By: Georgia Gilbert, East Syracuse/Minoa Area Service Unit Manager
In Girl Scouting we sometimes come across those troops that I like to refer to as “islands unto themselves.” These are troops that meet regularly and sometimes are very active. But only within their troop. They rarely attend service unit or council events. They don’t participate in encampments. The leaders take only the training that is absolutely necessary. If policy and procedures are being followed; if program is being delivered this is perfectly fine.
But, they are missing out on a lot!
In my years as a Girl Scout volunteer and as a service unit manager I find that these types of troops are the ones that do not last very long. Whether it is that the girls are bored or the leaders have run out of ideas I have yet to see a solo troop last more than a few years. My feeling is that it is because the girls are only getting a part of the Girl Scouting experience. The missing part is where they get to meet new people and have new experiences outside their troop. There could be many reasons why a troop decides to keep to themselves. Leaders and girls may have too many other obligations to do much outside of their meeting time. Maybe trainings and events are outside their comfort level. Or maybe it is hard to get everyone on the same schedule.
Bringing these new opportunities to the girls has to begin with the leaders. We need to look at our own leadership and ask if we are doing what is best for the girls. If time is an issue, try to recruit the parents to help. If this isn’t an option, rely on your service unit and council for support. For example, if your girls want to camp but you can’t go on overnights because you have small children at home, contact the other leaders in your area. Your girls may be able to pair up with another troop or you might have a couple leaders that have time time to assist your troop camping. A big benefit of participating in service unit and council events aside from giving the girls great experiences is that the work is done for the leader! Stumped for ideas for a badge or journey? Most likely there is an event for that! Your girl want to go canoeing? There might be an event through the council that would give them the experience. That saves the leader from having to find someone certified to take the girls canoeing, planning where and when to go and the girls get to do what they chose to do! Win-win!!
If attending events with strangers is out of the volunteer’s comfort zone (I know I am not the only introvert out there!) challenge yourself to step outside of it. Start by attending as many service unit meetings as you can. Find some training that you think will benefit you and your troop. Take the outdoor overnight training! You will find support, get some great new ideas and find comrades-in-arms. You get to talk Girl Scouts with other like-minded people! I have never come out of a training session yet without at least one really good idea to take back to my troop! The more comfortable you are the more comfortable the girls will be.
Scheduling is always an issue. It is hard to get everyone on the same page. The girls should understand that sometimes they will not be able to attend every event the troop wants to do together. But they can be assured that there will be other events they can attend in the future. An all or nothing attitude will keep your troop isolated.
Experiences and friendship – isn’t that what we all want? Making friends in Girl Scouting, whether it is the girls or adults, is fairly easy – we already have something in common by virtue of being Girl Scouts. Think about how you made friends when you were younger. There was always a common thread – you went to school together, you played on the same teams together, you were in clubs together. When girls attend events or summer camp they meet girls who they already have something in common…girls who are like them but from different areas.
Take the plunge and let your troop see that they are a part of a large, world-wide organization! Not only let them know about their service unit, their council, GSUSA and WAGGGS but bring them out so that they can meet us and we can meet them!