Elaine guides girls in a new direction

Elaine Callaghan, the new Divisional Commissioner for the Guides tries out balloon modelling with  Caroline Adams, Anna Roger, Chloe Brown and Charlotte Scott.
Elaine Callaghan, the new Divisional Commissioner for the Guides tries out balloon modelling with Caroline Adams, Anna Roger, Chloe Brown and Charlotte Scott.

THERE’S a new leader at the helm of Morpeth Girlguiding and she is planning a major campaign to spread the word about its activities.

Morpeth resident Elaine Callaghan has taken over as Divisional Commissioner for the organisation, representing some 500 young members and 50 to 60 adult leaders.

Her area stretches from Stannington to Longhorsley, taking in Morpeth, Amble, Widdrington, Pegswood and Tritlington, and Mrs Callaghan is also continuing her leadership of the 2nd Morpeth Guides, based at Lancaster Park, as well as holding a full-time job as an interpreting manager.

But the 48-year-old is not daunted by her task as she has around 25 years’ experience of Guiding to support her.

“I have been involved with Guides since I was about seven,” she said.

“I was a Brownie and then a Guide, then a Ranger and when I went to college I was a Leader. I joined and never left.

“The role I have got now is more of a management one — it is to make sure the leaders are ok, and obviously the girls as well.

“The leaders look after the Guides on a day-to-day basis so as a Divisional Commissioner I’m responsible for making sure that the Guides and the leaders are happy and are getting all the opportunities available nationally, regionally and at a county level.

“Girlguiding is led by the girls so I will also get feedback from the leaders about what they want to do and things like whether they want to contribute to national research projects. It is a two-way thing.”

Guiding is open to girls aged five to 26, with age groups split into Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers. The organisation aims to give young women a voice, provide a unique girl-only space for them to develop, promote equality and diversity and be relevant to today’s young women.

Mrs Callaghan is responsible for supporting those objectives, as well as organising activities both in her own unit and in a wider context, such as a massive outdoor camping trip near Morpeth for more than 100 Guides, a Teddy Bears’ picnic, residentials and trips.

However, she is also looking to attract more leaders to the fold, and a promotional campaign is under way to show what Girlguiding can offer.

The ‘60 Things You Could Do As A Leader’ list shows activities ranging from zip wire to knitting, with everything in between, such as dancing classes, sailing, world travel, theatre, archery, car maintenance, white water rafting and tractor driving.

But Mrs Callaghan says that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“These are things that people have done through the Guides. We chose 60 because it ties in with the Queen’s Jubilee, and we couldn’t get any more on the page, but there are lots and lots of things that Guides do that we haven’t mentioned. There are just so many opportunities, I could go on forever more,” she said.

“If you fancy doing something you can bet your life the Guides will want to do it as well so there are always new activities to add.

“Years ago people saw Guides as old fashioned, but they are not, they are really up to date.”

One of the highlights of the Guiding year is a massive pop concert, while Mrs Callaghan has stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street with a group and another leader has recently taken part in a three-month trip to work in India.

However, the commissioner says the basics are just as important.

“I think it is the fun and friendship, as well as the opportunities, that are important,” she said.

“There are so many things I have done that I would never have done if I hadn’t been a Guide, some amazing things, and the job I do now I got because of the experiences I have had as a Leader and trainer for the Guides.

“You also meet new people. My family come from down south and when we moved here nine or ten years ago I knew nobody and I had no support network. Within days I had friends and I became part of the community through Guides. You get a chance to know people from all different walks of life.”

In addition to seeking unit leaders, the organisation is looking for helpers who may only be able to give a few hours a month.

“In any role in Guiding you are not just left on your own and there are people who will support you all the way through,” said Mrs Callaghan.

“We are always looking for new leaders. It is hard work at times, but it is great fun as well. There are some people who could help for maybe an hour a week, or others might be able to give a couple of hours a month in an administration role. They are all welcome to see what we have to offer.”

New members are also welcome to join the Friends of Guiding, which meet three times a year in Morpeth and organise coffee mornings to raise funds.

For more information contact Mrs Callaghan on 07531 900936 or email morpethdivisiongg@hotmail.co.uk

• A SPOT the Badge competition will soon be running in Morpeth shops to help promote the Guides.

Customers are invited to look out for the Guides’ Trefoil logo, which will be displayed in various shop windows.

Entry forms are available from The Sewing Box, Newcastle Building Society and all local Rainbow, Brownie and Guide units, with a prize for one of those recording the most badges.

The competition runs from Saturday, May 12 and completed forms should be handed into the Town Hall by Saturday, May 19.