Created July 19, 1997 - Last updated January 3, 1998

Compiled by Jennifer Walker, Edmonton AB

A Letter from a Young Guider and responses

I have been pleased with the comments I have read about encouraging young women (and especially Sr. Branches and Link members) to become Guiders and take on adult responsibilities within Guiding. However, simply encouraging them to volunteer is not enough. They also need to be accepted by other Guiding members and encouraged in their work. Too often young Guiders face serious challenges as others regard them as young and inexperienced. As a 21-year old Guider of a Ranger unit, with a co-Guider the same age, I have faced a number of challenges in the past year as I have been adapting to my new role. Many Guiders still mistake me for a member of the unit rather than the Guider. At Area camping events I have been asked who the Guider is that I was filling in for -- and these individuals respond with surprise when I reply that I am not just taking the girls camping, that I am the actual Guider of the unit. Many adults in Guiding fail to recognise the skills and talents of young leaders. Often, mothers who volunteer are welcomed, valued, and given more responsibility than young leaders from the Senior Branches or Link age groups. This is regardless of the fact that the Mother may know nothing about Guiding, and have no previous experience working with groups of children. By contrast, young leaders have risen through the branches of Guiding and are familiar with Guiding's values, goals, and programs. They have learned leadership and interpersonal skills and many have worked in units during their time as youth members. Thus, the lack of respect shown puzzles me. I know that there are many people who disapprove of the fact that my Ranger unit is headed by two very young individuals. My co-Guider and I have spent the year watching every step we take in order to meet all the requirements and regulations possible, knowing that we cannot afford to make mistakes -- the last thing we need is to have people saying me did something worng because we are young. People think we are too inexperienced and too close to the girls in age to be able to effectively deal with issues such as discipline, or to handle emergencies. But somehow our unit has managed to flourish this year. The unit has been more active than it has been for several years past, despite reduced numbers. The girls have expressed their contentment with both the leadership and programming of the unit. Now that their Guiders have learned the ropes, so to speak, the unit is planning even bigger and better things next year, and the recruitment of new girls into the unit in September looks promising.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that young leaders be welcomed alongside of older Guiders and included in social events. I don't mean just invitations to trainings or teas -- but included in the discussions which go on, and the bonding and sharing between women. Granted, we do not have the same life experiences -- but this does not mean that we cannot relate, or that we are not interested in knowing more. I admit that I do not have a child o my own, and I do not know what it is like to be a parent. But through other experiences I have encountered more situations than you can possibly imagine -- I have sat up all night with a sick child, I have kissed sore knees, grieved over a lost loved one, felt pride at a child's accomplishment, carefully disciplined countless children without raising my voice, rejoiced at the children who shared their problems and allowed me to support them, and cried bitter tears of heartbreak when I have failed to reach a child who is hurting -- so I can share in your parental discussiosn and worries. I am not married, but I hope to be some day and I want you to share your experiences and advice with me so that I will know what to expect and how to make my marriage work when the time comes. There are so many ways in which we can learn from each other -- but you have to give me -- and young Guiders like me -- a chance, or you will never know what you have missed. I am tired of standing in the corner talking to the Junior Leader and the Camp Adviser, who are the only other under-thirty year olds in the room.

Okay, I guess I've said enough ... I hope I don't sound bitter or angry, becasue that was not my intent -- I just wanted to stress how important this is. And, of course, there have been individuals who have welcomed me and other young Guiders with open arms, and made us feel valued members of the Guiding team. Susan and I are lucky, because our Division Council has been very supportive, particularly our Division Commissioner, who has allowed us the opportunity to share our skills, prove our worth, and to learn, learn, learn!

Marianne Mitchell


You have very eloquently stated what so many young Guiders seem to feel - that they are not recognized for their accomplishments, or for the dedication and commitment that they have given Guiding by the time they are in their early twenties and want to give something back. But be assured that there are many, many Guiders out there who understand that this is an issue we have to address, and quickly. Those of us who were at the National Forum would tell you that this was a frequent topic of discussion - how to best retain and utilize and recognize the achievements of those girls who we have nurtured through the Organization. There really wasn't an easy answer, but there was certainly lots of support for Guiders like yourself. I don't consider myself an "old" Guider by any means (let's just say that I'm under 40), and I started as a Guider when I was about 26 - and had just (barely) become a mother. Nothing made me more proud than to attend the National Forum with one girl from my own Province who had been one of my Guides my first year as a leader, and one who was a girl in the Patrol that I had at Guelph '93. I have very often called on the skills of a particular member of our Area who, like you, has also come up through the ranks, and especially valued her recent camp experience, current qualifications, and the way that she could "relate" to the girls, whether Guides or Rangers.

Please keep letting people know how you feel, don't get discouraged, and remember that your voice IS being heard by many out there who hope that as the Organization moves forward into the next millenium that we WILL more adeqately appreciate the girls we have helped to create.

Robin O'Hara

Marianne, your post brought tears to my eyes...your words were eloquent and heartfelt. It did not appear to be a 'soapbox' to me...I am glad you took the time to share with all of us. My words of support for you is just to wait...time cures all things!

You brought back many memories. I was a member of an active Link unit for 4 years while attending University. During that time I first 'helped' then ran a Ranger unit. Because I was Link, the District didn't even bother to register me as a Guider, even though I was with the unit (with only 1 other Guider who could never attend any of the camps) for two years! Immediately after graduation I moved from Guelph, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta, and the first thing I did was phone the Guide Centre. By the fall, I was opening a new unit with a mother who had never been in Guides. I experienced many of the same things that you experienced...the feeling of not being accepted because I was 'too young'. My way of adapting was to find all the other 'young leaders' to chat with at gatherings, and just keep right on going full of enthusiasm. I became D.C. (and my deputy was also under 25!). During these years I just kept being involved and having lots of fun. Eventually I got married and had a child (it was a big last District meeting took place the night before she was born!), moved to Mississauga, Ontario and became involved in Guiding there. At first I went through a bit of the same period of adjustment 'You've been a Guider for HOW MANY YEARS? HOW OLD ARE YOU?', but as I aged, the comments stopped. When my daughter was a Spark, and during her first year of Brownies I stayed with my Guides. Finallly, I decided that I really should spend my time WITH HER and became a Brownie leader when she started her 2nd year. Now she is a first year Guide, and I am once again a Guide Guider. I am now 'over 30', so I don't get comments about being a 'young Guider' anymore! :-{

So hang in there! There are many Guiders who do really appreciate the expertise of a Guider who has 'come through the ranks' as a girl member. Your valuable treasure trove of camping lore, games, and songs just cannot be picked up in basic training. As a younger Guider, the girls can relate to you better, because you aren't a 'mother figure'. There is a need for all of the diversity in our Guiders...that is what makes us special!

Maureen Dodd

Hi Marianne, excellent letter.

I know what you're going through from seeing my daughter faced with the same challenges. Oddly enough she finds it harder to be taken seriously by those who have known her all her life than those who she has met more recently. I guess its a case of people not realizing that time has gone by and she really is all grown up.

What puzzles me most about those who don't put any confidence the younger Guiders is, what were they doing at the same age? When I was my daughter's age I was married, had a child, was in a responsible job and in the process of purchasing our home - why on earth would I turn around then and say that she at the same age now is too young to be responsible? It doesn't make sense, and yet I see it go on all the time. Hey, they are no different than we were, let's give them the chance!

Kathy Pechmann

I share your frustration -- and I'll never be young again! As a middle-aged Guider, I find some older Guiders hopelessly unwilling to listen to the new ideas of *my* age group!!! Even my own age group who've been in Guiding for a longer time than I are resistant.

Some I think *are* threatened, others just too busy / unable to learn or try something new... After all, once you finally get something down pat, you can get on with other things!! And then having to unlearn something and take on something new -- well, it's a pain sometimes!!

Boy,that was sure riding the top rail of the fence, wasn't it! "You're only young once, but you can be young-at-heart forever!"

Barb Wright

My personal pet peeve is along the same line...don't discount new or relatively inexperienced Guiders either. When attending conferences/trainings etc try to be warm and welcoming to everyone. Often I find that people are so caught up in renewing old friendships that they sometimes neglect making new ones. I enjoy Guiding a lot but it is ironic that I have found myself feeling lonely while in the middle of a room of Guiders.

Basically you cannot judge a book by its cover...a young Guider may be the worlds best camper, or craft person, or whatever. The gray harried Guider could be a wealth of information and ideas, or be unfortunately stuck in the past unwilling to move forward! As Marianne pointed out...a Guider with no children does not automatically know nothing about children...and (one of my personal favourites) a Guider without a job outside the home or without children does not necessarily have the time to do the jobs no one else wants!

Just a few of my thoughts!

Nathalie Vanasse (who wants the sisterhood of Guiding to work all the time!)

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