Thursday, 6 November 2014

Free Being Me: First National Event

42 eager Leaders from IGG and CGI met in Larch Hill on the 10th -12th October for the first National Training on Free Being Me for Leaders in Ireland.

All the Leaders at the training will go on to introduce Free Being Me not only to their own Units, but will train hundreds of other Leaders in the New Year! Our plan is that 16,000 girls in Ireland will learn to challenge body image myths.

Through fun activity workshops the Leaders attending the training learnt how to deliver the programme which will educate girls that all body shapes and sizes and colours are to be appreciated because the truth is there is NO IDEAL BODY. The Image Myth is what the media tries to sell to us. The participants took part in different activities to help them understand the programme for girls so that they would feel more confident delivering it.

Feeling proud and happy about the way you look is called body confident. When beginning the activities with the Pledge, all participants must shout (very loudly) their enthusiasm and willingness to participate!

During our session on the Image Myth, it was funny looking at the contradictions within the Image Myth e.g.: curvy body, flat stomach, large breasts or long legs and small feet. At the end of this session, the participants understood that the Image Myth is created and reinforced by society, that beauty ideals change over time and vary between cultures and therefore are not worth pursuing.

Another session was on airbrushing. The participants were given the before and after pictures and had to note the differences. Not a hair was out of place on the airbrushed picture of the person, eyes were widened, eye lashes extended, neck elongated, arms made slimmer, breasts enlarged etc. Another session was considering the costs/dangers of trying to match the Image Myth - how it can make young people around the world feel down, how it can stop them fulfilling their potential and how it can affect their local and global communities. Participants were given large sheets of paper on which they were asked to draw the outline of a person. The Patrols were then asked to brainstorm the downsides for individuals of trying to look like the Image Myth. Inside the shape they wrote comments like: difficulty concentrating in class, low grades at school, not wanting to do sports, jealous of friends etc. Then outside this figure they wrote about what the negative effects were for the person and their community.

Another activity included sharing the participant's own message and speaking out against the Image Myth. Everyone was given a speech bubble and  wrote their message. Some of the messages written included; “ You are amazing, just the way you are” “ Be yourself, YOU are the BEST” “I am Me, I am unique! Let's be Free together”  I love and value myself because I’m Free Being Me”. These were then displayed on the walls of the training room.

Examples of the 7 – 10 year old programme activities included a session on the participants sharing their role models (from within the group of participants at the training) & recognising that appearance isn't an important factor in forming friendships or valuing others. It was interesting that the 6 Patrols choose different people. One choose Aisling, a 20 year old participant who was assisting in the kitchen, cooking and being a participant, another choose Laura, the Peer Educator facilitator from Girl Guiding UK.

Another activity involved participants sharing positive messages with others that express what they have learned so far in Free Being Me. Participants were given a sheet of paper in which they were asked to draw a star. They were then asked to share a positive message with others, encouraging them to celebrate who they are and challenge the idea that everyone should try to look a certain way.

Another activity session took the form of a treasure hunt where 10 messages were hidden in the room. When the Six finds a message, the Sixer reads it out. The Six thinks of a positive reply which shows that there isn't just one way to be beautiful, so worrying about trying to fit in with a certain look isn't worth it. An example would be, “My friends won’t like me if I’m not pretty”. The Six could reply “Don’t worry, we don’t agree. People like you because of who you are, not what you look like.”

Patrols drew their ideal Princess in another activity while another activity found them reading different parts of a story about  Gilly and Millie, two little mice. Gilly who cared greatly about image while Millie on the other hand, wanted to run, have fun, jump in the pond and play and didn't care how she looked.

While it was an action-packed weekend, time was given to reflections both mornings. Check out the pictures of the group outside on the Saturday morning on the Free Being Me Ireland page on Facebook. It was a “fresh” morning, otherwise known as FREEZING cold. I led the reflections on the Saturday morning and had to add an impromptu exercise routine between each of the 6 reflections.

On the Sunday morning we linked up via Skype with the Free Being Me training which was happening in Hong Kong at the exact same time!  We shared our Free Being Me Ireland rap which one of the Patrols had made up.

To say it was a fantastic weekend would put it mildly. We rock -  we are brill -  we are great just the way we are and will be even better having rolled out the Free Being Me programme in Ireland. 

Check out page 15 of November/December's Trefoil News for details of our 2015 Spring Training Days. One day events that any Leaders interested in running the programme can attend. There will be one coming to a town near you soon. Hope to see you there. 

Marg McInerney
CIGA Free Being Me Committee

This event was organised  by the Free Being Me Ireland team Helen O’Reilly (IGG), Hannah Ridgway (CGI), Nicola Mangan (CGI)and Marg McInerney (IGG) and facilitated by Paul Bigmore, Head of WAGGGS’s Dove Global Programme, and Laura Ede, National Chair of Girl Guiding’s Peer Education Programme.

To learn more about Free Being Me please visit the IGG website.

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