Girl guides in a field
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LIFE HONESTLY

I signed up for Girlguiding on impulse. I’m so glad I did

A busy Londoner in her twenties, Lily Peschardt describes the night she signed up – and the moment she realised she could make a difference

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By Lily Peschardt on

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I got in touch with Girlguiding on a bit of whim. We were in the opening months of 2017 and I was already sick of feeling depressed about the state of the world. I wanted to do something that felt positive. Or, at least, that’s what I was telling myself. In reality, I think I wanted to do something that would make me feel more positive.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect – I'd never been to Girl Guides in Australia, so when they suggested I come along to a Guide group that took place in a hall around the corner from my house one evening after work, I wasn’t really sure what I was walking into.

The room was crowded with girls: girls with braces, girls with pimples, girls with head scarves – that bit I expected. The two leaders greeted me with big smiles and went about trying to quieten the room to introduce me and ask the group about their week. Immediately, the girls started talking about Trump and Theresa May – that I did not expect.

Afterwards, the group was divided into two, with half the girls slipping on their coats and scarves to plant seeds in a corner of the garden outside. I stayed inside with the other half of the group, who were charged with making a sign for it. There were two girls who had just moved up from Brownies to Guides; they looked impossibly young, sitting next to their peers. “It’s strange,” one of the leaders told me. “A few weeks from now, they’ll look the same age as everyone else. I never know how that happens.”

I was always young for my year and I remember, so vividly, the feeling of being too small, too immature, too young. I made my way over to them. “I’m Lily,” I said, waving slightly. They smiled at me politely, but remained close-lipped. I tried again. “I’m new, too,” I whispered, “and a little scared.” At this, they both visibly relaxed and started chatting to me, then to each other and then to other girls in the group.

After the seeds were planted and watered, the sign sketched out and the pens and pencils put away, a group of girls gave a – frankly – amazing presentation on race and ethnicity, speaking to a room full of diverse girls with respect and poise. They talked about xenophobia (literally, that’s the word they used) and, when one girl raised her hand to ask what that meant, they were able to answer her with ease.

I don’t have a little sister and I tend to be the youngest in my friendship groups, so I’ve never really experienced the joy of being able to pass down knowledge or expand someone’s horizons – until then

Then, as quickly as it began, the session was over. One of the more confident girls in the group came up to me, two of her friends flanking her, like shadows. “Are you Australian?” she asked me, completely unselfconsciously.

I laughed, impressed that she picked up on my strange inflections, considering I’d only said about two sentences in her presence. “Yes, I am.”

“I love Home & Away,” she informed me.

“Ah,” I leaned in, conspiratorially, “I grew up right near where they film that show.”

She nodded approvingly. “Cool,” she said, her apathetic teenage facade slipping for a moment. “I really want to go there one day.”

I winked at her. “Maybe, one day, you will.”

I had a hundred interactions with teenage girls on my first day as a Girlguiding volunteer, but it’s that one that stuck with me the most, that made the experience so worthwhile. I don’t have a little sister and I tend to be the youngest in my friendship groups, so I’ve never really experienced the joy of being able to pass down knowledge or expand someone’s horizons – until then. And while I’d hardly call myself inspirational, to the girls in the group who dream of travelling the world, to this girl, I realised I just might be.

My schedule doesn’t allow me to attend Girlguiding every week, but I still go whenever I can. In the face of a depressing news cycle that I feel powerless to change, it feels good to know that every so often, in my own small way, I can do something worthwhile, just by showing up.

There are over 70,000 girls on the waiting list for Girlguiding because of a shortage of volunteers. To join a collective of strong women and girls empowering each other or to find out more about Girlguiding’s new campaign, Know Your Place, click here

@LilyPesch

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LIFE HONESTLY
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