Outside interest: Girlguiding

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 20 May 2015

Rapleys' planner Hannah Thomas-Davies formed a Girlguiding group following the London riots of 2011. As a 'guider' she is in charge of activities for a group of a dozen girls and young women, based in Brick Lane in the East End. Girlguiding is the leading charity of for girls and young women in the UK, with 100,000 volunteers.

How did you get into Girlguiding?

I had been volunteering for Girlguiding for a few years and when I moved to London I wanted to set up a new group; the main purpose was to engage girls in the kind of activities they wouldn't otherwise get the opportunity to undertake, as part of a uniformed organisation. After the riots of 2011 the Department for Communities and Local Government launched a fund to help people set up youth groups in deprived parts of the country. My group was one of the beneficiaries: this part of London, Spitalfields and Banglatown, ranks at about 450 out of 34,000 areas of deprivation across the UK.

What does it involve?

We meet every Tuesday for an hour of activities. Right now the team is working towards their performing arts badge and we have space outdoors for games and camp fires: many of the girls live in high-rise blocks with only a balcony for an external play area; while some are not allowed out on their own, so a large open space is important for our activities. Another badge is the 'be constructive – go-for-it' badge, which teaches about women in construction, science and technology, even elements of neighbourhood planning in terms of what makes a place better. Our biggest event last term was to visit the House of Commons.

Why do you do it?

It's great to see young people develop. I love teaching them things that to you and me may seem normal behaviour but to them are unknown, such as networking. Many of the girls at the House of Commons visit had never been to an event where you are expected to mingle and approach people. They found it strange, but a crucial role of mine is to impart a spirit of independence and self-confidence.

What’s the toughest thing about it?

Girlguiding takes lots of preparation and it can be disheartening when only one or two girls turn up on a Tuesday evening. Also juggling your day job with all the admin tasks of Girguiding, such as accounts and marketing the unit, can be a bit of a chore.

What's the most rewarding thing about it?

Seeing the girls get excited about doing things they have never done before – even if it's something as simple as making puppets - gives me immense pleasure: one girl came up to me after a camp-fire exercise and said 'Girlguiding is simply the best'.

Are there any similarities between your day job and being a Girlguiding leader?

The main similarities are on the communication and management side. When talking to a 10 year old you have to communicate clearly; the same is true of planning where you have to speak to a variety of different people, all be it older.

Do you have any unusual interests or hobbies that you would like to tell us about? If so, please email planning@haymarket.com