Why I’m doing the Kiltwalk this year…

It’s totally mad to believe, but I first started getting involved in youth work when I was 16 years old and became a volunteer trainee leader at a Guide unit in sunny Leith. I have now spent more years doing youth work than I have not doing youth work.

To put another way, MORE THAN HALF my life has been spent involved in youth work in some way or another.

Last year I got a dream job as a Young Women’s Worker at a youth project in a town where there is basically no services. It was shocking how many referrals we got simply because there was so much need and so little provision in the local authority area. One of my friends who is a GP not far from where I worked has spoken to me about the huge need in the area. My friend who is a social worker spoke of staff off sick with stress due to the strain on their services and massive budget cuts.

I had to give up the job in April, and it was heartbreaking. I really didn’t want to leave. The day I found out that I’d likely be leaving I took 13 young people on a residential weekend and it was amazing. It was one of those real breakthrough moments, except it was a weekend full of them. After helping my colleague resolve a flood in the project because the toilet cistern broke, I drove my car that was caked in mud home. When I parked at my home I sobbed knowing that soon I’d likely be leaving. I still follow what they are doing through the project’s social media and not long after I left I convinced 4 staff members to join me in doing the Edinburgh Kiltwalk. We are aiming to raise £2000 of much needed funding for the youth project, and so far I’ve only raised £35. 😦

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You can help me help the young people and give me incentive to actually go through with this crazy idea of walking for miles on concrete (last time I did this I walked less miles, I was 10 years younger, my knees worked and I couldn’t walk for 2 days after) by sponsoring me. Even if it’s just £1 it would still give us huge encouragement…!

You can click to reach my fundraising page here. The amazing thing is that whatever money we raise, a trust called The Hunter Foundation will match fund our total by 40%.

Please, please, please give if you can. And if you’d prefer to give me money in person I do have a good old fashioned sponsorship form!

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Tales of surf camp again…

It’s a sleepy 30-something that types to you tonight, as the rain that has been strangely rare this past month thunders down onto the roof. Why the tiredness? Well spending 7 days sharing tight quarters with 3 of your fellow youth leaders and walls so thin you can hear the trumpet sound of a leader that had seconds on Taco Tuesday at Midnight and the giggles and not so quiet whispers of campers on the other side can make you a little sleep deprived.

Actually this year I think may have been the best yet. I was nervous going in, as last year hadn’t been easy. I came home from surf camp with an unease and found it difficult to answer the question ‘How did surf camp go?’ because yes I knew God had showed up, yes I knew that campers had fun but yet there had just been so many frustrations and things that made me feel totally inadequate and I left thinking that maybe I didn’t need be doing this anymore because I had nothing to bring of value.

There was a peace this year that I can’t recall there ever being before. Not that every year before has been awful or totally chaotic. But I think that over the years we’ve learned a lot and we have always wanted to be intentional about creating a week that is more relaxed as well as being action packed. There was a community and any time a camper tried to do anything that threatened that peace, I saw our veteran campers stepping up and showing the way of the culture we’ve done our best to create over the last 5 years. A culture of family. A culture of inclusion. A culture of respect. A culture where it’s a safe place to try and fail, and try again.

I also got to try something that I’m not sure worked, but it has made me want to blog more. Every morning at breakfast, I got to share ‘a thought for the day’. I definitely took inspiration from Miss Val and my old ‘Quote of the Week’ posts many of my social media pals used to tell me they liked but fell by the way side when I got seriously depressed a couple of years ago. I really wish I was one of those people that found creativity through their depression, but honestly? Depression just made me numb, unmotivated and stop writing every time I got to my keyboard. My mind would go blank and my brain would tell me there was no point anyway.

My car became a little sanctuary this year too. We didn’t have enough space in the minibus for all the campers to be transported at once, so each day 3-4 campers were transported in the Lavamobile to and from the surf lessons and trips offsite. It became a little collective of campers who found the minibus a little noisy and would come in with requests of whether we played The Greatest Showman soundtrack or my Disney playlist. It was where one camper who was starting to struggle with the intensity of living with 44 other people came to get space and came out of their shell as the debate began about everyone’s favourite (and least favourite) Disney songs and films. It gave me fond memories of all the transport and conversations that Cassie the Corsa provided back in the day.

I feel weirdly motivated and refreshed while simultaneously feeling totally wiped out since coming back. I dug into my bible this year more than ever before as I got challenged by campers who asked me questions about it. I scribbled in my journal more copying down thoughts and nuggets of wisdom from people far wiser than I.

And so let’s keep on keeping on.

And be glad of the sand, grass and mud that covers my car (and find a valet service, I think the clean up requires a professional with professional tools!)

 

Quote of the Week: Good Turns

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Sorry I’ve not blogged all week. I got sick with a yucky cold, and it was also Thinking Day this week. Thinking Day would have been enough, but we also had a last-minute planned celebration for one of the Guides who had achieved the highest honour you can as Guide – The Baden Powell Challenge Award. I’ve also been working out how to navigate a time of enforced change our organisation is putting my Rangers through. It’s been stressful, upsetting but also strangely encouraging. It’s rubbish to see the girls feeling unvalued, ignored and uncared for. On the flip side, I’ve had girls who have left my unit coming back hearing from those still here what’s been going on getting in touch and telling me what Girlguiding, and particularly Rangers has meant to them.

I’ve now been back volunteering with Girlguiding working with young women aging from 10 years to 21 years old for 6 years. I’ve now had the chance to watch these girls grow into adults and what Olave says is true. And what a privilege to see. There are girls that I tore my hair out over wondering if they’d ever see their own value, the change that a smile or a small act of kindness can bring. We persevered. We tried to set an example. And now I know that it really is worth it, because I have watched so many of them grow into kind, compassionate young adults who are willing to stand up for what is right, and show such kindness to people.

One of my role models who lives in the North East of Scotland, she often tells me on facebook that she can tell when girls are Brownies or Guides because of their attitude. She is always sending me words of encouragement and telling me about Girlguiding members she meets in her own community and how it makes her think of me and my fellow leaders. I love that. I really do.

And even though at the start of this week I all I wanted to do was curl up with a hot water bottle and hug a box of kleenex, I’m so glad that instead I was being the paparazzi Guide leader as the girls played pass the parcel and admired the congratulations cake (and consumed it). Because I realised that actually…it does all make a difference.

 

(Belated) Quote of the Week 23 – Fight the battle

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The last few months I’ve worked with my fellow leaders to support the Guides through a programme called Free Being Me. Our grand finale was to have the girls work with a photographer (my friend, Anneleen – who just had one of her photos published in the New York Times don’t ya know!) to design their own self portraits that reflect who they are as unique individuals as well as being sisters through Girlguiding.

Throughout the time doing Free Being Me the girls learned how to critically reflect on messages in the media, dealing with negative comments spoken over them, how to encourage friends and family members to be more confident in their own skin. They shared secret encouraging messages that they left in jars for each other during our meetings, had a wall of pictures and quotes they found encouraging and/or inspiring – and they shared it all with the public a few weekends ago.

When two of the girls were preparing a poster to explain about what they’d done during Free Being Me and their exhibition they wrote this (and I might add this is THEIR words, no leaders prompted anything – as we were busy trying to get a laminator to work and figure out double sided sticky tape respectively)

We’ve created this photo exhibition to help other people understand what we‘ve learned – that beauty within is more important than what you look like on the outside. There is too much pressure on girls to look a certain way in today’s society – our message is that everyone is beautiful in their own way. Doing our ‘Free Being Me’ badge has helped us to expose the beauty myth for what it is and learn that there’s far more to life than conforming.

A friend and fellow blogger posted a fun thing on facebook, asking several questions and everyone gave their answers in the comments. One of the questions was ‘If there’s one thing you could change about your body in an instant, what would it be??’ I wanted to cry as I saw answer after answer popping up on my feed. ‘Weight…baby belly…all the fat…weight…weight…

A few years ago I wrote a post on my old blog about learning to accept my body’s ‘quirks’. They are just part of what makes me – me! They make me recognisable. I had to laugh when my friend told me she recognised my back going up an escalator because “she recognised the hair”.

But that’s not all what makes me who I am. It’s when I dance around the kitchen singing along to the How I Met Your Mother theme tune. It’s being at work and once again managing to cover my chest in coffee or cream cheese scrubbing things at the end of the day. It’s not being able to understand how someone could get stuck in an airport with no phone because why wouldn’t you make sure you had a charger AND travel adaptor in your hand luggage when you travel. Along with a spare change of clothes “just in case”. Or how I’ll get the giggles at way my ballet teacher explains things. Or how I’ll whoop and cheer very loudly for my friends. Or why I’d rather be in a book shop than a clothes shop. And how much I hate going to night clubs…

The world is constantly trying to tell us what we should look like, how we should run our families, how we should enjoy spending our time and money.

Sometimes it matches up with who you are, and other times it will totally go against it.

Be yourself. It’s the best person you can be.

The world is better with you being YOU.

And to keep being yourself is a worthy battle to keep fighting for.