To mark International Day of the Volunteer, Katie Smedmor, 31, from Downham Market shares her experiences of volunteering for Girlguiding.
I have Spina Bifida which means I was born with a hole in my back resulting in limited mobility in my legs. A further infection when I was younger meant I lost mobility in my legs altogether and I have used a wheelchair since I was a child.
I’ve never let my disability hold me back and I’ve done lots of other community work but I’d never thought about volunteering with Girlguiding – and helping to lead a group of girls.
But one day, while at a local fete with my niece, I got talking to a Girlguiding volunteer who inspired me to give it a go. ‘Of course you can!’ was her response to my doubts about becoming a volunteer.
After that day, I started to think more and more about volunteering with Girlguiding. So when my sister told me a few weeks later that a new Guide group (for girls aged 10-14) was opening up in Downham Market and they were looking for volunteers, I decided to go for it.
The 2nd Downham Market Guides opened just under two months ago and the group has been really successful. Thirteen girls have already joined and we have five more girls planning to join us before Christmas. We’ve already done lots together including a fundraising event for a cancer charity and a trip to Harry Potter World.
I thought I might not be able to help out on trips but our visit to Harry Potter World went really well and the girls had a great time! Girlguiding welcomes members of all faiths, abilities and circumstances and I’ve been accepted for who I am without question by all the girls and Leaders.
We have lots more planned as a group for the coming months including a trip to the pantomime and a sleepover. The girls are also planning a Christmas party for the local Brownie group (girls aged 7-10) and are really excited for the event.
Guiding encourages girls to engage with the local community and they loved talking to people at our charity fundraiser.
Helping to lead the group has also been a great way for me to meet new people and make new friends in the area. The other volunteers have been really supportive and it’s been a great way to build my confidence and learn new skills. For example, I’m just about to start my Leadership Qualification with Girlguiding.
To anyone else thinking about volunteering with Girlguiding I would definitely recommend you give it a go! I was nervous before signing up and was worried that it wasn’t for me but I’m so glad I did – there’s something for everyone for both girls and volunteers!
Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, with 559,996 members. Thanks to the dedication and support of 100,000 amazing volunteers, 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. We give them a space to have fun. We run Rainbows (5–7 years), Brownies (7–10 years), Guides (10–14 years) and The Senior Section (14–25 years). Registered Charity No. 306016. www.girlguiding.org.uk