friendships, gain life skills and make a positive difference to their communities. Girlguiding is the UK’s leading charity for girls and young women, with more than 550,000 members in the UK and supported by 100,000 volunteers.
“…These days girls are exposed to many things from a young age either through friends, families or online; social media, smart phones, inequality, access to alcohol, bullying, debt, payday loans, food banks, sanctions, smoking, drinking, poverty, welfare reforms, loan sharks and much, much more. This means that many young people have to grow up sooner and make decisions about right and wrong, bad and good and “should I or shouldn’t I?” earlier on in their lives…”
The accidental Guide Leader
I am the Guide Leader in charge of 5th Tilehurst Guides, we are a multi-national award winning group of girls made up of Guides (aged 10 – 14), Young Leaders (volunteer girls aged 15 – 18) and my Assistant Guiders (aged 18 upwards). We are a volunteer led group, part of Girlguiding UK, the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK.
Girlguiding UK has 100,000 volunteers and we are active in every part of the UK, giving girls and young women a space where they can be themselves, have fun, build brilliant friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference to their lives and their communities. We build girls’ confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good.
As with many of the volunteers within Girlguiding, I got into this by accident. I would say it is the fault of my mum and sister, who are both Guiders in our sister Brownie unit. This is a story you will hear from many of the Leaders in Girlguiding, their parents or siblings were in Guiding, they come along to help, more help was needed, their daughter attended and it looked fun or they didn’t want to leave when they finished Guides.
I originally came along to make cakes and ‘help’ my mum and the next thing I knew, I was signing up to be a Young Leader, then an Assistant Guider, followed very quickly by taking on my own Unit. I have been a Guide Leader for 23 years with the same group and I am very proud to say that 5th Tilehurst Guides celebrates 50 years in January 2016.
Helping our Guides to make informed decisions
Over the years, as a Leader within Girlguiding, I have seen many changes in the world, in volunteering and to the kind of girls who are joining us. These days girls are exposed to many things from a young age either through friends, families or online; social media, smart phones, inequality, access to alcohol, bullying, debt, payday loans, food banks, sanctions, smoking, drinking, poverty, welfare reforms, loan sharks and much, much more.
This means that many young people have to grow up sooner and make decisions about right and wrong, bad and good and “should I or shouldn’t I?” earlier on in their lives. As their Leaders we want to support these young girls to make those decisions easier for them.
We know that sometimes they cannot have control over their exposure to these things, but we want them to have all the information in order for them to make informed decisions rather than reacting in an uninformed way. #GuidesMakeInformedDecisions was born!
Our recent campaigns
Our Stop Loan Sharks challenge started with a conversation one evening at Guides. I asked if the girls knew what a loan shark was. As you can imagine with the age range of 10 upwards, we had some very interesting answers ranging from, “Is it a type of shark?’ to “Is it a payday loan company?”
I went on to talk about how loan sharks could be a friendly neighbour, that lovely lady up the road, or a friend who starts out ‘helping’ out with a bit of money. Quite quickly it could turn into more and more loaned, but suddenly huge percentages of interest are charged and then when you find yourselves unable to pay, threats and much worse can happen. (For more information about loan sharks and how to report one, please search online for Illegal Money Lending Team or the Stop Loan Sharks campaign.)
Our Guides were horrified that their families could be affected and wanted to raise awareness, support their families and make a difference, so they did! Our Stop Loan Sharks Challenge booklet and badge was funded by money from a You Decide event where money confiscated from loan sharks by the Illegal Money Lending Team can be gained by winning public votes on your project.
We won £500 and used it to fund the whole project. The Illegal Money Lending Team and Trading Standards Reading were so impressed that they put us up for an award. We won the Trading Standards Institute Local Hero Commendation.
We were invited to their national conference to pick up this award in Harrogate, which was amazing. We were then asked to enter the Stop Loan Sharks National Champions Award 2014, for which we won the National Charity Award and then the overall National Champions Award, which we were presented with at Parliament by the Minister for Consumer Affairs and Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the National Trading Standards Board.
Best practice circulated around the UK and even as far as Australia
So far the booklet and badges have been sent around the UK and most recently as far afield as Australia. The challenges are about saving money, making informed decisions about choosing luxury or basic foods depending on your budgets, games about APR and recognising ‘need versus want.’ Through this work, we were able to raise awareness of the campaign and that Guides can make a difference and really do teach others because #GuidesMakeInformedDecisions.
Trading Standards Reading has supported and worked with us all the way and most recently we started working with Matthew Knight from the Community Alcohol Partnership (C.A.P.) Reading. The newest and largest of its kind in the UK, again affiliated to Trading Standards, Matthew came to our Guide Unit to talk to us about his work, the responsibilities of young people and to ask us to help them tackle the issue of underage drinking and irresponsible retailers.
We took up the challenge and designed the Responsible Retailers Award for Reading, then we decided that the C.A.P. needed a mascot, so C.A.P.tain Reading was born, this became discussions on raising awareness and teaching young people through peer mentoring about not just alcohol but, drugs, knives, legal highs and aerosols, and the campaign was written.
We again wanted the girls and their friends to make informed decisions. We were asked to attend the Alcohol Concern It’s the Drink Talking Youth Summit to present our ideas to other young people, to talk about engaging young people and ask to for their ideas on making our campaign more real for other groups. We were then asked to enter the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) national competition, Create a Campaign, which we did with the above campaign work and we won!
Swapping business cards
We were invited to this year’s CTSI national conference in Bournemouth where we popped down with the Right Worshipful Mayor of Reading, Councillor Sarah Hacker, herself a former Reading Guide and picked up our award and prize money. Again the girls wanted to use this as an opportunity to make some noise about the campaign, so we designed business cards using the new Responsible Retailer Shield and the #GuidesMakeInformedDecisions logo. They had great fun visiting the stands at the conference swapping business cards for freebies and answering questions.
I think they achieved their challenge. And now we will be using some of this prize money to treat the girls to some well earned treats, although the girls will probably want to see the budget and check for value for money beforehand!
Girls gaining personal power
#GuidesMakeInformedDecisions is about the girls gaining personal power because #GirlsMatter. They can now support their friends and families to make decisions about money, food and their future. They have options and new skills to support them in their future careers.
Their lives have changed because they have control, know their responsibilities and make informed choices. They are helping and supporting so many people across the UK and indeed the world. They have also realised that it doesn’t matter if you are a small unit of girls from Tilehurst, Reading, you can still make a difference to people’s lives everywhere and get your voice heard.
They use their new voices to advise organisations on how to talk to them and their peers, something that is sometimes very difficult for organisations to do through adverts and targeted engagement.
Teaching Ministers and Lords how to take selfies on the terrace at Parliament
They are proud to be members of Girlguiding because they know that it is the catalyst for girls everywhere to achieve, make a difference and make their voices heard. They can budget, they can challenge stereotypes, they can make a noise, have fun, win national awards, brave Chartered Trading Standards national conferences, meet Ministers and Lords and show them what a difference young people can make in this world. They even taught that Lord and Minister how to take selfies on the terrace at Parliament.
I feel incredibly blessed to be a member of Girlguiding and of 5th Tilehurst Guides, to be able to make a difference in the lives of these young people, to give them these opportunities, be part of this world family of girls who support each other and their communities and I am so so proud of my girls. They are creative, innovative, confident and not afraid to ask for changes to be made, no matter who it is they are asking after all #GuidesCan and #GuidesMakeInformedDecisions
W.A.G.G.G.S not WAGs
Our Guides are kind of acting like junior public affairs consultants; they have found their voices and are not afraid to use them, especially when it is something that affects their families, neighbours and communities. We are a unit who likes to challenge ourselves, many other Guide units across the country work in different ways according to the needs, and more importantly choices of the girls.
We are the noisiest, definitely, the most awarded, possibly, but the only Guide unit doing this kind of thing – definitely not! There are groups everywhere making a difference in their communities in many many different ways, some even travel to other countries to volunteer and change lives.
Girlguiding UK and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (W.A.G.G.G.S.) work tirelessly to find out where they are most needed across the world and create the opportunities for girls to go there and help, support, build, cook, teach and raise awareness. We are doing the same work, but right here!
Same language, same fears, same responsibilities
Mentoring is a fundamental part of Guiding, we encourage the girls to support each other and lead from a young age. Those who teach learn so much more about themselves and their behaviour, this encourages them to ‘be good to others’! We have older Guides mentoring younger girls all the time, whether it is badge support, through challenges in their personal lives and even school fears. This is why we feel it is such an important part of the C.A.P. project.
We are seeking funding to be able to provide opportunities for not only the Guides, but other young people to become a kind of Youth Health Champion, providing them with new skills, qualifications and empowering them to mentor others. Young people sometimes find it difficult to trust adults for various reasons, but with peer mentoring there is never that barrier. They talk the same language, have the same fears, the same responsibilities and can pass on the most powerful of messages.
Older peers as role models teaching resilience and personal power
It is very important for our younger girls to see their older peers as role models. Our girls come from many different backgrounds and they might not have strong role models in their family or community so could potentially make an uninformed decision about something important in their life.
Role models within Girlguiding are girls we encourage to be themselves and like it that way, to challenge stereotypes, encourage equality, promote diversity, tell the truth ( no matter how hard that might be), listen and support others and be a voice for good and reason. If we get this right, the younger girls can see these girls as someone they would like to be rather than be affected by negative images on social media or in the news. This is so important and also teaches them resilience and personal power!
Making informed decisions about how to have fun too
Each term we put together a programme of activities using ideas from the girls. Fundamentally they make the final decision on what we do each week. After all their hard work over the last few years looking outward in their communities, they have asked if we can do some inward looking work using Guide Badges and Go For Its [activity packs for you to plan your patrol time with and are all based around a theme] as well as some crafts, singing and other traditional Guiding activities.
This I am sure will include lots of food, lots of noise and above all lots of fun, we are very much looking forward to another brilliant term at Guides. #GuidesMakeInformedDecisions and that always includes how to have fun!