Thousands of people have signed a petition calling on Girlguiding UK to re-examine its decision to end operations for girls who live overseas.
British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO), which has around 2,600 members in 36 countries and territories, will no longer be part of Girlguiding UK from September, the charity has said.
The board of trustees at Girlguiding UK made the decision based on the organisation’s future ability to run an overseas operation in many countries and territories which have separate laws and regulations.
The English-speaking, girl-only space which has “provided a lifeline” to guides when they move overseas will “disappear”, the BGO executive has warned.
By Wednesday, more than 14,000 people had signed a petition on Change.org calling on the charity’s trustees to work with volunteers delivering guiding overseas “to support them to continue to do so”.
Since the charity announced its plans to cease its overseas operation, British expats have been sharing on social media how BGO helped their families to find friendships when they first moved abroad.
A statement by the BGO executive says: “The closure of the BGO region will have a negative impact on both our guiding members in the ex-British territories as well as many British families living outside of mainland UK.
“Those who are already Girlguiding members will have to leave guiding, and the valuable English-speaking, girl-only space, which has continuously provided a lifeline to our members when they move overseas, will disappear.”
It adds: “Whilst we will never fully understand the decision that has been made and it is not of our making, we will work with our membership to make sure that we continue to care for every individual girl and member; and we hope that an alternative offer can be swiftly made to them in one form or another.”
A statement from Angela Salt, Girlguiding chief executive, Catherine Irwin, chair of the board of trustees, and Tracy Foster, chief guide, says: “BGO, including guiding for girls who live in British Overseas Territories, has been a valued part of Girlguiding UK for much of our 113-year history.
“Thousands of incredible volunteers have provided fun, friendship and adventure for girls who are living overseas.”
It adds: “Together with the BGO Executive, Girlguiding is committed to ensuring UK girls and volunteers living overseas can still be part of guiding in different ways in the future.
“We are working with volunteers to provide information and guidance to members living overseas and in British Overseas Territories on the options available for girls.
“This decision does not affect international trips for girls who live and are part of units in the UK.”