Discovery Bay Brownie Guides set out to make the world a better place – and have a good time doing it. Elizabeth Kerr gets inspired by three Sixers
There are now three Brownie Guide Packs in DB which by my calculation, since there are 24 girls to a pack, means DB is home to 72 Brownies. As it turns out there are ‘only’ 66 because Pack C, which started in August, isn’t quite full yet. The 66-and-counting Brownie Guides meet at Discovery Bay International School (DBIS) on Saturday mornings,
I get to chat with three of them – Lucia Torresi, Molly Shepherd and Olivia Oakley. Lucia, 11, attends Discovery College (DC), and more importantly she’s a Sixer for the Imps (Pack B). Molly, 10, and Olivia, 9, are at DBIS; Molly’s a Sixer for the Red Hat Sprites (Pack B), and Olivia’s a Sixer for the Gnomes (Pack A).
As a rule, the girls don’t really hang out beyond their time in Brownies, but you’d never know that by seeing them interact. Molly and Lucia quickly start giving each other some classic schoolgirl schtick. If you ask for one of them to explain what Brownies is, be prepared for the barrage of Vaudeville-ready banter that follows.
“It’s like Scouts for girls, but it’s not Girl Guides. Brownies are from five- to 12-year-olds,” begins Lucia, when Molly abruptly cuts her off. “It’s 11.”
“No, 12,” Lucia replies confidently.
“It’s 11,” comes back Molly. “It’s 12.” “11.”
“It’s definitely 12, otherwise I would have left already,” says Lucia. That seems to be the end of it, at least until Molly, losing the fight, gets the last word out. “It’s 11,” she whispers with a cheeky grin. Lucia’s mum Louise finally chimes in with a comment about flexibility.
Badges and The Promise
The exchange is far from precocious or aggressive, but it is assured, something the girls may be picking up from their time as Brownies, the guiding club founded by British army officer Lord Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes in the early 20th century. The trio have been tearing it up on the charitable front for months. It’s why their Brown Owls Sharon McEneff (Pack A) and Gaylene Meeson (Pack B) recommended them for some publicity.
Eventually they get around to explaining the importance of interest badges – Lucia has 18, Molly, 16 and Olivia, 13. The pet badge and friend badge are Olivia’s favourites so far. “I had to take care of a pet for a week and demonstrate friendship by participating in different activities with new and old friends,” she says with a grin.
The girls also explain about the breakdown of the Pack into Sixes (groups of Imps, Pixies and so on), and how each Six is led by a Sixer, assisted by her Seconder. A Happy Bee becomes a Tweenie and then a Brownie before moving on to Girl Guides… It’s staggering. Molly asks if she should recite the pledge.
“It’s fun to work on the badges, and help other people and have them help you,” begins Lucia by way of explaining what attracted her to Brownies in the first place – aside
from mum Louise’s youthful stint. “There are always things on the internet telling us to be eco-friendly for example, and I thought, ‘What is that, exactly?’ One day I asked
my mum, and she told me, and I thought, ‘I want to do that.’”
For Molly the appeal was similarly collaborative, and mum Laura was also a Brownie. “I like the idea that people may be having a better life because of us,” she says. “I like the
feeling they’re happier because we tried to help.”
Olivia, the youngest of the group, agrees, saying: “To be a Brownie is to be helpful, friendly, creative and active… I wanted to be a Brownie because there’s camping and lots of creative and outdoor activities. I enjoy leading as a Sixer in my pack, and I feel special when I earn badges.” And yes, Olivia’s mum Berenise was a Brownie too.
Lending a helping hand
Olivia has lived in DB for five years, and in England and Shanghai before that. Lucia and Molly have essentially spent their entire lives in Hong Kong: Molly was born here (dad was too) and Lucia relocated from her birthplace in Vietnam at roughly six months old. Hong Kong is home for all three and they have every intention of helping out where
needed – as well as overseas.
How? Where to start? Not surprisingly, Molly and Lucia talk over each other about recent fundraising to supply filters and Q Drums for water transport in South Africa and Nepal (from the sale of environmentally friendly beeswax clingwrap), to finance a village well in Pakistan (through a bake sale), and to help fight Australian bushfires (via a used book drive).
Not ones to rest on their laurels, the three girls have also helped raise funds for childhood cancer research this year. Lucia is sporting a short bob, after giving away her hair for use in a wig. She’s also a young entrepreneur, co-founding ecologically conscious party supply rental service Ecoparties (find them on Facebook), and she encouraged classmates to plant 100 trees in Mui Wo as part of a Year 6 project at school. She’s the first Brownie in Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Division ever to win an Outstanding Brownie award.
No doubt Olivia is following in Lucia’s footsteps. She’s full of enthusiasm about the recent beeswax wrap sale: “I enjoyed the process, particularly picking out the fabrics and the patterns and baking them in the oven to melt the wax onto the fabric to make them waterproof. We sold them to raise money for charities in South Africa and Nepal that work on providing clean water.” And looking to the future, Olivia has her heart set on a Super Brownie Award. “You have to earn lots of other badges first,” she says. “No one in the Bauhinia Division has it yet, I think.”
Molly, meanwhile, wants to become a Brown Owl when she grows up. Right now, one of her focuses is on Impact HK, a charity lending support to the city’s homeless in a quest for employment and housing, as well as supporting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She’s already looking at charity work as a career.
Tweenies and siblings
But all that energy put into making the world better doesn’t mean the girls have no energy to be… girls.
Both Lucia and Molly like to perform on stage but neither would call herself artistic, per se, though Lucia will be the DJ in DC’s production of School of Rock next April. Molly prefers being in school to online learning, though press her to choose a favourite subject and the answer is a simple, “Not Maths.” Olivia’s into PE and Learning Technologies. There are no subjects she dislikes, not even Maths.
The girls aren’t yet sure what their Brown Owls have planned for them in December but they’re looking forward to working towards more badges and they’ll also be mentoring. Sixers help their Brown Owls lead the Pack, and the Tweenies keep them especially busy. “A Tweenie is when a girl joins the Brownie Pack but she hasn’t made her promise yet; first you have to learn about what being a Brownie means and if it’s right for you to make the commitment,” Olivia explains helpfully, i.e. for my benefit.
Before dashing off, they all shout out siblings – Olivia’s twin sister, Florence, and Lucia’s sister, Sophia, are both in Pack B (Sophia is in Molly’s Six). Molly has a brother, George. He and Sophia are both eight – and besties.
“George wanted to do Brownies,” finishes Molly with a laugh. “But we told him, ‘Really sorry, George.’ He joined the Cubs.”