Girlguiding south west England’s new Chief commissioner

Girlguiding south west England’s new Chief commissioner explains what she enjoys about volunteering and why she is encouraging new members to join

Laura Cottey

Laura Cottey is currently a Brownie Leader in Wiltshire South and has also volunteered as a Brownie and Guide Leader in Devon, Somerset and Hampshire West.  She begins her five year appointment as Chief Commissioner of Girlguiding South West England on 1st June 2021.

  • Volunteering with Girlguiding is very flexible and doesn’t have to be a regular, weekly commitment.
  • There are many different roles from administrative support to helping us grow to Unit Leader.
  • You can share your skills and make a difference to the lives of others while learning new skills and gaining valuable experience yourself.
  • It is perfect for frequent location moves – there is always a local unit who will appreciate your time and it is a great way to become integrated in a new community and to make new friends.
  • Inspire the next generation of girls and young women to achieve their potential.

Laura has been in Guiding ever since joining Brownies as a seven year old and she is a keen advocate of the benefits it offers both girls and adults.  Her appointment as the Region’s new Chief Commissioner coincides with the start of Volunteers Week – an opportunity to thank the Region’s fantastic volunteers for all they have done over the past difficult year, and to encourage new volunteers to join.

As a busy working mum with a young son, Laura loves being with the 7-10 year olds in her Brownie unit: ‘Being with the girls is fantastic, I love the fact that I can go and spend time with them, it’s a great way to decompress’.  She is also aware of the difference volunteering makes to the lives and prospects of the girls she comes into contact with and finds it hugely rewarding to see the positive changes they go through during their time with Girlguiding and the way having female role models from all walks of life motivates and inspires them.

Despite having a career which involves shift work and frequent location changes, Laura has found Girlguiding is a good fit with her lifestyle: ‘Whenever I’ve moved, I’ve been able to make friends and feel part of a community quite quickly’ she says.  ‘I can’t be there every week, but all the units I’ve been involved in have been really supportive’.  Volunteering has also been an opportunity for Laura’s own personal development.  ‘The skills I’ve learnt through Guiding have been really useful’ she says.  ‘The ability to look after a group of girls and the things that come with that – the risk assessments, programme planning, and organisation – are completely different skills that really contribute to my working life’.

The pandemic has changed how Guiding has been delivered over the last 12 months, but with support from our volunteers across the South West and the Region Office, our members have adapted to the challenges and in many cases have turned the difficulties they have faced into opportunities to develop and grow as individuals.  Many of our Leaders have continued unit meetings via video calls, with pets and siblings often making guest appearances, and have maintained vitally important contact with their girls via phone calls and e-mails.  They have organised virtual ‘sleepovers’, have continued unit activities by making doorstep drops of resource packs, and are now able to have lots of fun meeting together again.  Laura says, ‘We’ve hopefully maintained some continuity for them in terms of fun and opportunities during a really challenging time…. I love spending an hour with them online having a really good giggle’.

Laura Cottey said: ‘I am extremely honoured to take on the role of Girlguiding South West England’s Chief Commissioner for our amazing Region.  I aim to use my passion for Girlguiding and the skills I have gained from my previous roles to ensure as many girls and young women as possible can experience Girlguiding in South West England and now is a great time to join us’.

National Volunteers’ Week takes place from 1st – 7th June 2021.