Girl Guides programs in Maple Ridge are under threat of shutting down if the Alouette District doesn’t get more adult leaders.
“It’s typically been an ongoing concern having to find the adults,” said Alannah Olah, 26, an Alouette District commissioner
“These last two years have been extremely difficult, our numbers in girls dropped over 100 because we didn’t have the adults to fulfill the needs of the girls.”
Girls as young as five can join sparks and can graduate to Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders, then Rangers.
“We’re not the old school 1900s women’s club anymore,” said Olah. “Our girls are orienteering, they’re hiking, canoeing … we’re doing lots of outdoor things, but we balance that out, sometimes our girls ask for a craft.”
But the Alouette District is having trouble finding adult leaders to commit to the Girl Guides program, which started in Canada in 1910.
The Alouette District covers from 287th to 228th streets and has 170 girl members in addition to 30 adult leaders.
“We’re finding a lot of parents, because there is more than one child in the family, they don’t have the time, or their jobs don’t permit them to be available in the evening,” said Olah.
Each unit needs a minimum of two adult leaders, depending on the ratio of adults to children.
“As they get older… [the girls] realize that if we can’t find adults, we can’t run their program, which means they don’t have a unit to go to next year.”
So far, Olah said they have been able to keep at least one unit in every branch open, but that might not be the case moving forward.
“As of next year, I think I only have two Brownie leaders, maybe three, and one Spark leader,” she said.
Olah has been a Girl Guide for 21 years and an adult leader since she was 19.
“Girls that I met at five years old who didn’t go to my school, who didn’t live near me, but were in my girl guides unit, I still talk to them 21 years later,” she said.
Girl Guides provides adventure, Olah said. It’s what keeps her committed to the organization.
“I don’t think the adults realize that it’s also fun for them … the opportunities are endless, I’ve travelled around the world because of Girl Guides.”
The group does put a call out to students at Douglas College who might be in need of volunteer hours, but Olah said it’s only a temporary fix. Eventually, those students fulfill their required hours or graduate.
She also posts to Facebook.
“You don’t have to have a kid to be a leader,” Olah said.
Unit meetings are Monday through Thursday, from about one to two hours.
Once every three or four months, the group holds a planning meeting and then there are camping trips and sleepovers, which Olah said are not mandatory.
“The girls do enjoy going camping and having sleepovers at other places … but having the consistency of a weekly meeting is what we’re looking for to keep those kids involved and active in the unit,” she said.
Some other activities Girl Guides in Maple Ridge organize are trips to senior centres, litter pick up and cookie sales.
“If there were no girl guides in Maple Ridge, there would be a huge impact on the morale of seniors and the environment,” Olah said.
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