I grew up in a market town outside of Cambridge, England, moving to New Zealand in 2005. I went to four different primary schools, two high schools, and two different universities. The one constant through all this time was Guiding — a regular weekly meeting where fun was to be had, stories were shared, and skills were gained.

My journey as a volunteer with GirlGuiding started during my first year of NCEA, when I began helping a local Brownie group. My goal? To tick off enough hours to complete my community service requirements, and then depart so I could focus on my schoolwork. After a year, I had signed up as a permanent volunteer.

The reason for this change in mindset was simple: the girls. They make you smile when you’re not feeling your best, their world is full of creativity, and anything is possible. To be part of their journey, and to encourage them to reach their dreams is an incredible vocation. Working as a volunteer helps to weave our local communities together. It builds a network of relationships between our girls, parents, volunteers, and other members of the community who help out – through sponsoring events and gear, or simply by buying a packet of our well-loved biscuits.

As I continued with the Brownie group, I also started helping a local Guide group in a neighbouring suburb. Balancing these two commitments meant I learnt more about time management, confidence, and communication, as well as focusing on my first year of university.

Without Guiding, I wouldn’t be who I am today. As a volunteer, I was challenged not just in my adolescence, but as I emerged into adulthood as well. How was I supposed to deliver a programme on body confidence if I myself had insecurities with my body image? It enabled me to look at myself in a new way, and better support my girls in exploring their individuality and identity.

The highlight of my week are Wednesday evenings with my Rangers. From the in-jokes to personal development, from leadership to astronomy, these girls lead the programme and I act as their facilitator on their personal journey. It helps me feel close to my Grandmother, who was an avid member of GirlGuiding, and I want to build the same positive relationships with my girls and community that I was provided with as a girl.

Bryony Smith
Girl Guiding New Zealand

Interactive Volunteer Stories Map

This story was shared as part of our interactive map of volunteer stories from across Aotearoa, which we launched during #NVW2019. This map is filled with stories from volunteers throughout Aotearoa, New Zealand. This map celebrates the contribution of volunteers in their communities throughout Aotearoa. It aims to inspire people to engage in volunteering, Mahi Aroha and social action and to realise the benefits of weaving their communities together through their actions.