More than one hundred years ago eight daring girls masquerading as boy scouts crashed a Scout rally at Crystal Palace in London, England. This event heralded the birth of the Girl Guide movement. Lord Robert Baden Powell who had published “Scouting for Boys” three years earlier astutely realized that the modern woman, striving with all her might for emancipation, was a force to be reckoned with and that young girls of the nation not only needed but were entitled to receive the same type of character training as the young men.
In 1915, Guiding was introduced in The Bahamas by Lady Allardyce, wife of the then Governor. Girls were captivated by this appeal. They were happy, friendly, dancing through the years in their new freedom – a freedom founded on the replacement of self with service.
Guiding continued to grow in The Bahamas until 1935 when Leaders became scarce. No one was willing to make the necessary commitment, so Guiding was suspended.
However, in 1948, the flame of Guiding was rekindled and fanned by such stalwart women as Mrs. George Higgs, the late Mrs. Eulalee Kelly and the late Mrs. Clarita Toote, the three principal officers of the new Council of the reorganized Association. It became bright and glowing amd grew by leaps and bounds. (That same year) 1948 also saw a visit from the Chief Guide, and for the first time a Trainer from Commonwealth Headquarters was sent out for three weeks to train Leaders for the newly formed Association.
The years between 1946-1974 saw many exciting developments in the Associtaion. Brownie and Ranger Units were solidly formed. Companies were being formed in the Family Islands, such as Long Island, San Salvador, Exuma, Andros, Eleuthera, Harbour Island, Grand Bahama and Inagua. Local Guides and Guiders participated in International Events and our enrollment figure grew more and more. Today our membership numbers 2,300.
Miss Betty Cole became the First Certificated Trainer in 1960 and later became the first recipient of the Caribbean Link Diploma. That year we also had the honour and pleasure of a visit from Lady Baden-Powell.
October 1968 marked the beginning of Cookie Sales, our major fund raiser.
In January of 1974 we saw a dream realized with the official opening of the Campsite situated at South Beach.
Mrs. Clarice Granger and Miss Barbara Brown attended the World Conference in England in 1974 and came back with the great news that the Bahamas had been accepted as an Associate Member in the World Association. Miss Brown was elected to the Cabana World Centre Committee – one of the four World Centres, situated in Mexico. Later
That year a new local Constitution was adopted.
In January, 1978 a Bill was passed in the Parliament of the Bahamas incorporating the Girl Guide Association. That year also marked the establishment of the first Training Team consisting of Mrs. Elma Garraway, Miss Julia Burnside and Miss Chris Verity. Currently, members of the Training Team let by Miss Julia Burnside, consists of Mrs. Elma Garraway, Miss Louise Barry, Mrs. Michelle Roach-Bailey, and Miss Karen Lightbourne. A Training Scheme for The Bahamas has been developed by the team and submitted to the World Bureau for consideration for accreditation.
At the 23rd World Conference in Iran in September of 1978, attended by Mrs. Clarice Granger, Miss Barbara Brown and Miss Betty Cole, the Bahamas was unanimously elected full member in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
April, 1987 brought together Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from some 38 countries when the First International Camp was held at our Campsite.
In 1991 and 1995 National Camps were held and in 1996, the Second International Camp.
When one hears of such continuity and growth in an organization, one often wonders about the cause of the appeal. Many a mother has asked, “Why does Judy work so hard and so willingly at camp, yet she dislikes doing her chores at home so intensely?” The seret of success and indeed the true value of Guiding lies in the fact that Robert Baden Powell, born, psychologists say years before his time, started a programme based on ules for playing the game of scouting and guiding rather than one based on the negative ‘must not, shall not, is not allowed’. He knew that positive activities and good deeds were more likely to attract youth than those passively refraining from evil.
Guiding provides a set of principles by which one can live, challenges which continue to stretch the mind and give members the opportunity for development of the total person – physically, spiritually and mentally. Guiding games are teaching games. Each week girls learn something new, experiencing the wonderful sense of achievement.
Through their unique method of training Guides develop an ability to concentrate and, said Lord Baden-Powell, “Once you have learned to concentrate you have given yourself the power to learn anything”. The Guide programme, using the symbol of the compass – to give direction – provides eight points of character training which each guide must cover. One of these is “Thinking for yourself”, so important today when there is so much peer pressure on our youth.
The Guiding Organization is now millions strong and has spread worldwide. The objective was defined by Signe Dreljor, a former Director of the World Bureau in this way: “To prepare young people to become useful, active, positive and objective citizens in their nation and in the world”. In our own community we may ask, “Have we made a positive impact? Have we in any measure attained our objective?” Looking around at some of the outstanding former Guides in The Bahamas in the fields of education, business, law, banking, medicine, politics, religion, sports, art and even homemaking – a role which we are inclined to denigrate but which Baden-Powell stressed and which becomes more important than ever in these days of “latch key” children. It is quite obvious that we have succeeded.
The need to achieve, the need to be assessed on one’s own ability has never been greater than it is today. Discipline and guidance, fun and friendship are the “Guide” ways of meeting the needs of today’s young girls. Guiding allows all age groups to work together. It is a means of effectively bridging the ‘generation gap’.
The products of our organization have carried the flame brilliantly into a wider world. We must never let what happened in 1935 happen again in this country, for if ever there was a need for Guiding and all the good itcan do, it is HERE AND NOW.