Deborah (L) with Laura Cottey.

A Local volunteer has been recognised for her role empowering hundreds of girls and young women over a period of over 50 years and has been honoured for her work supporting girls and young women with a prestigious Laurel Award.

Deborah Meadows of Bembridge was awarded the second highest discretionary national honour in the organisation for her inspirational efforts and was presented with her Award by the South-West England Chief Commissioner Laura Cottey. It was Laura’s first official Girlguiding event on the Island since being appointed in June 2021.

Deborah first became involved in Guiding when she joined a Brownie Unit in Bushey, Hertfordshire where her mother was ‘Tawny Owl’. Guides and Rangers followed for Deborah including gaining a Queen’s Guide Award.  Soon she was a leader, and at one time whilst at university, was involved with a university unit as well as her home unit which held its meetings on a Friday evening when her studies for the week were over. Working with units in Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex as well as working with British Guides Overseas followed before her permanent move to the Isle of Wight in 1999.

As a teacher at Ryde Junior School Deborah ran the 2nd Ryde (Ryde School) Brownie unit for a number of years providing amazing opportunities for the girls. This was followed by becoming the leader of Bembridge Brownies and at present she is the leader of Bembridge Rainbows.

Deborah’s highlights during her time with Girlguiding include, gaining Trainer qualifications, which enable her to train other leaders both on the Island and further afield and being Island Commissioner for two periods especially the period which involved the planning of the Girlguiding Centenary in 2009/2010. Along the way Deborah has had the opportunity to watch girls grow in confidence and make life-long friends. Following in her mother’s footsteps she now looks after the Girlguiding IW archives.

Laura Cottey paid tribute to Deborah saying, “I want to say a huge thank you to Deborah today. She has helped hundreds of girls discover new things, make great friends and experience things for the first time. She has endless energy and enthusiasm and is committed to helping each girl to find her voice.”

In reply Deborah said,” I’ve really, really, really enjoyed all my Girlguiding, and this award presentation has been all the more special today as it is in the company of so many of the IW team who supported me whilst I was Island Commissioner and have become friends over the years.”

There were also presentations of long service awards to Lesley Clifford and Susan Horton and Young Leader/Commonwealth Award to Tessa Bryson.

Lesley Clifford.
Susan Horton,
Tessa Bryson.

Training sessions were led by Linda Stone (Island Commissioner) and Emma Bryson (Trainer) as well as a Region Strategy Presentation by Laura Cottey. Included in Laura’s presentation were slides showing how numbers of girls have returned or joined Girlguiding across the Region and she was pleased to see that the Island numbers are returning to pre-Covid figures. Two new units are due to open on the Island very soon. Overall, the event had a theme of ‘Ignite Your Spark’.