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Guides try to widen appeal

THE Guides are trying to shed their white, middle-class, Christian image in a drive to recruit more girls from ethnic minorities. A Lottery grant of £1.2 million will be used to encourage the setting up of groups in disadvantaged areas.

It didn't help the movement's image that many Guide units met in church halls, said Neill Young, spokesman for Girlguiding UK, on Tuesday. "What the organisation is and what it's perceived to be are two different things. What some people perceive is that because we meet in church halls, we're not available to people outside the Christian groups."

The Guide Promise was changed many years ago to "Love my God", and church parades have long been entirely optional. "We certainly have a spirituality side, but we are a multifaith organisation, and would encourage girls to develop their own thinking on that," said Mr Young.

Those at the grass roots of the UK organisation, which has 600,000 Guides and a waiting list of 50,000, say the profile of any Guide unit simply reflects the area in which it operates. "It's difficult to generalise. We do our best to embrace everyone within Guiding," said John Finney, spokesman for Nottinghamshire Girlguiding.

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