Voyage Award: Bronze Level

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Just over two years ago I started doing the Bronze level of my Voyage Award. For those who don't know, the Voyage Award is a chance for members of the Trefoil Guild to create their own adventures and meet personal challenges. There are three levels of the award: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each level has the same five sections and the same activity cannot be used for more than one section. Cue me thinking about things that I've always wanted to try and deciding where I can make them fit. Most things seem to fall under Myself or Skills so I don't think I'll have an issue choosing things for Silver and Bronze. In the meantime though, here is an account of the Bronze level of my Voyage Award.

Service - 40 hours
While Service is the first section in my record book, it was actually the section that took me the longest to decide what to do. I already do a lot of volunteering for Girlguiding, but since the idea of the award is to try new things, I couldn't use something that I was already doing. I started doing Rainbows (a section I'd never worked with before) in June 2015 which I thought would be perfect, but a change of job meant that I soon had to give up that role and I hadn't accumulated enough hours. I decided to put it on the back burner for a while and come back to it. After all the Voyage Award is a personal challenge with no time limit. I was in no rush.

Towards the end of last year I was working through my annual record form for my Trainer Qualification and I wanted to cry. I hadn't done as many sessions as I felt I should have, my paperwork was in a mess and my personal development plan made no sense to anyone, let alone me. I was having issues in other areas of my guiding life at that time and with this on top of everything else, I was close to just giving it all up.

The bottom line though was that I didn't want to give up. I'd worked bloody hard on my Trainer Qualification and to this day I can still remember one of my Peer Educator friends telling me that I'd make an amazing Trainer. I lacked confidence and I was badly organised, but that was not a reason to give up everything I had worked for. I emailed the Region Trainer Coordinator and copied in my County Guiding Development Coordinator with my concerns (specifically about my PDP) and I had lovely responses back from both of them. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried.

I have been involved with training in guiding since 2010 (longer if you include Peer Education) so I could hardly count this as a new role, but with everything that had been going on in my life, I had let this area really slip. Could I use the New Year as a reset and work my butt off to be the best Trainer that I could be? The Voyage Award is all about personal challenge so why not?!

I started my PDP from scratch and decided what I really wanted to gain from being a Trainer for Girlguiding. One of the first things was that I wanted to try and accept more requests for sessions that I wouldn't normally consider doing. I was also scared about chairing a Trainers' Support Group meeting as I feel that everyone is so much more experienced than me so I made a note that I want to chair a meeting with confidence (even if I happened to be faking that confidence at the time). Lots of little things that I hadn't realised were getting to me went on my plan and more than six months on I am loving training again.

Since January I have already delivered more sessions than I did in the whole of last year. These have included a session on Social Media and Blogging for a group of GOLD participants and running a workshop at a Region event aimed at improving volunteer retention. I would never have picked events like these before! Earlier this year we also had our biennial Trainers' Conference weekend. I threw myself into it and enjoyed every moment. Events like that tend to tip my anxiety over the edge, but having what I wanted to get out of the weekend on my PDP really helped me to stay focused. 

Things are starting to wind down for the summer now which is a great time for me to reflect and makes updates and changes to my PDP. I have lots planned for the autumn already and for once I am not panicking about it all. I'm even looking at ways in which I can use my training skills outside of guiding.

Myself - 40 hours
I started the Bronze level of my Voyage Award on my 31st birthday and it was on that day that I decided to spend my birthday money on a Fitbit. At the time I was unhappy with my weight and even more unhappy with my appalling lack of fitness. I made the decision that I was going to use the Fitbit to monitor my daily step count and try to gradually increase it. I began walking to work virtually every morning from Orpington to Bromley. As time went on I would leave earlier and explore different routes, gradually making them longer and longer. Sometimes I would even walk home, but I have to say that was a rare occurrence. 

I soon clocked up the hours that I needed and what's more I enjoyed listening to music, audio books and podcasts on the walk in. I really began to enjoy the time I had to myself. In addition to my walks to work, I also started going to my local parkrun on a Saturday morning and getting up early to walk on a Sunday too. It was addictive, but in a good way. I felt so much better and doing it at the start of the day left me with so much energy for the rest of the day. One little thing that really made me take notice of how my fitness had changed was when I returned to Rainbows in September. The previous term I had struggled to sit on the floor cross-legged for any period of time and getting up was a serious effort. In my first week back I did it without even thinking and it was only after the girls had gone home that I realised how much easier I'd found it.

At the end of September I started my new job which meant my morning walks decreased from over an hour to just an half an hour. Then in January my circumstances changed again and I had to drive myself to and from work so my walks became non-existent. As I said previously, I'd already done enough hours, but by the spring I was really missing my "me" time. You may remember from a previous post that I decided to walk 600,000 steps over 60 consecutive days to raise money for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and I have no doubt in my mind that if I hadn't started walking for my Voyage Award then I wouldn't have managed to complete that little challenge that I set myself. 

I also have another little challenge coming up next year, that some of you will already know about, but as I'm planning to write about that in the not too distant future, I'll leave that for now. Suffice to say that the Voyage Award is all about setting yourself a personal challenge and this is one that has stayed with me and I hope to benefit from it for a long time to come.

Teamwork - 10 hours (including one event lasting at least two hours)
Teamwork was always going to be a tough one for me. I do so much in and out of guiding that I try my hardest not to join any committees for special camps/events/outings for fear of burning myself out. I do what I enjoy and more importantly I do what I feel I am good at. If I do too much then I end up spreading myself too thin and doing everything half-heartedly. I really admire the people who are able to go everything they do their all, but sadly I don't think I'll ever be like that. However I needed to complete the Teamwork section if I wanted to gain my Bronze award so I went on a mission to find something. 

In July 2015 Chislehurst Division held a weekend camp for its members with a theme of "Summer Party". Meeting nights were changed around to accommodate as many of us as possible and while I wasn't able to attend every one, I was able to join in most of the planning via email. I was also in charge of perhaps the most important aspect of any guiding event - the badge! I arranged a competition so that young members could design a badge and once the winner was chosen by our committee, I arranged for them to be made and delivered in time for the weekend.

The weekend itself was the most fun I can remember having on camp in a long time. We had beautiful weather all weekend, the girls had a wide variety of activities to take part in, the Leaders got to enjoy a little rest and relaxation while partaking in a cream tea and Saturday night's campfire was magical. In addition to being in charge of the all important badges, I also had a little role over the weekend itself - First Aider. I usually avoid this role at all costs, but I reminded myself that this was just part of my challenge to myself and accepted it gracefully. Plus I had help from a fellow Leader so it wasn't all bad.

Skills - 20 hours
If you have visited my page before then this section will probably not come as a surprise to you. I decided to repurpose old books into book art. It was something that I had known about for quite a while, but when I originally discovered it I thought it was totally barbaric and refused to have anything to do with it. I can't remember what changed my mind, but one evening when the Rangers were struggling with ideas for that term, I made a few suggestions, one of them being book folding. 

I remember the evening well as it was when our Division Commissioner came to observe me for my Trainer Qualification renewal. After sorting out those who had forgotten to bring a book, ruler or pencil, they got started. For some I could see that it really wasn't their thing, but others made really good progress and their enthusiasm made me want to have a go. I was going to a book signing of one of my favourite authors for my birthday and I decided that I was going to make a book fold for her. Nothing like the pressure of giving your first piece of art away as a gift! 

I found a group in Facebook full of lovely, helpful people including Lyndsey who, in addition to running the group, makes the patterns needed to book fold. I quickly found out that you can't just grab any old book and start folding. Each pattern tells you how many pages your book will need and also the most suitable height required. I was lucky enough that I found the book for my first ever fold on my very own shelf, but since then I have trawled many charity shops looking for the right book for the job. 

After completing my first fold I knew that this is what I wanted to do for my skill so I approached Lyndsey who agreed to be my mentor and very soon I seemed to be working on book folds almost daily. I worked on improving my accuracy with the marking and folding of the book. I researched different ways of covering the books to get the neatest finish possible, eventually ditching corner covers when I found a new way to fold the paper over the edges of the cover. I even learnt to make paper flowers to decorate finished folds.

You can see all of my folds here and while I am not doing them nearly as much as I used to, it is still a skill I strive to improve. I have done a number of two-liner folds now and my next challenge is to learn how to make my own patterns. In addition to improving this skill, I've also found that it is a brilliant way to relax. I may often be heard mumbling and even cursing during the marking process, but once I start folding, it's almost like a form of meditation and I find myself getting lost in the rhythm of it. Another Voyage Award success!

Explore my world - 20 hours
I thought this was going to be the hardest section to complete, but it ended up being one of the easiest. I was on holiday in Spain listening to the results of the General Election and kicking myself that I hadn't registered for postal voting. I don't know who I would have voted for if I had, but I was angry at the result so I guess that told me all I needed to know. 

Later that day I was scrolling through Facebook and I came across an article about a new political party called the Women's Equality Party. I had never been interested in politics until that point. I felt guilty about not voting as I know a lot of women sacrificed their freedom and lives to get the vote, but I always used the excuse that if I didn't understand it then I shouldn't vote as I couldn't make an informed decision. Excuses, Abegg! Poor excuses!

I looked into this new party further and found that the closest branch to me was in Croydon. Living in Orpington at the time meant that it wasn't too far away so I contacted and was quickly invited to their first social event. We were a small group and we all had different reasons for being there, but one thing was very clear. The Women's Equality Party had grabbed our attention and we all thought it very much needed.

Over the coming weeks more news was released from the party about campaigns, events and eventually an official launch date. In the run up to the launch, the hastag #WEPnesday was created and we were encouraged to blitz social media between 12pm and 1pm each Wednesday. I glad took on the role for our little branch and enjoyed not only retweeting all the news not only from local branches, but also finding relevant articles from other organisations and spreading their messages too.

In those first few months I became a founding member (shiny card to prove it), was lucky enough to attend a FUNdraiser in London (belonging to a party with Sandi Toskvig as MC certainly has it's advantages), went to a screening of Suffragette with other members of the Croydon branch and helped to organise our local launch event.

When I moved back home at the beginning of 2016, I decided that Croydon was too far to go. In September last year I went along to a meeting in Tunbridge Wells and met Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women's Equality Party. We had some really interesting discussions that evening and I took a lot away from it. Then at the end of November I attended the first-ever Women's Equality Party Conference. It was a jam-packed weekend which you can read about here if you so choose.

Towards the end of last year a branch opened in Bromley which is a little closer to me. I haven't been able to get to a meeting yet as they always seem to clash with something else (what can I say, I'm a busy person!), but my real aim is to get a branch going in Swanley so that those with a passion for equality for all can join me in making a difference in our own community. Only time will tell if I am brave enough to give it a go.


***
So that's my journey through the Bronze level of the Voyage Award. I'm hoping to get the last couple of bits signed of next week so that I can get going on the Silver level once I'm back from holiday. If you are looking to challenge yourself why not join your local Trefoil Guild. It is open to anyone aged 18+ who agrees to support the guiding ethos and contrary to popular believe, you don't have to have been involved with guiding before. You can find out more here.
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