Brownies new badge of honour helps older people to beat loneliness

Brownie photo
Singing out loud: Brownies set to perform their version of Eddie the Penguin Saves the World at St Wilfred’s church hall, Northenden

Golden Moment as Our Manchester Brownie badge helps youngsters play part in being caring community citizens

Any aspiring Brownie will tell you that part of her Promise is to think of others before herself and do a good turn every day. But, now, that Promise has a brand new focus in Manchester for one group of Brownies who are part of a trial, not only to make the city healthier – but to learn what it means to be a modern Manchester Miss.

A group of youngsters in Wythenshawe and Northenden are part of new badge that will include challenges and exercises around some of biggest community priorities in the city around health, fighting loneliness, and being part of a city that values older people.

The move comes after the city introduced its vision for health and social care for the next five years – called a locality plan – which recognises the crucial role that everyone who lives here can play in making the city healthier. One of the key themes is around prevention – making sure that people stay active and involved in the areas where they live, to help prevent illness and the crippling mental and physical effects of loneliness.

It also follows a consultation where people who live and work here were asked to define priorities for the city – to create the ‘Our Manchester’, we aspire to be over the next ten years. Within this, Mancunians ranked health and social care highly as well as looking after vulnerable people.

Now, the 2nd Northenden (St Wilfrid’s) Brownies and the 1st Northenden Rainbows will be working on a badge linked to Manchester’s NHS Manchester Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and the Age-Friendly team at Manchester City Council, and have been issued the challenge of:

  • Organising events for older people, which can be maintained in the community – for example reciprocal story bags, where youngsters and older people put memorable items, or souvenirs, into a bag as prompts to talk with each other about their lives and experiences.
  • Learning about the health system – this includes learning how to use services, such as when to use the local chemist, how to get same-day, evening or weekend appointments with a doctor and when to go to A&E.
  • Learning about the effects of loneliness – and why community-minded people are the key to a modern, thriving Manchester.

In recognition of the girls’ work they will not only get their Brownies’ badge, but a specially designed Manchester Medal, and a reference from the council’s leader Sir Richard Leese and Ian Williamson from Manchester’s clinical commissioning groups, to help with prospective school, college or job applications.

Super Gran-of-16 and former Girl Guide, Veronica is helping youngsters with the Our Manchester Brownies Badge

Ola with local resident Veronica Armstrong 67
No generation gap: Brownie Ola talks to grandma-of-16, Veronica Armstrong, 67

If anyone should know the benefits of being a Brownie it’s Veronica Armstrong – who was not only a Brownie, but a Girl Guide and then a Girl Guide leader herself and is also a retired nursery nurse.

And, now the 67-year-old Gran –who has 16 grandkids and has lived in Northenden for 46 years – will be and honorary guide again as she helps the youngsters involved in the Brownies and Rainbows challenge to get to know their elders better.

In fact, Veronica has already started in her role as she recently went to watch the youngsters as they acted in their new play – which the kids also hope to perform in the new year for the residents in the sheltered housing court where Veronica and husband Warren live.

The play , Eddie the penguin saves the world’ is about a penguin who goes on his travels and meets other types of animals on his journey. While it’s a child’s production – the universal messages about getting to know the those outside of your immediate circle are clear.

“It’s a lovely play,” says Veronica. “And it’s like the theory behind this new badge for the Brownies – it’s about getting a better understanding of your own kind and how they live.”

Reflecting on her own Brownie and Girl Guide credentials, she said: “In my day the Brownie badges still had the same aims about being a good person – but they were a lot less intense. Today’s badges give the girls a lot more, wide experiences so that they get to know more about the world.”

And Veronica is also clear on the role that she and her generation can play in the badge.

“Me and my age-group have the time to spend with children and we can give them a different view on life. We also have skills we can show them like sewing, learning to knit and doing gardening.

“Plus, a lot of my friends miss their families because they don’t live near their own children and grand-kids – and they would really like to have that ongoing involvement with children’s projects.