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Transformation Story – Borden Guides

by on May 18, 2010

Good Day,

While I am sure that this may be a familiar story, I just wanted to take
a few minutes to outline what I see as a big threat to units as a result
of Transformation.

I was a Guider in Ottawa, where my Unit Administrator was very
accessible.  In addition, she was a very outgoing and positive person
who loved to help as was very willing to help direct Guiders to the
appropriate people for whatever our needs were.  She seemed to
understand our challenges and worked hard to help us overcome them.
Being in the same city as the UA was very helpful.

When I left Ottawa in June, I looked up who my new UA was going to be.
I email her to tell her I was coming and interested in being a Guider.
I got a curt email saying I had to contact the ACL instead as the UA
only dealt with girls not Guiders.  I emailed the ACL and heard nothing.
I emailed again in August, got a phone number and left messages and all
without a response.  I tried to find out where registration was going to
be and none of the info on the websites were accurate.  As it turns out,
none of the Guiders for either Angus or Borden Guide units (Borden is
basically the military base with Angus being the community surrounding
it) had returned thus there was no registration at all for Guides.
Finally in September I heard back from the ACL who said she had been
extremely busy with her business and just had not had time to get back
to everyone about their Guiding issues.  As I had no meeting place and
only 1 girl registered I was not even sure I could have a unit.  My
continued request for help in getting a meeting place, other Guiders and
girls went unanswered and I got no indication if I was even on anyone’s
radar.  Finally I got a meeting spot and in late October, held my first
meeting with just one Guide.  When her Mom picked her up she asked me
why I was not meeting on the Base with the Brownies who were holding
their meetings the same night.

Without a district, there was no continuity at all for me.  I had no
idea who was involved in Guiding in the area because even the Base
contact person had left that summer.  I had no idea what units were
around in either Angus or Borden let alone in other communities in the
area, and had no way to coordinate anything.  I ended up doing the unit
by myself with only 3 girls.  We had to do a lot with the Brownies which
really wasn’t very fun for my Guides.  The UA was all the way in
Newmarket, which is 45 mins away so I never go to the office and have
never met the UA or ACL in person in my 2 years in the community.

The story doesn’t end there.  One of the parents of my 3 girls decided
to volunteer this year as a Guider.  I got the info for the new ACL so
she could get paperwork started in May and could be a full Guider before
September.  She too heard nothing from the ACL until into September
which meant she was on pending status until December.  We got nothing
from our Community for Registration.  I had to go onto the website to
order packages and there was no support in advertising for the
Registration night even though we held it during the National
Registration week.  After Registration night, where we had one girl, we
participated (on our own) in the Base Community Recreation Expo, where
we got another 7-8 girls.  By our first meeting we had 10 girls plus
another Guider who had moved from New Brunswick.  She was shocked at the
shambles that was the Ontario structure.  By the middle of October we
were up to 18 girls because our 10 were talking to their friends at
school and more and more girls were interested.  They just had no idea
that there was a Guide unit in the area because we had no resources to
advertise.

With 18 girls, the $15 per girl of registration fees really doesn’t
cover much.  Because I had to order fall cookies when my unit only had 3
girls, we couldn’t maximize our cookie sales because we didn’t have
enough cookies.  Even with what cookies we could sell, we always had to
ask parents for money for any of our special events.  Most parents were
shocked to find out that $110 of their fee did not go to the unit.  Most
were fine with the $35 for National, understanding that the National
promotion, Guides stores and so on are funded from that level but even I
was at a loss to explain what Province was doing with $75 per girl.  We
had to pay just as much to go to a Guide Ontario sites to camp as we
would have to go elsewhere and the summer camps were relatively
expensive as well. For any girl that was on subsidy, I didn’t get my $15
for the unit either.  Most of my girls being under 12 years old, can’t
apply for the international camps as they are too young and I am still
searching for what Province provides that is worth $75.  I have done way
more for my girls on just $15 each then province has done with a full
$75.  Plus, to find out they are closing and selling camps because they
are not profitable, when it is a major effort to just find where they
are let alone book them for an event is ridiculous.

With the new model, I have basically no link with my UA and ACL.  For
next year I am not sure if I want to continue as I have other commitment
which make devoting enough time to Guides difficult.  My fear is that
there will be no one to take over as the other 2 Guiders are probably
not continuing either.  I don’t want my 18 girls who are really excited
about Guiding and looking forward to next year to miss out because I
don’t have time to volunteer.  Without a district I have no confidence
that anyone is out looking for potential new Guiders for my unit.

Added to all this is the crazy centralized banking.  While I understand
the value of not loosing money that is stored at a bank where no one
knows about it, the idea that a Guider has to personally go out of
pocket and wait for re-imbursement is ridiculous.  I may have the
financial freedom to do that but other don’t and it is not fair to
punish the Guiders or girls.  There has to be a way to allow for units
to pay for events that don’t take Visa without expecting the Guider to
personally cover the costs.

To sum up, I am worried that the lack of local levels will result in
units disappearing where there is a high turnover rate (such as near
military bases).  I am concerned that the trouble finding Guiders will
get worse as no one wants to have to fight to volunteer and making it
tough to get a unit started in a new area will really turn off many
potential Guiders.  We also need a link to other Guiders in the area so
we can do combined events with girls of the same age. My suggestion,
keep the districts…if they then want a community model great but don’t
cut the legs off the table and expect it to stay up.

To compete with sports, gymnastics, skating, dance and Scouts, we need
to make sure Guiding is visible and that the Units have resources to
help make the year fun.  We need robust communication lines so info
about major events (like the 100th Anniversary Rally) can get out to
everyone with enough time to plan.  We need people to be able to support
the new Guiders who are trying to get established and may not have had a
lot of previous Guiding experience.  I think District Commissioners,
even as volunteers, have a lot of value over a single full time employee
in another city.

If I can help promote the changes that are needed to help solve some of
what I am sure are my shared frustrations with the current organization
of Guiding in Ontario, please let me know.

Thanks,

Catherine M.
2nd Borden Guides

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3 Comments
  1. Leigh-Anne Stratton permalink

    I cannot believe that the “powers that be” are aware of this website and are still not listening.

    I cannot believe that the Guiders that “volunteer” their time are still not being heard.

    I cannot believe that Province has the future state of Guiding in Ontario and the GIRLS best interest at heart because we haven’t seen any corrective actions thus far……BUT
    I CAN BELIEVE in the WOMEN and GIRLS who truly CARE
    (ON MY HONOUR)….
    Leigh-Anne Stratton
    GUIDING PARENT

  2. Elaine Robb permalink

    Very well put Catherine. When Guiding “changed” in Ontario, I was a District Commissioner for Kawartha District, Peterborough Division, Central Area. As I was not in one unit, but helped in all units when needed, I was completed cut off from Guiding. I did join Trefoil, which I really enjoy, but Trefoil too is not included in the loop.

    It has been very sad to see Guiding doing such a land slide. I truly miss summer camp, have gone for the past 20 years, taken a week of my holidays, gone to Camp Adelaide in Haliburton and had a wonderful time. I don’t know what it will take for Ontario to turn things around, but they better do something soon before Guiding is only a memory.

    I do hope and pray that you can still find the time to keep making a difference in these young lives. I have a Guiding t-shirt that reads: “Guding is….touching a life forever”.

    Yours in Guiding,

    Elaine Robb

  3. denise permalink

    Catherine
    You are very wise in your observations and they are just what many, many Guiders have expressed. If only we can make Province understand what we are trying to communicate. No one is listening and that is our point. “Robust communication” is what we need and parachuting people in to places that are not local is not helping the situation. I would say that retaining Districts is what should have happened. But if people are willing to hear our voices, it is not too late.
    It is all up to the “powers” that be. That is why we are communicating so that our voices can be heard. I hope we can make a difference. Thanks for your contribution!! Yours in Guiding. D.

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