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Former Brownie returns as leader of the pack

FOOTBALL TRIP: Brown Owl at West Ham’s football
stadium

IN 1990 aged seven, Andrea Lewis-Ryce joined renowned girl guiding organisation, the Brownies. Her mum would religiously drop her at the weekly group in east London’s Forest Gate and watch as her only daughter happily socialised with other children in the borough. They would earn badges for carrying out good deeds.

Though Lewis-Ryce recalls her time as a Brownie with fondness, she does remember being in the minority of pledgers, which she says was made up of mostly white girls.

This, however, is a scene so far removed from the culturally diverse group she now heads up in the same borough she once pledged her allegiance decades ago.

“I remember when I was a Brownie, you didn’t get a lot of different cultures, but now my unit is very diverse,” Lewis-Ryce tells The Voice.

“There is still a predominant white culture within Girl Guides, which shows the need for more diversity. It’s great for children from all cultures to see themselves reflected in their leaders.”

More than two decades after the 30-year-old first donned the famous yellow and brown uniform, Lewis-Ryce is now the leader of the pack, which the Brownies call Brown Owl.

SACRIFICE

“It took two-and-a-half years to get to this point, but it has been so worth it,” said the Brownies leader who is also married with a one-year-old son. “It is the most rewarding, though at times challenging, thing I have done. I really enjoy the children and the excitement they get out of everything we put together.”


FUN: Andrea Lewis-Ryce gets into character

Lewis-Ryce reconnected with the Brownies after watching a segment about the popular organisation on ITV’s former breakfast show GMTV. The girls’ group celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

Though she had originally planned to join the Samaritans, she was in a full-time job and was unable to dedicate the time required to take up the role.

She initially joined as a helper, but when the leaders left, was faced with the prospect of being in charge of “25 screaming seven to 10-year-olds”.

“At first I was like, ‘they’re going to have to close it, because I’m not going to run it myself, but I was encouraged by some of the girls’ parents, one of whom said she’d be my assistant leader.”

Since becoming the Brown Owl, Lewis-Ryce, with the help of her team, has organised various trips around the capital, the most recent a trip to the Emirates Skyline and a one-night camp on West Ham’s football pitch.

“The biggest misconception about the Brownies is that it’s old school, but it’s so current,” she said. “We’re always looking at developing and moving with the times.”

“Volunteering is a way of giving without even realising you’re doing it and watching how much confidence it gives the girls is second to none.”

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