It’s a cold winter night on the hill at Turvey Park, but inside the Guide Hall, things are warming up as a group of around a dozen girls excitedly run through the night’s activities under the supervision of a handful of leaders and volunteers.
“One of the great things about Guides is that it’s girl-led,” says leader Claire Baaten with a smile.
“They come up with the ideas of what they want to do and we just help them get there.”
Originally from Dubbo, Claire started in the junior Guides as a “Brownie” at just seven years old and says her first attempt to earn a merit badge didn’t quite go to plan.
“We had a pack holiday, or a camp when I’d been there for about two weeks and that was great,” she explains.
“I got to do my hostess badge and my mum had to come and I remember that I made her a cup of coffee with cold water!
“I still got the badge though,” she laughs.
Claire remained in the Guides for over a decade, camping, cooking, hiking, attending the annual jamboree events and serving the community.
After moving to Wagga to study, she became a leader of the Turvy Park Girl Guides and now brings her own daughters along.
“I really like camping and the outdoors, so once I got my leadership quals [qualifications] I next got my camping quals so I could take the girls camping, and a couple of years ago I also got my archery qualifications, because I always thought that would be cool,” she smiles.
For the girls themselves, there’s a broad range of answers when asked what they love about being a Guide.
Eve, Nicola, Jess, Trinity and Abby are between 10 and 11 and are eager to talk about their favourite activities.
“Cooking!” says Eve with a double thumbs up.
“We cook cookies, damper and s’mores.”
Nicola prefers adventures.
“We go outdoors a lot and I love camping and trying new things,” she says to a chorus of agreement.
“I like big bell tents because I have the pole in the middle and I like spinning around it,” says Jess, miming a twirl.
“I like making new friends,” chimes in Trinity.
“Me too, I love making friends,” echos Abby.
“The Guides sleepover we did last holidays was great,” says Jess with a giggle.
“We went to the zoo, watched a movie and slept here in the hall!”
Nicola remembers something else.
“I like holding service events like the fete we held last term, it was really fun.”
Leader Claire explains that ‘service events’ are one of the fundamentals of the program.
“We organised a fete as a service activity to raise money for the CWA for flood relief,” she says.
“The girls raised $560 for the CWA, so that was pretty good.”
She says the guides work from a list of seven fundamentals, ranging from ‘enjoying the outdoors’ to ‘experiencing leadership development’.
“Our mission statement was rejigged a couple of years ago,” says Claire.
“It’s – empowering girls and young women to discover their potential as leaders of their world.”
She says they are always looking for women to volunteer and share their skills and experience with the Guides.
“We welcome anyone that has a useful skill that they’d like to share – rockclimbing, archery or even somebody who really likes cooking.”
To learn more about the Turvey Park Girl Guides head to their Facebook page here.