Not every guiding unit is run in the same way – many take a flexible and creative approach. That’s just what Girlguiding Scotland members Maxine Gow and Sally Hadden are doing at Low Moss Prison, where they run meetings that bring Guiding and Scouting to the children of prisoners.
After volunteering to work in the prison’s café, the pair realised their skills could be better used bringing guiding into the lives of vulnerable children.
Every week is different
They got the green light from the prison and approached local Scouting to plan a joint programme tailored to the children’s needs. They aim to encourage children to visit frequently and keep up their relationship with the family member in prison, which can reduce reoffending, and give boys and girls a taste for Guiding and Scouting. Since the beginning, flexibility has been the key to success.
“We’ve tried different formats, and adapted and improved continuously,” says Sally. “Every week is different.”
“Sometimes we might have just three or four children, sometimes as many as 12 or 13. And we need to be prepared for a mix of ages.”
The children put on ‘uniform’ neckerchiefs at the start of each session and talk about the activities for that week, often adapted from the Guiding and Scouting programmes. At the end, children record their achievements on their own chart, earning coloured wristbands instead of badges for completed challenges.
Bringing guiding to new communities
The activities go down well with children and their parents. “I like the part where we make stuff and we get to choose what we want to do,” says one Brownie-age girl. “And I liked it when we had the Japanese food.”
And one mum reports: “My two sons love coming to visit their father on a Thursday – they really enjoy the activities. It’s great and makes a real difference for the kids at the visit.”
Sally says: “This project shows how important it is to think creatively and explore opportunities to offer guiding to girls in communities and areas that we might normally dismiss as being off-limits – such as an adult prison!”
Best of all, the kids love it. “The children rush up to us at the start of our sessions, asking what we are doing this week,” says Sally. What better praise could there be?