Andrea Hodgson wasn’t the first seven-year-old girl to let her disinterest in wearing a brown dress derail her plans to become a brownie.
“I think I would have loved it if I had stayed in it because I’ve had a wonderful experience as a leader,” said Hodgson, reflecting on her 10-years of service as a leader with Girl Guides of Canada.
After giving up brownies after just one meeting, Hodgson rejoined guides as a leader when she was 19. With her co-leader Linda Callander, a 25-year veteran guider, Hodgson continues to meet weekly with the 9- to 11-year-olds of Glanford Guides, in addition to organizing periodic camping trips.
Hodgson, also a district commissioner for Girl Guides of Canada, is always looking for new women interested in becoming volunteer mentors for her 10 groups – from sparks to pathfinders.
Flexibility, a good attitude and open-mindedness top Hodgson’s list of prime leader qualities. Being overly outgoing or enthusiastic isn’t necessary, she said.
“Even a quiet leader who is a little bit shy themselves would make a wonderful leader because those girls who are quiet and shy will be drawn to the same qualities (they posses) within themselves as within their leaders,” she said.
Larissa McCormick, now a ranger in Grade 11, has been with the organization since she was five, including having Hodgson as a “wonderful” pathfinder leader. McCormick hopes to continue with Girl Guides after next year – her last as a ranger.
“It’s taught me a lot about the importance of volunteering, of taking care of our world and the people in it,” McCormick said.
Throughout her volunteer service, Hodgson says one of the biggest rewards is meeting former guides and hearing how the program positively affected their lives and equipped the young women with practical life skills. Hodgson’s own foray into the organization had the same positive impact on her own life.
“I was really quiet and shy, had no clue what I was supposed to do,” she said of her first meeting as a leader. “It actually helped me blossom as a person, to come out of my own shell.”
Susie Mackie, spokesperson for 23,000 volunteer-strong Scouts Canada reflects the same attitude toward the type of leaders their organization is in constant need of, with a willingness to give time far more important than any natural leadership qualities.
“People are so busy in this day and age and they have a lot of commitments,” Mackie said. “So, we are always looking to recruit great adults, willing to make that commitment to the program.”
Hodgson is one of 366 guiders leading 1257 girls locally, in an increase of 150 members overall in the last year. For more information on how to volunteer or how to register a child next fall, call 250-383-1712, 1-800-565-8111 for the national office or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guiding the way
Founded 101 years ago, Girl Guides of Canada is Canada’s largest organization for women with approximately 100,000 girls and 20,000 adult members.
Girl Guides key areas of focus for growth and development: environmental awareness; decision-making skills and judgment; global awareness; leadership; outdoor skills; respect; responsible citizenship; relationships; and the value of a healthy, active lifestyle.
Volunteer roles include guiding and mentoring, administration, promotion and educational capacities.