Three generations are Guiding lights for girls

Celebrating the recent Queen's Guide Award achievement, from left, Pat Ware, Paula Hellyer, Lauren Phillips with her special badge, Suzie Hellyer and Debbie Phillips
Celebrating the recent Queen's Guide Award achievement, from left, Pat Ware, Paula Hellyer, Lauren Phillips with her special badge, Suzie Hellyer and Debbie Phillips

GIRLGUIDING is in the blood for one Chichester family, who have clocked up 129 years’ service between them.

It all started with Pat Ware, who has done 34 years. Her daughters are all leaders – Debbie Phillips for 30 years, Suzie Hellyer for 31 years and Paula Hellyer for 29 years – and 20-year-old granddaughter Lauren Phillips has already done five years.

They are all part of the Regnum District in Chichester and Girlguiding is central to their lives, including regular weekly meetings and summer camps.

“We all get a tremendous amount of pleasure out of it,” explained Pat. “The girls are the inspiration and they give us some brilliant ideas.”

Pat is in the Trefoil Guild and treasurer of the Friends of Guiding, which owns the Regnum District Guide Hall in Whyke Lane, Chichester.

Suzie, the district commissioner, and Lauren are with 6th Chichester Brownies, Paula with 3rd Chichester Brownies and Debbie 3rd Chichester Guides.

Lauren said: “It is quite infectious. We are always thinking ‘what can I do next’ and you know you will get some rewards from it. The girls’ reactions to it are amazing.

“We still do all the traditional things, away from technology, which is great and it is good to see the girls who can already do things teaching the others.”

Debbie added: “Over the years, you see them grow from little girls to confident young women.”

The family first became involved with Girlguiding in 1979, when Debbie joined the Brownies, followed by Suzie then Paula.

Pat was on a small committee raising money for 3rd Chichester Guides and when that disbanded in 1981, she was asked to join a local section. Then, in 1984, she was asked to be a Rangers leader.

Pat said: “I found I really began to enjoy being part of the Guide Association and I haven’t looked back since.”

She was district commissioner from 1985 to 1992 and said when there was a place in a unit for a leader, she ‘didn’t have to look far’.

Debbie was the only one of the three girls to achieve the Queen’s Guide Award and her daughter Lauren has followed in her footsteps, recently completing this top award in Girlguiding.

Pat has also recently been awarded the County Silver Oakleaf, in recognition of her outstanding contribution and commitment.

Highlights over the years have included Debbie being on Songs of Praise in 1985 for the 75th anniversary of Girlguiding and Sussex West division putting together the Girlguiding float for the Lord Mayor’s Show in 2012.

Most recent was the Magic and Mayhem weekend at the Foxlease activity centre in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, on June 13 and 14, which saw 300 Rainbows, Brownies and leaders camping out in a Big Top.

The family also remembers the time when Debbie and Paula were in the Guides and they were given the opportunity to go to America as part of a group linking up with girls who had been on an international camp.

Pat helped formed a team to raise funds for the trip but just as the tickets were booked, Laker Airways went bust and they lost everything.

An appeal was put out in the Observer and eventually, the money was raised all over again to replace the tickets.

That support from the community continues to play an important part in the district, marked most recently with the opening of the new extension to the Guide Hall. Donations included much-needed new chairs and tables by Chichester Priory Rotary Club and a new fence.

Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, with 563,633 members.

The Guide Association says: “Thanks to the dedication and support of 100,000 amazing volunteers, we are active in every part of the UK, giving girls and young women a space where they can be themselves, have fun, build brilliant friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference to their lives and their communities.

“We build girls’ confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good. We give them space to have fun.

“We run Rainbows (five to seven years), Brownies (seven to ten years), Guides (10 to 14 years) and the Senior Section (14 to 25 years).

“There are 30,000 Girlguiding groups all over the UK. We give girls their own space to discover and try new things. Girls earn millions of badges in everything from first aid to stargazing.

“We support thousands of young women to develop leadership skills – one third of our volunteers are under 30. We give girls a voice – in their group, their community and their society.”

Girlguiding Sussex West is divided into seven divisions, including Bognor Regis, Chichester and Petworth.

Each division consists of several districts made up from local Rainbow, Brownie, Guide and Ranger Units.

There is also a thriving Trefoil Guild within Sussex West, which provides invaluable support to the county.

Chichester Division consists of five districts and covers the Chichester area, including Selsey, Bosham and Graffham.

The unit numbers in the Chichester Division are strong, so the team is always looking for more adult leaders to get involved.

Adult volunteers have many opportunities available to them, including as leaders, advisers and commissioners.

Some roles require a regular commitment, others can be very much more flexible.

Anyone interested in finding out more about joining Girlguiding as a young member or an adult volunteer, visit www.girlguiding.org.uk/interested or call 0800 1695901.

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