Wednesday, 9 September 2015

1 Unusual Toilet Experience - 100s of Lives Changed!

Before I begin, I would like to say I am not writing this in order to ‘big myself up’ or ask for your recognition, I am writing this because I am so proud of what our church has achieved over the past 12 months.

Some Background and the Toilet Incident

In August 2014, I was one of the leaders who took 10 members of Girlguiding (Aged between 15 - 17) to India for a unique trip. We spent some time at the Guide World Centre, Sangam, however we then spent a week in Leh, in the Himalayas. Originally we were supposed to be volunteering at a Tibetan SOS school, however plans changed and we ended up spending 2 days working with children at the Sankar Government School. 

Now, children who attend government schools in India are seen as the least important people to receive education- standards are low and it is incredibly unlikely that children from the area would ever attend a University or receive further education. During our second day at the school, I needed to use the bathroom. After being pointed to a small shed like building at the top of a set of metal steps I encountered something I had never imagined.

As I pushed the door open, the smell and the flies hit me. At this moment, I wondered whether it would be possible for me to ‘hold it in’ and not bother going any further… However needs must and I found myself stepping into the shed. The toilet was, as expected, a hole in the ground in the middle of this structure, however it was quite a large, long hole which I imagine a small child could easily get stuck down (And there were some very small 2/3 year olds at the school!) The door had no lock, nor any lighting or windows, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to use when it wasn’t light outside. The floor was covered in both human and animal poo, there were flies every where and there was screwed up pages from test books- which I imagine was being used as toilet paper. The ‘toilet’ had nothing underneath it to catch the waste, so things just fell to the floor outside.

But, these children had one thing that many other people in the world don’t have- somewhere safe and private to go to the toilet. However uncomfortable I felt in that shed, I realised that many others don’t have this luxury and that it needed to change. People deserve to have a shed like this, rather than having to go to the toilet in the woods, or in the grass where there is so much that could go wrong/happen to them.

What Happened Next?

When getting home from my trip, I knew that I wanted to do something about this, and wanted to raise some money. I had heard about the ToiletTwinning charity before and really liked the fact it was a novel idea of getting toilets and sanitation education into some of the most needy places in the world. I registered for more information and started to put a certain amount of money aside to raise £60 for a toilet.

Every year our church – West Wakefield Methodist Church- chooses a charity to support over the course of the year. Without my knowledge, my Mum took the ToiletTwinning idea to the church council as a suggestion and it was chosen… Charity of the Year!

The people at ToiletTwinning HQ sent me lots of information and literature including leaflets, posters, stickers and t-shirts which I used to create a notice board to track our progress. The charity was introduced by me during the Church Nativity Service. Whilst Mary was in the stable, there were a lot of animals… And a lot of Animal poo! I told my story about the toilet incident and shared some examples of what work the charity do and where, and then it took off…

What did we do?

I was genuinely amazed at how people got involved with the fund raising (Not to mention with how much we raised!) I hoped that we would raise enough for 11 toilets- the number that we have in the building, however I didn’t know whether this would be achievable or not!

There were donation plates at the tea and coffee hatches at the end of each service, refreshments are not paid for at our church, a donation for the charity is asked for. This is how most of the money has been raised I believe, weekly small donations (And obviously, lots of small donations add up to something incredible!)

After the first 3 months, we had raised enough for 7 toilets- my doubts were put aside at this point… I was pretty sure we would reach my target of 11! Receiving the images of the toilets really helped people visualise what we were achieving (And the children loved to compare them with their own toilets at home!)

Each year, a coffee morning is put designated to raise money for the charity, I got involved in organising this years’ coffee morning. We had a bric-a-brac, games, tombola, cake stalls, teas/coffees, Bacon Sandwiches and more. The hall was full of people and (From memory) we raised enough for about 4 toilets in that one morning alone!

People got involved in their own small, more independent ways too, making and selling jewellery, badges and donating the ‘taxi fares’ given to them for giving lifts to church. We even had one lady give us a large pile of foreign currency, and asked to have it changed in £s and donated! Everybody really seemed to want to get involved, want to help in their own individual ways.

After my trip to India, I was invited to some of the groups who meet at the church to give a talk about my adventure and experience. I always made sure I explained the toilets explicitly, as its something people can really relate to. I received donations for these talks, all of which were given to ToiletTwinning.

Some of the most amazing moments for me though were when people, friends, members of the church family came and gave me a cheques or money totalling £60. These people bought a toilet on their own, one of the ladies gave me the reason of ‘Well, I got up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night and I was glad that I didn’t have to go outside into the dark to do so!’ £60 is a lot of money and will really help someone’s life.

In the end

The year is now at an end, but i’m really proud of my church, between us we have raised enough for an amazing 24 toilets- that works out at 2 a month!

(And we kept putting that little bit of money into a tin at home, and raised enough for 5 toilets too!)

Monday, 2 June 2014

Happy National Volunteers Week

a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.

It's National Volunteers Week, and as well as highlighting the good work that volunteers do daily across the country, I believe it is a good opportunity for you too to get involved. I think the best way for me to express the fun, sense of achievement and ability to gain new skills through using myself and my work with Girlguiding as a case study. I don't just volunteer with Girlguiding though, I also volunteer with The Scout Association and in my local church. 

I'm a Brownie Leader, some of you may have been Brownies, but for those of you who don't know- Brownies are the second section of Girlguiding, for ages aged between 7 and 10 years. We have a wide range of girls, some who were Rainbows, Some who come from a different school to everyone else, some very loud, some very quiet... It's a good combination which works very well and means the girls have an opportunity to meet new friends from different places.
I was a Brownie in the unit I now volunteer with, and from the moment I left at age 10, I knew that I wanted to return to help and give something back as soon as I could.So at 13 I arrived back at my old unit, ready to help out and 10 years later (And 4 other units later when I was at Uni) i'm still here. 

I don't have any more spare time than other people, I work 44 hours per week and spend, on average 2.5 hours travelling each day too, which means i'm out of the house around 11/12 hours per day.But I feel that spending a bit of time helping others is not only rewarding, but also gives me the time away from other stresses and the opportunity to have a lot of fun.

Animals, children, the environment, religion and many more possibilities- 

What have you given up your time to do recently?

Friday, 6 September 2013

A New Promise, The Same Meaning

Although the new Guide Promise is not how I would have worded it, I am proud that the organisation undertook a consultation process in order to find a workable promise which includes all. I think this is an incredible and important step forwards for the organisation, and busts any myths that we may be a Christian organisation.
 I feel I am still able to make my promise to My God through the new wording and that the spiritual aspect of the organisation has not been lost - in fact I feel it's encouraging to develop and think about what we believe in to a deeper degree.

The Guide promise has changed 11 times before now, we still stand with the same ethos, we're just using using words more suitable and appropriate to today's members.

I cannot wait until when we can all join together as members and begin to make, or remake, our promises without the fear of excluding anyone because of their religious beliefs.
 I promise that I will do my best:
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,
To serve the Queen and my community,
To help other people
To keep the Guide Law.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

We are your Leaders...

Just a short piece I found on the internet, one which I feel sums up my role within Guiding :)

We Are Your Leaders

We are not experts. We’re your next-door neighbors. We’re not perfect; we are just parents like you.

We don’t have any more spare time or energy than you do. We all work full time and juggle our families and our schedules and try to keep it all together as best we can.

The only difference between us is that we believe in what Girl Guiding has to offer. So much so, that we contribute our time, our miles, and our talents to help our girls and your girls grow in Guiding.

We complete authorization forms, budgets and registrations and fill our homes with boxes of paperwork, books and craft supplies that you will never see.

We give up time with our families to take many hours of training as well as attend various meetings so that we can meet our greatest challenge – providing a variety of programs that meet the needs, and interests, of very individual girls.

We try to involve parents who want us to understand that they don’t have the time to drive on outings or help at meetings. We rejoice at the generosity of others.

Life happens. Sometimes we find ourselves going in too many directions. We run out of steam. We have memory lapses. Communication lines break down. Time slips by. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t care.

So many evenings we spend on the phone, seeking advice and support from other leaders when disappointments or problems occur. “How do I keep my girls’ attention?” “What are your ideas for the ceremony?” “How do you work with girls in different years?”

Our dining tables are covered with bits of rope, menus, trip permits, craft supplies, paperwork and badges for each and every girl in the unit. A couple of them won’t show up and don’t think to call and let us know. Sometimes we feel unappreciated.

Yet, these girls can fill us with pride at their determination and accomplishments. Their smiles light up a room and when they say “Thank You” it makes it all worth it.

We help these girls build relationships. Some struggle more than others. Consideration, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness ... is encouraged by the Girl Guide Promise and Law. And sometimes we too must learn these lessons over and over again with the girls. But we are willing to keep learning.

Please be patient if we appear distracted or frustrated or overwhelmed at times. Forgive us if we are not the kind of leader you would be if you had the time. Instead, provide us with encouragement or offer your help. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

We are, after all, only mentors...role models...leaders. Volunteers who have taken an oath to give these girls, your girls, the most precious gift we have to offer – the gift of time. 

In answer to a regular question:

There's a question I am asked regularly- one where the answer has many parts and can be difficult to answer on the spot without sounding like a clićhe. The question is relating to 2 of my hobbies- hobbies which over the past few years have become increasingly important in my life. The question is:

"Why are you still involved in Scouting and Guiding?"

It can be difficult for people who are not involved in either organisation to understand why I would give up hours of my (often limited) spare time to take part in camps, meetings, trips. But this is the point of this (potentially long) blog.

A brief summary of my background before I continue: I joined the 21st Wakefield Brownies at aged 7 where I am now a leader, running weekly meetings for girls aged between 7 - 10. Over my time in Guiding I have been a Guide (10-14 year old) I'm currently a member of The Senior Section (14-25) and I am involved in things such as Peer Education and being a Spokesperson for the organisation. At 14 I made the decision to join Scouting, and I joined the Apollo Explorer Unit (14-18) in Wakefield, and I am now a member of the Wakefield Scout Network (18-25) and the Media Development Manager for the Wakefield area.

So, back to the initial question- Why am I still involved? I've tried to organise my thoughts and feelings into sections- the order of the sections is not important, they are not ranked in the importance to me, they are more in the logical order my brain decided to present them to me. 

So, I apologise in advance for length, but i'd love to hear your thoughts and why you volunteer with either Scouting or Guiding...

New Experiences

Being involved in both Scouting and Guiding have presented numerous opportunities to me throughout the many years i've been involved, and still do today. From sailing around the top of Scotland on a Tall Ship, to camping in Sweden to travelling around the country- without my involvement in these organisations, I know I wouldn't have achieved half of these things. Even today, as an adult, I am able to have new experiences: an example of this is that in 2013 I was in charge of a Video Team at Poacher 2013, an international Scout and Guide Camp held in Lincoln, where we made daily videos of the activities going on to show to the outside world what we were doing and how much fun we were having! An example of one of these videos is here:

This camp was run entirely by volunteers- adults like myself who had taken paid time off from their day jobs to help young people have the experience of a lifetime. Unless you were there, it's hard to describe the feeling of pride and happiness you get when you are stood in the middle of a field where over 4,000 young people are surrounding you, making memories which you know will stay with them for a lifetime.

When I was 16 I was privileged attended the World Scout Jamboree to celebrate the centenary of Scouting and this feeling of being among like minded people, learning about new cultures and meeting new people has stuck with me since then- and through experiences like this, both experiences past and experiences upcoming, the new challenges which I can face and overcome keep me in Scouting and Guiding.

Helping Others

I suppose this is the crux of why i'm still in Scouting and Guiding. I love to help people. As I volunteer with 7-10 year olds, I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing girls achieve a personal challenge. I have been a helper with Brownies since I was around 12, however at 18 I completed my 'Leadership Qualification' where I learnt more about the Guiding programme and how I can help girls develop better. I'd like to think that since learning this, I have put it into practice every time I have come into contact with a young person. 

I've also had the fortune to help with some 'behind the scenes' work too, from helping with Media work promoting the organisations to re-writing parts of the programme. Although these may not instantly seem like they are helping other people, the eventual outcomes (Whether it be a new resource which makes a girl realise she doesn't have to be treated in a certain way, or a media piece which recruits new leaders and young people)  affect lives. 

I know that from being young person, many people have put hours of their precious time into helping me into the person I am today. These are: people who have run weekly meetings for me, run camps and weekends away where I can learn skills to be more independent, people who have sat and talked with me when i've needed some support. I'm happy to say that I class many of these people as friends (As some of these people I no longer have contact with) and I always try to help them out if they need it- in the same way that they have for me. 

The helping others can come in so many different forms though- I have chosen the time I invest in helping people and the amount that I am involved in Guiding and Scouting. You only need to give as much time as you want to. 


Both Scouting and Guiding have introduced me to some of my closest friends. I don't have enough space or time to speak about them individually. However, I have been introduced to some of the most incredible and inspirational people over the past 15 years- and have made friends who I know I will be friends with for the rest of my life. 

At each event I help at, I meet people who I get along with instantly. The beauty of Scouting and Guiding is that everyone is the same- it doesn't matter what your background is, or where you're from... You're all there for the same reason. I spend many hours speaking with friends from around the country, and even more hours visiting them. I've found both organisations are perfect ways to meet amazing people, people who you can instantly get along with, and it's very rare I meet anyone I don't like!

I could easily have filled this section of my blog with photos of people i've met- however this simply isn't viable, I have so many friends who I value and who I would entrust with my life, the majority I would not have met without being involved with Scouting and Guiding. This, in itself, is enough to keep me involved in both organisations. Here's a few photos of people i've met over the past 15 years. 

I do have to mention one person in particular- my best friend Laura. We met 15 years ago when I started at the same Brownie Unit that Laura attended. She was my Sixer (group leader) and took me under her wing. Over the past 15 years we've grown to being best friends. We've supported each other through the good and bad times. She's more like a sister than a friend to me (Even her family think of me as an additional family member!) I don't know what I would do without Laura, and I know that without Guiding I wouldn't have met her and wouldn't have her ongoing friendship! (Soppy moment over!) 


This is where my blog may sound very similar to other people's on the same subject. I cannot count on my hands the number of transferrable skills I have developed and learnt through my time in the movements- and this learning and personal development is ongoing. 

Organisation, Time Keeping, Leadership, Teamwork, Money awareness, Multi-tasking are just some which I have developed through my work with a unit. These are skills which are not only useful in a Guiding or Scouting situation, but also skills which employers look for and value in potential employees. I firmly believe that without having developed these skills through the organisations that I wouldn't have the jobs I have had in my past. Both Guiding and Scouting offer real world skills training, skills which are valued by employees and look fantastic on CVs and job applications. I've also had the opportunity to learn First Aid too, which is a particularly vital skill, and one which could aid me in saving a life.

I have also discovered my career through my involvement  In 2006 I got involved with Media work at Scouting HQ through their 'Young Spokesperson' Training and this is where my eyes were opened up to the Media and the world of marketing. Since my initial training, and doing the same in Guiding, I have been on BBC Radio 4 discussing airbrushing, in Mizz magazine speaking about the pressures on young people to look 'good,' and so many local tv/radio stations generally enthusing about Guiding and Scouting!

As well as national work, I volunteer yearly on Media Teams on camps and events around the country. I have had varying roles from Reporter to Photographer to Videographer. Each of these experiences have taught me more about patience and time management and team work than I could ever imagine. Being involved in these teams also lead me onto my career path- after working with the media voluntarily for years, I undertook a degree in Broadcast Media Production and now work in Social Media and Marketing for a Media Streaming Company. Without being involved in Scouting and Guiding i'm not sure whether I would have found this 'calling' and I will always be thankful for this opportunity to find myself. 


Support may not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking about Guiding or Scouting, but in my experience, there are a lot of people around to support you. I have a few examples which I want to share, they aren't the happiest stories- however, I feel they are important to why I am still involved today.

When I started high school in 2002 I was bullied- not just name calling, but physically, mentally and had death threats made against me, to the point where I no longer wanted to go to school. My friends and leaders in Guiding were aware of the situation and helped me when they could and when I needed it. They were always a source of smiles and laughter and they formed a safe place, the only place where I felt accepted and appreciated for who I am. After a long 9 month battle with the high school I was at, I was moved schools to one outside of the area, but to one where friends from Guides went. From the moment I started there- my Guide friends (even though they were older) made me feel welcome and helped. We caught the bus together and they made me feel safe and helped me adapt to a different school, different way of life. I know those 9 months would have been much more difficult without that friendship and support. 

In 2011 I was diagnosed with Epilepsy, a neurological condition which causes me to have repetitive seizures (If you don't know about Epilepsy, please visit and this was a diagnosis which really impacted me. I found it hard to adjust to the 'news' and people in Guiding and Scouting were really kind and understanding to me. I found myself with offers of shoulders to cry or moan on, people who already had the condition offering me advice, but also people looking after me if I was ill around them. I found the support overwhelming at times, however it's comforting to know that there were people there to support me if I needed it. 2 years on from diagnosis, I still find it hard, and there are still people who want to help and support me. From my experience, people in Scouting and Guiding are always willing to help, whether that means giving me a bit more support with a task, or letting me have a lie down on camp if i'm not feeling too good. I think the diagnosis and adapting life would have been much more difficult without this support network. 

I will always be thankful to people in Guiding and Scouting who have helped and listened to me when i've had difficulties over the past 15 years. I want to be the support to other people who may need it, I want to give back the support and help i've had to those who may need it. 

And finally... it's fun!

Helping people and running events may sound boring and time consuming, but all I can say is that it's so much fun! Some of my happiest memories are from Scouting and Guiding events, I have cupboards and drawers full of hoodies and badges which remind me of camps and weekends away. Where else could you climb a rock, go gliding, meet people from different countries and never stop laughing... all in one place?! I honestly believe that Scouting and Guiding is beneficial to all those involved. I know my weekly meetings and camps are highlights to my week, and camps are some of the highlights of my year! 

I'd recommend that everyone gets involved with Scouting or Guiding, they're both great organisations, and ones I would definitely recommend membership of. Give it a go, make some unforgettable memories and some amazing friends. 

To find out where you can get involved... please visit:



I hope this blog starts to explain why I am still involved, and what you can get out of the organisations as an adult. 

Hopefully my next blog will be a bit shorter!