Spring Update from Diane

March 30, 2022

An update from Diane, British Girguiding Overseas' Chief Commissioner

Hello everyone

I’m writing my Spring blog while sitting in Gibraltar airport as at long last I have been able to travel to meet girls, young women and adult volunteers again.

However before I tell you about what I have been doing in Gibraltar, let me go back to the start of 2022. The year started quite positively for us all with more and more units being able to return to guiding in person. I’m sure for these units it was wonderful for everyone to be back together again. Unfortunately, yet again, by February some units were meeting back on zoom as spikes of Covid were recorded throughout BGO. The resilience of our girls and volunteers during these yo-yo times is remarkable and clearly shows the determination that so many have to keep things going as normally as possible during these times. Happily, the spikes calmed down and I’m delighted to say that now there are very few areas of BGO which are not meeting in person in some way.

This meant that in March, Hazel and I were able to go to, and to be part of the training team at the BeneLux and France County training weekend held in l’Ile de France. There were 35 volunteers at the weekend event which was brilliant. The theme of the weekend was « reinvigoration and reconnection Girlguiding style » and on the programme was outdoor cooking, managing mixed units, fundraising, scavenger hunts, wide games, well-being, inclusion and diversity and crafts and 5 minute fillers with a reason. A huge thank you to the commissioner team and volunteers in i’ile de France district for organising the weekend and to the training team of Adele and Lynne who led amazing sessions.

We also had a couple of surprises up our sleeves during the weekend. On Saturday Hazel was lost for words when we presented her with the Girlguiding National Laurel Award. Her family, far flung BGO members and some of her guiding family in the Midlands joined us via zoom for the presentation and in true Hazel style, once she had found her voice, she preferred to tell us that she had just received one of the highest volunteer honours due to the teams she guided with rather than because she is the brilliant volunteer we know her to be and that she always, always goes above and beyond ! Many many congratulations Hazel – you are a total star !

On Sunday we surprised Christine Salisbury when we awarded her the BGO Chief Commissioner award, the Silver Compass. Christine has been Brown Owl for many a year (it’s OK Christine, I’m not going to go into that much detail here!) and was District Commissioner for l’Ile de France between 2004-2009. She has always worked tirelessly behind the scenes at local, BeneLux and France county and BGO region events. Her macaroons are legendary as is her total kindness, unselfishness and dedication to guiding. Christine is the first recipient of our highest region award. Congratulations Christine !

And this brings me to my visit to Gibraltar, my first visit outside of France for 2 years and how wonderful it has been. Maria and Claire looked after me brilliantly during the weekend – thank you ladies. On Friday I went to 11th Brownies led by Karen and Sarah and I joined the girls in planning a garden and theme park. I listened to their ideas about what improvements could be done in the gardens in Gibraltar and on Saturday when I visited these gardens, I fully understood why they had offered the suggestions that they had. I had a great time with Maria, Claire and Katrina, the commissioner team at dinner on Friday evening and it was interesting to hear about the progress they have made with their strategic plan and those areas where they would like to concentrate their efforts next. On Saturday morning I visited the sites and premises where all the units meet. They are fantastic with so many cupboards and all Girlguiding volunteers will appreciate my wide eye wonder at cupboards in the meeting place ! Then we went to Rock Lodge which is Girlguiding Gibraltar’s own all section holiday house to join the 1st and 2nd Brownie packs for lunch and activities during their weekend pack holiday. I was delighted to join in with rock painting, listen to three Brownies make their promise and admire the yummy cookies that they had made. On Saturday evening I met Karen, Sarah, Francesca, Lucianna and Sally and we chatted about all things guiding and not. It was great to be invited back to Brownie Pack Holiday on Sunday for more Brownie fun, watch the talent show, join in the presentation ceremony and to help everyone at the end. Thank you Katy, Moira, Gemma, Lee, Hannah and Kathleen for your wonderful welcome and letting me join in.

As I sit here at the airport I am once again bowled over by the extremely warm welcome, enthusiasm, dedication and guiding spirit that I find within all parts of BGO. Wherever I go it is like visiting extended family and within a short time I feel part of the local Girlguiding team thanks to the girls and volunteers.

I’m looking forward to going to the Friends of BGO AGM on Saturday. This group of ex-BGO ladies and gentlemen support BGO with fundraising, logistical support in getting items to far flung areas of BGO and offering their very warm welcome to BGO members returning to the UK. It’s always a pleasure to see them and again this will be the first time in 2 years that we will be together. My thanks to them all for all that they do.

And after, I will return home, have fun with the units and district I guide with and finalise plans for my next visits.

I’ll be back in touch in the summer for my final blog before handing over to the next BGO Chief Commissioner. Remember if you are interested in applying for the role please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions and also keep an eye on the BGO website and your emails as details of the role and how to apply will be sent out soon.

As always, thank you for all that you do to ensure that BGO is the very special region that it is.

With my best wishes Diane