An effort is underway to spread the word of “how awesome” the Girl Guide program is locally and how to get involved, with the organization facing a shortage of leaders on the Semiahmoo Peninsula
“Basically, we’re in a position in this district – which is sort of the South Surrey/White Rock area – where we’re in desperate need for leaders,” said Heather Seabrook, a volunteer with the Peninsula District Girl Guides.
“There’s been a ton of units that we’ve had to close down, with girls on wait lists, in the last year or two just because we haven’t had enough parents and other people in the community kind of step up.”
Nearly three dozen girls are currently waiting for a unit in the Peninsula District, she said.
The Girl Guide program – in Canada since 1910 – aims to prepare girls to face life’s challenges head-on, and “be a place that sparks the imagination of girls to take their place in the world and take action on what matters to them,” according to information on girlguides.ca
Seabrook’s involvement started when she was just a girl herself. Growing up in North Delta, she spent three years donning the brown dress and sash that was the uniform at the time, and decades later, still holds dear the memories she gleaned from the experiences.
Now 42, she has a further six years under her belt – not to mention her original Brownie uniform in her closet – as a parent volunteer; a role rooted in the possibility her own daughters’ unit might shut down.
“That’s how I got roped in… their unit was going to close and I stepped up, and oh, just amazing, especially when they go sell their cookies – it’s just so cute,” Seabrook said.
Seabrook noted the program is about so much more than many people envision when they think of Girl Guides.
“It’s very girl-first, so it’s very much driven by what the girls want to do,” she said. “Once they get to the Guide level, they’re running full meetings. It’s based on their interests.
“The program, it’s broken into so many different areas,” she continued. “People also think it’s just camping or outdoor stuff. Certainly, that’s at the core, but it’s also very much based on current times, and looking at what’s happening globally, and it’s really more of where the unit wants to go with it.”
Seabrook said signing up to volunteer with Girl Guides does not automatically mean a leadership role – there are many ways to get involved and support the units. As an example, while Seabrook herself has been a co-leader in the past, she is currently public relations adviser for the district. Other roles include helping with planning, leading a particular activity or simply being an extra body at meetings when needed.
And, she noted, volunteers do not have to have a daughter in the program.
They can be former Girl Guides looking to share and continue their experience; teachers and aides looking for volunteer hours; newcomers wanting to connect with their community; and more.
“There’s so many different places that people can come from to be a part of it,” Seabrook said. “At the end of the day, it’s just about having fun with the girls.”
Seabrook shared an experience that, as a co-leader of her daughter’s Guides unit last year, “brought tears to my eyes.”
After connecting with Chartwell Crescent Gardens retirement community, the girls made and sent the seniors crafts for the different seasons.
The seniors “ended up sending some back,” Seabrook said.
“Oh my goodness, it brings tears to anyone’s eyes, because they wrote letters back to all of our Guides and then they made crafts back to them, and so we got to deliver those to all the girls last year, and we kind of built this bond with the residents.”
Seabrook does not believe the pandemic has played a role in the current leader shortage; rather, a lack of understanding of the program, “and then having other people understand that this is an opportunity to get out and do something.”
The greatest need right now is for unit leaders in Sparks and Brownies, (ages 5-6 and 7-8, respectively). Free training, mentorship and pre-built meeting packages are among some of the supports available to those who step up.