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Girlguiding South West England

Volunteers at Compass Award Tea Party

We were thrilled that the Region’s first post-pandemic, face-to-face event was able to go ahead on Saturday 11th September with the Region’s Annual Compass Award Presentation at the White Hart Hotel in Salisbury. 

Due to lockdown restrictions, last year’s presentations were held online so it was really special for us to be joined by 35 of our amazing volunteers, their guests and their County and Island Commissioners from across the Region to shout out about their achievements and celebrate their Awards.  We held two separate tea parties, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and further virtual presentations were also held on the day for some volunteers who were unable to join us in person.  A number of other Compass Awards will be presented at forthcoming County and Island events with a total of 48 fabulous Region volunteers being recognised in 2021.

Laura Cottey makes welcome speechLaura Cottey, the Region’s Chief Commissioner, gave a heartfelt welcoming address in which she reminded everyone about the invaluable support our volunteers receive from Girlguiding’s unsung heros – the families, friends and fellow volunteers who help load and transport camping equipment, do a last-minute dash to buy or deliver forgotten craft materials to unit meetings, and who are on hand in an emergency to iron a uniform!  ‘Whatever it is you do to support our volunteers in whatever capacity, thank you’ said Laura.

Listening as the award citations were read out was, as always, a humbling experience.  To hear how much our amazing volunteers do for their girls and to promote Girlguiding locally, but particularly so during the past year when face-to-face meetings were not allowed.  Our incredible Leaders turned obstacles into opportunities to learn new skills and find new ways to enable Guiding to continue – as Jean Huish, a Rainbow, Brownie and Guide Leader from Jersey and a Compass Award recipient was quoted as saying, ‘If local Guiding groups could continue to meet during the Occupation, then they could continue through a pandemic’!  We heard how our Leaders learned to use Zoom in order to be able to continue unit meetings online, and how they in turn helped parents and carers to access Zoom so their girls wouldn’t miss out.  Unit meetings were opened to other units whose own Leaders were unable to offer virtual meetings themselves.  There were virtual camps and sleepovers, a Harry Potter themed escape room, quizzes, online crafts, and tutorials to help other Leaders.  Activity packs were sent out by text, e-mail or via Facebook groups, and doorstep deliveries were made termly or weekly.  One Leader gave tomato plants to every girl in her unit so they could continue with their Growing badge.  Online visits were arranged to keep the girls entertained and engaged:  clay modelling and Bollywood classes, a Zoom call with an Alpaca farmer from the USA, pancake making with a chef from a local restaurant, a visit from a goat and another from Father Christmas! 

When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, another of our recipients, Laura Johns, a Leader with 1st Mylor Brownies in Cornwall, set up the Cornwall Vitrtual Guide Camp Facebook Group.  She posted a new activity every day which could be used for unit meetings and virtual sleepovers and encouraged everyone in the County to get involved.  Leaders found the camp group a great way to stay in touch with Guiding and it also provided them with an opportunity to ‘meet’ fellow Leaders from around the County.  Parents too were very grateful for the activities that kept their girls busy while they were home from school.  The group now has over 200 members and Laura’s citation read, ‘For some, this constant interaction with others has been a salvation during dark times and it helped to brighten the days of those who were furloughed or shielding’. 

Our Compass Award recipients were described as being a ‘Guiding light’ by Laura Cottey, who asked them to return to their Divisions and Districts and to ‘Shout out and celebrate your achievements and encourage others to follow your example’.  She was keen to emphasise that whilst receiving the Award is recognition of what our volunteers have done for Girlguiding, it is also a wonderful opportunity to encourage others to follow their example.  ‘Share your enthusiasm, your skills, knowledge and expertise, particularly with those who are returning to face-to-face Guiding or who are joining us as new members…. Feel empowered and inspired by your Award and wear your badge with pride’.

As the morning presentations closed, we were thrilled to witness Laura presenting Sally Carmicheal, Island Commissioner for Guernsey, with her Silver Oak Leaf (pictured above).  It was clearly a huge surprise for Sally – although she said she had wondered why her travelling companions had insisted she make an exception and wear shoes to the Compass Tea rather than her usual flip-flops!

The deadline for nominations to be considered at the next meeting of the Awards Sub-committee is 20th December 2021.  If you know someone who should be recognised for their commitment to Girlguiding in the Region, please let us know!  Click here for more information about the Region’s Awards and how to make a nomination.


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Girlguiding South West England is an operating name of The Guide Association South West England. Registered Charity No. 305951