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First Hawkwell Girls Brigade
To contact the First Hawkwell Girls Brigade either go along to Hawkwell Baptist Church or ring their office on 01702 542000
Talking with Sally Claydon who leads the First Hawkwell Girls Brigade           (10th March 2012)

Rochford Life: From what I understand, you are Captain of the Girls Brigade?     
Sally:  I am, of First Hawkwell Girls Brigade

RL:  Where is the nearest other one then?   
Sally:   There is one at Rayleigh Baptist Church, there are two in Shoebury, and Leigh on Sea.

RL:   What is the Girls Brigade?  
Sally:   For Mums I often describe it as a mixture between Sunday School and the Brownies. Most people will know of the Brownies and guides but are not so aware of the Girls Brigade. We are a Christian uniformed organisation, so our main aim is to tell girls about Jesus and help them follow him, but at the same time help to create little well-rounded individuals, in that we do sport and games, craft and many other badge activities, learning different skills, as well as teaching them Bible stories, so it is a real mix of activities, with the end result of forming these well rounded young women.   

RL:  What are the age groups?   
Sally:   We start at age five and then they can go through until eighteen and beyond. Here at Hawkwell we have 102 girls age between five and seventeen.

RL: How often do they meet in a week?   
Sally:   They meet in term time on Wednesdays, here in the halls from 5.30pm, but different age groups meet at different times with the older girls coming along about 7.00pm and each group meets for about an hour and a half. We also meet once a month for a Church Parade and join in the Family Service.

RL:  If a family outside of the church wanted their daughter to come along, do they have to go to church?
Sally:   No. In the olden days when Girls Brigade first started then they did go hand in hand, but not so much now.  We obviously encourage them to come to church and to Sunday School, and some do,  but a lot don’t. Because we have such a big group, for some of the groups we have a waiting list because obviously we have to make sure we have enough adults and enough space. We have between ten and twelve adults in the team here, a wonderful team of women, an excellent team working together, and they’re fantastic. We come up with a rota and a plan of what is going to happen for the term and everyone takes their part. We have wonderful young leaders as well. Once they get to fourteen they can do Young Leader Training and we have some wonderful teenage girls who have done training and are excellent at dealing with the younger girls and they are very much part of our leadership team as well.       

RL:  So the difference between you and say the Brownies or Guides is simply that you have a spiritual dimension as well?   
Sally:   Yes, I think that is right. Our similarities with Brownies and Guides is that we are a uniformed organisation. The uniform is quite casual in that it is polo shirts and hoodies and jeans and trainers, and we do badges similar to Brownies and Guides but perhaps we have a stronger emphasis on the spiritual side    

RL:  Does it cost anything to become a member?   
Sally:  They pay about £2 a week which they pay over a term which covers them for the activities,badges etc. and we have trophies and things at the end of the year. So that money goes towards the general running of the Company.   

RL:  Suppose a Mum hasn’t much money, how do they cope with uniform etc.?   
Sally:   We try not to make money an issue for people, so we encourage people if it’s winter, to get the hoodie or fleece and pay it off weekly if you want to; in the summer time get the polo shirt, which they get from us, and we don’t make any profit on them.  We never stop anyone coming if money is an issue and we have grants and things to help families if need be.  

RL:  Do you do other activities?   
Sally: We have a Summer Camp this year. Generally with the younger girls we tend to stay in a church hall so it’s an indoor ‘camp’ and they still sleep in sleeping bags and on camp beds, but we’re in a church hall, and this year we’re going to a place near Cambridge for our Summer Camp. With the older girls we join in with others. Firm Foundations is a weekend away run by Girls Brigade and Boys Brigade and that’s in tents with a brilliant festival style with music and loads going on, and we’re doing that again this year.     

RL:    You’ve just mentioned Boys Brigade. Do you have a Boys Brigade here?
Sally:   Yes we do. They meet on a Thursday evening and do similar things but obviously for boys. They’ve been running for about ten or eleven years here now.

RL:  You speak of a goal of being ‘well-rounded’. What sort of things do the girls do and learn, outside of what we might call the spiritual side of it?   
Sally:  Well the badge system has recently been overhauled. Historically they would have badges for first aid, or for cookery, and then there were physical badges, whether it was dancing or skipping or swimming or team games, and then a spiritual badge for whatever they had studied. Then there were service subjects. We try and think whatever we teach you about spirituality that gets channelled into service, helping others. As it’s been overhauled we weave all those four approaches into one topic. The little ones have just done their ‘celebrations badge’ so that was all about Birthdays and Christmas and Easter and all sorts of different celebrations. They’ve also just done their ‘round the world’ badge which is about learning about different cultures and so on.    

RL:  How about the older ones?    
Sally:   Well a lot of Mums come to me and say how their daughters have grown in confidence, and I know that schools have a part to play here as well, but a lot of them attribute it to being here. Girls who arrive painfully shy, change and you see them in their teenage years and they’re your young leaders and they are organising others girls and they are up on the stage and they are speaking confidently. The older girls have lots of opportunities, and I try and present them with as many opportunities as I can. Last you we took some to the Royal Wedding, we were able to take some to Trooping the Colour. Some of them at sixteen are going out to Kosova. We had two girls go out there last year and four are going this year, and that’s in association with a Charity called Smile International and it’s running projects by Smile and Girls Brigade to get young girls of sixteen plus  to go out there to do work amongst children, delivering aid and helping war widows. It’s just an amazing opportunity.  We’ve got a great bunch of teenagers, probably about thirty five teenage girls that are here every week. As they grow, the opportunities for them do increase.            

RL:  You’re obviously a complete enthusiast. Have you been with Girls Brigade for a long time?   
Sally:  My Mum became a Christian when I was eight and that’s when I joined Sunday School and the Girls Brigade and I love it and I’ve never left! .I became a Young Leader and then an adult helper and I’m still here!

RL:    Well, Sally that is wonderful. I think that appears a very comprehensive picture of what Girls Brigade is all about and it’s lovely to hear what you are doing with young people. We wish you well with all you are doing. Thank you for your time and for sharing so enthusiastically.

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