THE BLOG
23/02/2016 07:21 GMT | Updated 22/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Girlguiding Gives Every Girl the Opportunity for Adventure and Challenge

My name is Caroline Daboo, I'm 23 and I live in Cambridge. As a child I was very active. I did a lot of swimming, got a job as a lifeguard, and I studied hard to go to medical school.

When I was 17, I suffered a prolapsed disc in my back. During the routine epidural procedure that followed, I suffered a massive asthma attack and ended up in intensive care.

I recovered fairly well, but before long it became clear that this was not going to be a one-off event. My lungs reacted dramatically to almost anything. I suffered almost daily asthma attacks and had to learn a different way of living.

It meant giving up a lot of the things I enjoyed, and I found that very difficult.

New problems began to appear when I started university in 2010. The steroids I was taking to keep the attacks at bay were having side-effects all over my body, from weight gain and bruising easily to muscle-weakness.

Over time my muscles became weaker and wasted away, until during one hospital stay I got out of bed to pick something up and realised that I could not stand up. My legs were not strong enough.

The one thing that remained constant during this time is Girlguiding. I've been a member for 17 years, starting as a Brownie, and have been having adventures ever since.

Now I'm a member of The Senior Section, for girls and young women aged 14-25, and it is an important part of my life. In addition to being a leader with Brownies and Rainbows I have also been trained as a peer educator so I can deliver sessions on body confidence and healthy relationships to younger girls in a safe, girl-only space. I have also received training to take girls on trips away from home, giving them the same opportunities for adventure and confidence building that were so important to me when I was growing up.

I still get to have my own adventures too, which has become even more important to me over the past few years. Becoming a wheelchair user in 2011 was a very big change for me and could easily have led to me losing all of my confidence and giving up the things I had previously enjoyed. In so many areas of my life, people were automatically saying 'no' to me, but in guiding the answer was 'yes'. It gave me a safe environment to test out my new limits.

Since then I've done amazing things, including a trip to Canada in 2013 with Girlguiding where I sat on a glacier, went white water rafting and ventured through a cave to see a waterfall. In 2014 I completed my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition to the New Forest in Hampshire which I had given up hope of doing. Living with a disability has brought challenges in many shapes and forms, but Girlguiding is a place where I can be myself and get the best out of myself. It's got me through when my disability seemed like an insurmountable challenge and I've made friendships and memories that will last forever.

Guiding has taught me that girls can do anything, but sadly I know that not all girls feel the same. Girlguiding research shows that two in five girls aged 11 to 21 often stop themselves from taking part in fun activities because they're too self-conscious about their appearance. I want this to change - I want all girls to have the confidence to try something amazing, have an adventure and push themselves out of their comfort zone.

This year is the perfect opportunity for that to happen. Girlguiding is celebrating 100 years of The Senior Section and a year of celebration kicking off this weekend at Spark, a huge girl-only festival at Alexandra Palace in London. For girls in guiding 2016 is a year of adventure and challenge. From getting back to basics at a survival skills weekend, to leaning how to use their voice to change the world- girls will be getting out there and testing their limits.

The events and activities on offer this year have all been designed with the help of a steering group of girls and young women. Members of The Senior Section from all over the UK have been helping to put together the programme and I was lucky enough to be involved. It is incredibly exciting to see the plans unfolding and knowing that the entire year is truly girl-led. I can't wait to see what amazing adventures girls all across the country will be having in this special year!

I want all girls out there to join us, and make 2016 your year of adventure. Whether it's speaking out in class or trying an adventurous sport - big or small - it's time to ditch the fear and let nothing stand in your way!

To find out more about Girlguiding and the opportunities available to girls and leaders, you can visit their website here.