Thursday, 17 December 2015

Senior Branchers had a ball in Killarney!

This year the theme was a Princess Ball as it was the launch party for the new Journey Programme. My group and I headed to Killarney from Carlow. The trip was interesting as none of us had a clue where the hostel was, and as hostels are always behind some trees, it’s a requirement to drive past it about five times. When we finally reached it, we discovered that it was huge with loads of space and rooms.

Each room had a different princess picture on it! There was a Glass Slipper room, Princess Castle, Tiara etc. After making our beds we headed down to the kitchen for some lovely grub and a very chatty room filled with about 50 Senior Branchers and Leaders. The atmosphere was enthusiastic and friendly.

After dinner we all took part in a princess quiz. If you thought you knew nothing about Disney princesses, that definitely wasn’t the case after you took part in the quiz. There was a tie-breaker between my team and another, so we had to recreate a scene from one of our favourite Disney movies. Unknowingly, both teams chose Cinderella and the fitting of the glass slipper. The other team won due to their scene including Guiding and referring to hiking, but we had great fun doing ours too. The prize was a handcrafted Senior Branch Christmas star. That evening, before bed, we were given time to mingle in the front room, which had wi-fi. Wi-fi on camp? Who would have thought!

The next morning, after a lovely sleep, we were served breakfast of cereal, toast and eggs any way you could imagine them! There was scrambled, boiled, fried and even poached (we were that posh)! We were then split into two groups, one doing the Killarney Monopoly Run, the other visiting a famous place called Muckross House. I chose the Monopoly Run.

We were released into Killarney with a list of stuff to find, selfies to take and a group of girls from all over. One of the tasks was to sing a Christmas song under the big clock! My team drew in the biggest crowd as we were like Beyoncé singing. After completing as many of the challenges as we could, we headed back to check in before the monopoly time was up. We headed back for lunch and were told the winner would be announced at the ball! After lunch we were given red velvet princess cupcakes and, to say they were delicious, was an understatement! Tammy, our QM, had slaved over a hot stove while we were enjoying the previous night’s quiz (thanks Tammy)!

In the afternoon we had a guest talk from Sinead Cady - the ‘You Tuber’. She gave us a lesson on make-up, to help us be prepared for going out to the ball looking our best! She was lovely and it was great to listen to her telling us all her horror stories about makeup because we all have some too! She did a great make-up demo on her sister, then signed her book for us! Hopefully you saw us and Sinead on her Snapchat and Instagram!

We had two hours to change from Senior Branchers into princesses before our carriage for the ball would to take us to the Killarney Plaza Hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel, we posed on the staircase like true princesses before proceeding into our princess decorated room for a lovely three-course meal. This was followed by a short Guides Own and a DJ! We danced till 12 o’clock when, like Cinderella, we too had to return home.

Sunday morning we had a relaxing wake-up call and a big fry up for breakfast. We then had a talk from a lovely lady called Mary Robb from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs who asked us what we thought could be done to improve IGG. Jenny then gave us a quick Q&A session, which was hilarious before we were all given enough food to last us two weeks!

Sadly, it was then time for us all to head back home. People had come from all over Ireland. I’d made new friends and met up with old friends - girls from Cork, Carlow and Dublin.

I can’t wait for next year and hope to see you all there!

Roisin Lowe ~ Senior Branch, Carlow

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Gold Awards at The Gresham!

Girl Guides from throughout the country received Gold Awards at a special ceremony in Dublin’s Gresham Hotel on 21st November. There was such a high number – 140, which is the highest number ever – that two ceremonies were held – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Each Guide was presented with a Gold Award pin by IGG President Maureen Dillon. Guides attending the morning ceremony were presented with a certificate by Dublin Lord Mayor Cllr Críona Ní Dhálaigh; in the afternoon certificates were presented by Cllr Janice Boylan.

There were a number of speakers at each ceremony, including several Guides at each. At the morning ceremony Michelle Usher and Ellen Collins of St Barbara’s Guides, Ballincollig, Co Cork, talked about the Outdoor Compulsory Challenge they undertook as part of the Gold Award:

Our names are Michelle and Ellen and we were asked to talk to you today about an activity we helped to plan, organise and run at our Guide camp last summer. Our chosen activity was a wide game to be played with all the Guides on the Saturday afternoon of camp. 

Along with the other Gold Award Guides at camp, Alannah and Alannah, Amy and Leah, we decided to run a mini-Olympics over several bases.  This involved deciding how many bases we would need and what activity to play at each stop. 

There were about 35 Guides at camp so we split them into groups.  Because it was a mini-Olympics, we gave each group a country to represent.  The games included events such as running races, jumping hurdles and trying to run in straight lines after being spun around. 

We were given a bag of equipment to work with.  This included various outdoor items like skipping ropes, balls, ropes etc and we used these for some of the different bases. The Guides had to work together as a team to get the best results in order to win each event. 

We had a great time creating this activity for the Guides and we hope they enjoyed it equally as much.

Áine Daly of St Rynagh’s Guides, Banagher, Co Offaly, talked about how she had attended two Senior Branch meetings to find out about their programme:

We met up on Friday evenings – we picked Friday as some of the girls were in college. They were all girls I knew from Brownies and Guides. We had a chairman, secretary and treasurer. My first meeting was around Christmas and we decided to plan an outing. We had to discuss what Leader was going to come, where we were going to go, the cost and the transport.

We decided to go to Dublin Zoo. We looked up what it was going to cost and looked up prices for the local bus company. Everyone agreed that they would like to go. We decided that that we would bring money to the treasurer at the next meeting.

The next Friday we all brought in the money and the other girls started telling us what they were doing in other Units. They were telling us how they did a Hallowe’en craft with Ladybirds and Brownies and how much they enjoyed it.

We went to Dublin but, when we got there, it started to rain so we decided to go shopping instead. It was a great day out for all of us. Now that I’m finished my Gold Award, I’m now a member of Senior Branch. As I got my Bronze Gaisce Award during Transition Year, I’m looking forward to getting my Silver Moon with Senior Branch.

At the afternoon ceremony two members of Lucan Guides, Susanne Moody and Sarah Brogan, talked about new hobbies and interests they had taken up as part of the Gold Award challenge.

Susanne: I joined Westside Performing Arts School for my hobby. I really enjoyed singing, dancing and acting and I’m looking forward to being part of a show soon.

Other girls in our Unit became helpers at Brownies, took part in their school play, started bowling and even learned how to play the ukulele.

Sarah: I began baking every week. I made some simple things, like cookies and cupcakes, and some very challenging things, like lemon meringue pie. I definitely enjoyed not only the process of baking, but also eating them!

Susanne concluded: I think we speak on behalf of all the girls when we say that the Gold Award has been a great experience and we are lucky to have completed this worthwhile award before the new system came in.

Well done to all 140 Guides on a well-deserved achievement!

Friday, 20 November 2015

An overseas investiture!

Griffeen Valley Senior Branchers were planning their official investiture for over a year. The trip was planned, budgeted for and a number of fundraising events were organised so that preparations could continue.* However, there was one hiccup in the plan; the group of seven girls could not decide exactly where to go.  Out of Dublin, away for at least one night, a memorable location for the ceremony and a BIG ADVENTURE – but where?

With all the ground work done and no agreement on a destination, our Unit Leader decided that the way to make this event a bigger adventure was to decide on the location herself and keep these details as a secret from us.

We received some clues along the weeks of preparation; a kit list which specified that all our belongings should be brought in a day bag and a trolley-bag (cabin baggage size) and, for weight purposes, that our toiletries be brought only in small travel-size containers, allergies to cats, dairy intolerances, ability to ride a bike, travel sickness - particularly on water. We were asked about our competency in spoken Irish (however, this proved to be an interesting red herring, which led us to believe that we were heading to the Aran Islands.) Some days before, it was confirmed that we would NOT be travelling to London, and EuroDisney was also not a contender. We asked about our passports but were told that we would not need them. This was true in so far as our Leader had already obtained our passports from parents and hence we did not NEED to bring them.

First thing on the Monday morning of mid-term we received a message that the group was to meet at Dublin Airport first thing in the morning where our location would be revealed. However, before the big reveal, we had to write down where we thought we were going.  No one guessed correctly! The Aran Islands was the obviously pre-discussed consensus of the group. The final reveal was a folder which contained our travel journals, a list of 40 challenges for the trip and a picture clue of the destination. The final reveal after some incredulous exclamations of Amsterdam! … We were off to HOLLAND!!!

The group flew to Eindhoven, an industrial satellite city full of offices, manufacturing and service facilities, populated by a young and bustly workforce. On arrival, we met our guide for the trip - an Irishman married and living in, and working from, Holland. He works with cycling groups throughout Europe and especially from Ireland, and the brother of our Leader, which was very handy! Used to working with groups of young men, he was highly amused by the excitement and banter of these lively new visitors.

On the bus through Eindhoven, we travelled to the railway station and took a train to the very beautiful university city of Utrecht. It was magical to walk around the city at night and especially to view the Gothic Dom tower, which is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands. After sampling some street food, a challenge from our list, of patatjes (Dutch chips) with mayonnaise, we took a short train ride to Woerden where our accommodation (with a resident cat, several fish in the pond and three swans in the canal at the bottom of the garden) awaited with hot soup, warm beds and hot tea with Stroopwaffles (another Dutch gastronomic delighted that awaited our taste buds - it is basically a caramel sandwich made with either shortbread or wafer). Leaving it on top of your cup of tea for a few minutes enables the caramel to melt and be even more delicious! 

The following morning, after a typical Dutch breakfast of cooked meats and cheese, and bread or crackers with sugar sprinkles, we headed off to Utrecht again, in the beautiful sunshine. After several selfies, group photos and pictures of canals framed with bicycles, we embarked on a canal tour where we renewed our Guiding Promise.

We ate some Dutch ice-cream from a street vendor as we walked around the bustling city looking at some amazing architecture. Then a bus ride to another new town: Oudewater. This sleepy Dutch town is home to the famous Heksenwaag (witches’ weighing scales). The weighing house has now been turned into a museum and became famous during the 1500s when people (primarily women,) who were accused of witchcraft, were given the chance to prove their innocence. The idea being if you were too light and skinny you were a witch as you obviously had no soul and would have been light enough to fly on a broom.

Those accused of being a witch in those times would save up their money to make the trip to Oudewater to obtain a certificate to prove their innocence. At the time, the witch hunts were sanctioned by the church to break the power of the local herb doctors (especially women) and midwives. We went to a presentation in the museum in Dutch, which was hilarious. We had our photo taken on the scales with our witch host. She said that she was delighted to meet us - as champions of girls and women. For our part, we experienced an alternative FREE BEING ME presentation. What a difference 600 years make with public opinion. Back then it was a bad thing to be too skinny!

That night, it was barbeque for dinner, followed by the movie Dirty Dancing, with Dutch snacks – peppernoten – delicious tiny spiced biscuits (some of which were covered in chocolate!)
The following day, bags were packed and farewells said to our hostess, the cat and the many fish.  The group headed to the weekly food market in the centre of Woerden.  The locals were so friendly and helpful to us all. We tasted cheese and freshly made stroopwaffles, we chatted with the locals and one very friendly lady bought us a large packet of fresh peppernoten as a gift. 

We also purchased chocolate letters, which are typical gifts at this time of the year.  Santa comes to Holland on the 5th of December.  In the Netherlands he is called Sinterklaas and although dressed in red, his costume is like a bishop’s tunic and mitre.  He arrives on a boat from Spain in Novemberand when he lands in each town, he rides to all the houses on a white horse.  He does not have elves to help him but men called Zwarte Piet (Black Peters) who have black faces and very colourful costumes and hats with feathers.  They give chocolate coins and chocolate letters to all the children.  Sinterklaas leaves his gifts in the children’s shoes (or clogs).

With our suitcases bursting with our newly purchased Dutch delicacies, we boarded the train bound for Amsterdam.  Suitcases safely stowed in the left luggage, we headed out to locate our guide for the afternoon who would take us on a cycling tour of the city.  If we found the cyclists in the other towns and cities we visited a bit difficult to dodge, we were not prepared for the crazy noise and activity of Amsterdam.  There were cars and trams; bicycles, bicycles with baby’s prams, DHL bicycles, bicycles with flowers, bicycles with food, bicycles selling coffee, nannies riding bikes with two children in front and a baby in a carrier on her chest; there were bikes with old ladies, bikes with businessmen, ladies in high heels, students with books……..and then there was a line of Irish Girl Guides with navy jumpers, pink neckers and helmets (Yes! We were the only ones in the city wearing helmets!)  Cycling through the city was by far one of the highlights of the whole trip.  Everyone agreed it was the best way to see a city and we decided to try it again the next time we visit a new city.

The first stop of the tour – the most important – we located the bench from the movie “The Fault in Our Stars”.  This was where the seven Senior Branchers renewed their Guide Promise and added the special addendum, which was particularly relevant as we stood on the banks of a canal in Amsterdam beside our bikes.

The day was completed with a visit to the Anne Frank Museum – another example of a strong and influential girl.  Although a sad reminder of the tragedies of war and man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, it was a visit that will remain with us all.

As we headed back through the bustling streets to the central station and on to Schipol airport, we calculated our walking mileage for the few days at 38km.  We saw, tasted, visited and experienced as much as we could in our few short days.  We began a love affair with a strange but wonderful country.  We hope to return in the future and visit more cities. 

We think we ticked all the boxes in our Senior Branch adventure! Onwards to the next adventure!

* They did take a break at one point to organise a TY ball in Lucan and, in so doing, raised €1,500 for Temple Street hospital

Thursday, 5 November 2015

First steps on the Journey Programme!

IGG members throughout Ireland are taking their first steps on the exciting new Journey Programme. What’s the reaction been so far?

“The Journey Programme is brilliant! It’s easy to understand and really great fun, full of colour and the new badges are great.”

“The book tells you at the start what you have to do for each badge. It's very clear.”

"The new interest badges are brill and the new shapes and colours are great!"

“The new programme is way better because it is interesting and easier to do. It won't be boring in any way and I love the names of the different parts of the programme.”

"This is going to be fantastic. I am planning to get that Trail Blazer badge. It looks so cool!”

These are the thoughts of some of the members of Carrigdhoun Guides in Cork. Their Leader, Marg McInerney, adds:

I was won over by the Journey Programme when it was launched at national conference back in March - the razzmatazz, the bright colours and the actual content of the programme. I knew that anything new was going to be different so, as I flicked through the programme, I was expecting loads of new and some bits of old.

I was delighted to get an A4 page which had the old programme badges named and a picture of the badge in colour on the left side of the page with an arrow going from each one of them to a picture of the new badge and its name. This for me made it so easy to see from the start that, if a Guide was in the middle of her Spruce award, she could either finish the requirements for the badge and get her Spruce badge or decide to start afresh on the new Journey Programme at that level, beginning with the Pathfinder badge.

As a Guide Leader, I was delighted that this A4 page gave me the old and the new programme badges for all branches. Now I know that Ladybirds are going to be earning powers and doing Discover, Grow and Fly badges, Brownies will be earning gadgets and doing Detect, Investigate and Explore badges and Senior Branch have different pathways in their new programme and can earn awards and pins like Bronze Stars, Silver Moons and Golden Suns.

August came around very quickly this year and the other Guide Leaders in my Unit were sitting around my kitchen table with mugs of coffee, tea, Kathryn's banana cake and chocolate fingers trying to think, prepare and plan the Guide programme for the next term.  We knew that we would be getting a training on the Journey Programme in early September at our Regional Conference but we wanted to at least put together some kind of timetable for each of the meetings from September to Halloween. So we decided we would introduce the Journey Programme to the Guides on the first night of the new term and to try to complete two or three new badges before the mid-term break. We told the Guides that we were all going on a new journey together.

For the first September meeting we had the picture of the new programme badges (Pathfinder, Voyager, Innovator, Trail blazer) and the requirements printed out for each of our test work groups.  We stuck these up on the wall each week in the hall. Each night we give 15 - 20 mins to test work, play two games, have 10 minutes’ patrol time and do something else for 30 mins.
In September we began with the Healthy Friendship badge. It really got the new Brownies and Guides mixing together and talking from the word ‘Go’. To complete the requirements for the badge we used programmes we knew already and used the new book too. To find out what makes a person a friend, we used the IGG Health Promotion Guide book (page 51). This also partially covered the Guide Choice Challenge - Teamwork Adventure on What Makes a Friend (page 43 no. 5) of the new Leaders’ Travel Guide book. Over four meeting we played an exclusion game, discussed bullying issues, acted out scenarios, talked about friendships etc.

Last night we started the Science Badge as Science week is in November. We got a Scientists and Inventors crossword puzzle from and made up a science-orientated wordsearch as another activity. As part of the patrol time, the Guides discussed how they were finding the Journey Programme. They love it and are looking forward to taking their next steps …

Monday, 19 October 2015

Women in the World Summit proves ‘truly inspirational’

IGG Leaders, Catherine Swanwick from Dublin and Dara Daly from Cork, represented IGG at the Women in the World Summit in London from 7th-9th October and a three-day 'Be the Change' workshop organised by WAGGGS and the Dove Self-Esteem Project, which preceded it. Here Catherine writes about their experience:

Catherine Swanwick (left) and Dara Daly (right)
pictured with WAGGGS CEO Anita Tiessen
The Dove Self-Esteem Project is a social initiative that has been launched by Dove to help reduce the stigma that exists around body image in young girls and women, the end goal being that the reduction of this stigma and the increased positivity around body image will also affect women’s role in the world. Helping them to be more confident not just in how they look but how they behave in society. Giving them the confidence to speak up, to step out and to set an example for the generations that come behind them.

So where do I come in? This year Dove sponsored the Women In The World Summit - an event that hosts women from all over the world and hears their inspirational stories. Dove made the decision to take it one step further and invite young women from all over the world who are passionate about social change and have become role models to women in their generation and more. They turned their attention to The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, an organisation that prides itself on creating leaders for the future and providing a space for young women to discover themselves and learn life skills.

I was emailed about this incredible opportunity and decided to throw my name in the hat. I filled out the application form and, before I knew it, I was walking through Dublin airport with passport and ticket in hand.

The days that followed in London, not to sound cheesy, were truly inspirational. I arrived expecting to hear some incredible stories at the summit. What I did not expect was to be so inspired by my fellow delegates and to have the opportunity to speak to some of the speakers from the summit in person, topped off with some really intriguing workshops where I learnt about some of my faults and behaviours that I can now work on.

Our first two days were workshop based. Our “headquarters” as such was the Edelman offices just down the road from our hotel. We heard from the CEO of WAGGGS and the editor of Cosmo, we did a workshop with RADA and Twitter, Nina Nesbitt and many more. This wasn’t even the main event.

On Thursday night we attended the opening of the WITW summit. Even flicking through the programme, although I did not know or recognise many of the names just reading the short paragraph about each speaker, I knew we would be hearing some amazing stories from women of all races, cultures, backgrounds and plights.

I could go on talking all day recounting the stories of each of the women that I heard speak, some of whom I was lucky enough to also meet in person, but I won’t. What I will do is tell you what I learnt from all of it.

Firstly, we have a long way to go. What woman does not look in the mirror every day and see at least one part of her body she does not like? What women walks on a stage and doesn’t think about what people are going to think of her outfit? What woman meets a young girl and doesn’t comment first and foremost on her appearance? What woman sees a picture of herself and does not automatically find something to comment on regarding her appearance?

Catherine Swanwick (back row middle) and Dara Daly
(front right) pictured during the 'Be the Change' workshop
If you know this woman please introduce me! I would love to say that I am that woman. That I don’t let myself be held back by how I look or how I am perceived by others. That would be a lie. The truth is that I am making progress. I am starting to understand that I can look however I want to look and how to priorities what elements of myself give me value. I realise that my friends and my family do not value me for how I look but for my personality. I understand that my job does not value me for my fashion sense but for my work ethic and my skills. I believe that I no longer value myself for how I look but for my accumulation of skills, experiences, education, actions and personality. I don’t believe I will ever stop worrying about how I look completely but I intend to learn how to stop it from holding me back.

Now I want to help others. I want to be a role model for the girls in my Girl Guide Unit, for my sisters, for any future women who I may be lucky enough to work with or mentor in the future and even maybe one day for my own daughters.

My trip to London was a big step in the right direction.

Lastly, I want to share a piece written by Marianne Williamson that RADA had us read which for me sums up all I learnt over my few days in London.

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.”

~ Catherine Swanwick blogs at

Monday, 14 September 2015

Campfire Against Suicide: Show you care, Ask the question, Make the call!

Well done to Cork Guide Leader, Georgina Cantwell, on organising a hugely successful Campfire Against Suicide on 11th September to coincide with Suicide Prevention Week. Here Georgina writes about the experience ...

Campfires have always been one of the happiest places on Earth for me. When I was younger, every Saturday morning at Guide camp, I would wake up knowing that in just a few hours I would be singing and dancing around a crackling flame. And then the day would go on, and drama would nearly always ensue, energy levels would dip and emotions would be running high: the campfire becoming something I had no more interest in.

But, ever since I progressed to become a Leader with the Girl Guides, it has changed ever so
slightly. I still get tired and my emotions still run high, but I always know that no matter how bad I might be feeling, or how little energy I have, there is a young girl in the group who is going to be missing home, feeling way more sad than I and with even less energy.

So I know that this campfire has to be extra special, extra fun and extra positive. I need this
campfire to be the happiest hour and a half - silly, fun and entertaining. So, around Saturday
afternoon, while all the girls are off doing what Guides do, I pull out my camp songs and plan the best campfire I can.

The only problem is that 10 to 16 year old girls are full of those self-conscious and too cool
vibes, all worried that they will look foolish or be made fun of if they go all in. But, if there is one thing that is not allowed at one of my campfires, it’s judgment.

Generally, around eight o’clock we all move into the campfire circle, some with blankets full
with badges, me with my shirt. And, almost from the very get go, my loud, very happy, very
exuberant self comes to the surface, even when I am in the depth of a nasty depression. I put the whole day behind me and all I care about is everyone having a good time. I make it as active as I can so that, while I forget about my issues, the girls can forget about theirs.

For two hours there is only happy vibes and laughter, songs and silly dances. And, the next morning, as we prepare to end camp and ask the girls what the highlight of the
weekend was for them, and hear back ‘The campfire’, I know I’ve done my job well.

This past week has been Suicide Prevention Week and not too long ago, the main man behind Cycle Against Suicide , Jim Breen, messaged me to see if I would host an event for this particular week to further spread the message that ‘ It is OK not to be OK and that it is
ABSOLUTELY OK to ask for help ’. Within an hour of him sending that message, preparations
were underway for a Campfire Against Suicide especially for Girl Guides.

Weeks passed and soon enough it was the day of the event. The day prior, things were looking great. All the prep was done, and the excitement was mounting. But on the morning of the Campfire, I woke up to weather warnings and quite a bit of rain. I was close to tears as people started dropping like flies, but I was not giving up! This campfire was going ahead, even if I was to be the only one there.

But people did turn up - many, many people. It quickly sunk in that this campfire was 100%
happening, right now! My legs trembled right up until the last second, even as Jim Breen and his mate Barry assured me of my greatness. Even as some of my closest friends and my wonderful mother patted me on the back, gave me thumbs up, winks, smiles, everything they could to support

I was a nervous wreck the whole way through, but at the end of it all when people swarmed up to hug me (something I was in much need of) to tell me how proud they were of me, how impressed they were and how much of an awesome time they had, hearing the laughter of all the girls and seeing the smiles going from ear to ear, it was enough. It was enough to assure me I had succeeded in exactly what I set out to do, even if it was indoors around some candles rather than outside around a giant flame.

And a whole bunch of girls, some as young as nine, went home that evening having learned
nine new words:

Show you care, Ask the question, Make the call!

~ Georgina blogs at

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Journey Programme encourages us to find our path & invent our own future

Claudia Carey, a Senior Branch member in Limerick, was excited to be able to take part in the launch of the Journey Programme. She said it was great to be able to show people the opportunities that are available to young girls and women through the Irish Girl Guides and how the new programme would help them grow and discover their potential.

“The launch event was a great evening and I was extremely impressed by how the new programme has been rewritten,” she said. “It was an evening full of presentations and music, even a little bit of dancing at the end. Being an Irish Girl Guide for 13 years, it was lovely for me to be able to see the changes being made to the programme and the positive effects it will have. Through this programme we are encouraged to be our own hero, investigate the world around us, find our path and invent our own future.”

Claudia spoke at the launch about her experience being an IGG member, including a service project in India in which she participated during the summer. This is the text of her presentation:

My name is Claudia Carey and I'm a Senior Branch member in the Caherdavin area of Limerick. I have been a member of the Irish Girl Guides for 13 years and today I'm going to tell you about the opportunity that I had during the summer to visit one of our world centres - Sangam in India. I went with a project group that would be working in conjunction with Door Step Schools - this is an organisation in India that helps disadvantaged people by teaching them English.

At 17 years old I was the youngest member of a group of 13 women from all over Ireland, we were from all different walks of life and had only met three times before we met at the airport. That is where our journey began.

After two eight hour flights and one four hour bus journey we finally reached Sangam World Centre in Pune, which is South East of Mumbai, and had some well-deserved rest. Later that evening we had our welcoming ceremony in true Indian style.

Our first few days were spent team-building, so we could get to know one another better, and planning for our project. There were four sites we could be split up to work in; the name of my site was Liviano.

When we weren't planning we were exploring Indian culture - the way they dress, the language they spoke and their traditional foods. We even had the chance to visit an Indian family and they told us all about their day to day lives.

Sangam is very involved in the local community and is invested in conserving energy.
While in Sangam we completed a few challenges, such as learning to count to 10 in Hindi, climbing the water tower and taking funny photos around Sangam. We also made friends with the groups who were staying in Sangam while we were there, many of whom we are still in contact with. 

However, this wasn't just a relaxing holiday. We had a goal - to help in the Door Step Schools in any way we could for the time we had there. Liviano, the site in which I was based, could have 25-35 children on any given day all between the ages of 4-14. They welcomed us with open arms and were eager to learn. We started with easier topics, such as numbers, the body and colours, and as our time went on we introduced shapes, emotions and hygiene. As well as this we did some crafts, played games and sang songs like ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’.

While we were there the children made phenomenal progress, one of the young boys in the school, named Rashid, walked over to me on our last day and said to me, "Madam" (that's what they called us),"thank you very much, we will miss you, goodbye". That moment is something that will stay with me for a very long time.

On our last night in Sangam we had our Indian Afternoon which included sari-tying, henna, rangoli and an Indian feast. It was a wonderful event.

For our last day in Sangam we managed to get in a little sight-seeing of Pune so we visited the Aga Khan Palace, which is where Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned for some of his lifetime.

Later on we had our closing ceremony and after that we got a bus to Mumbai train station. It was difficult to say good bye to the staff at Sangam - they had made us feel so at home and welcome that we had become good friends.

From the station at Mumbai we got a 16 hour train to the city of Agra, which is in the north of India. All I can say is that the train journey was an experience.

We spent one night in Agra and saw some beautiful sites such as the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, which is as breath-taking in real life as it is in the photos.

Then we travelled to Jaipur and spent two nights there. During our stay we got an elephant ride to a hill-top fort known as the Amber Fort. This region is famous for textiles and precious stones, so we also visited a textile factory and gem-shaping facility.

For our last night in India we staying in its capital, Delhi, and that morning we went to see the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial before making our way to the airport.

On our journey home we all found it hard to believe that our adventure in India had come to an end. We as a group had all grown closer together, like a family, and we all had this amazing experience along with some fond memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

This was a once in a lifetime experience that has changed me for the better, but it would never have been possible for me if not for the Irish Girl Guides and the group of inspirational women that I went with. I would like to thank you all for your continued support and encouragement because, if it were not for you, India would still be a dream.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

The atmosphere was electric at the Journey Programme launch!

The launch of our new Journey Programme in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, was a great success. The atmosphere was electric as we started off with our photo shoot in the courtyard outside, with girls from each branch posing with copies of the new programme, rucksacks and even a mini mountain!

During the launch, presented by our wonderful Girl Guide M.C., Anna Sexton, we were treated to a speech from our very own Jillian Van Turnout, who immediately captivated our audience (consisting of many Guiding and non-Guiding guests) with a taster of our new programme.

This was followed by two extremely impressive presentations from two Senior Branchers from Caherdavin, Limerick. Naomi Keays showed us how much training and fun she had while training for - and then completing - three summit hikes in the Swiss Alps, while Claudia Carey made us teary-eyed hearing about her work for a service project in Sangam, India, while she was working with disadvantaged children in the local area.

Later, we heard from the Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan, who said she was proud to support the Irish Girl Guides, and made us laugh when she perfectly recited the Brownie Song. We also were privileged to have Niamh Briggs present - the Irish Women's International Rugby captain. She spoke to us about her experiences as a Guide shaping her to become the confident and outgoing woman she has grown to be. We were all greatly inspired.

In between all of this activity, we sang songs (one in particular – Can a Ladybird? written by Pauline Kennedy - I'm hoping it becomes available for use in our units!) and saw the vast amount of interest badges available to our girls with the programme.

The evening was wrapped by our Chief Commissioner Helen Concannon, who encouraged us to keep up the good work and to keep instilling confidence in our girls. We ended the festivities with (you guessed it!) a dance and a song that even the men in the room joined in with.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally can't WAIT to start the programme with my Ladybirds next week.

Roll on the Regional Conferences, where we can all share in the excitement! 

~ Sarah Condren, Caherdavin, Limerick

My crazy, fun-filled (& sometimes out of my comfort zone) time at Ventact!

For me, Ventact started in a camp field in Kilkenny while enjoying our Regional Camp. Light-headed from the altitude, I volunteered to go to Ventact (I’m sticking to that excuse): a new challenge and new milestone to add to my Guiding journey. A little unprepared for what lay ahead, we registered for the crazy fun-filled weekend.

As I packed the car for the forthcoming weekend, I was in the mind-set of a Guide camp: cooker, gas, food, tent, first aid kit and so on. I was really in the Guide Leader zone making sure that every possible scenario was covered.

As I drove to Kilcully House, I was excited to see how a joint camp could be run, but also nervous as to how it could possibly work.  Upon arrival, I was taken aback by the sea of tents - it was like a scene from the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I really felt like a Muggle compared to seasoned Ventact leaders, who were taking the set up in their stride; we were more like Harry, Ron and Hermione falling flat on our faces after exiting the portal key. 

As we arranged our tent and planned our tea, the true relaxed nature of the camp became apparent. As the night rolled on, I felt more and more confused: life was laid back and mapped out, but with flexible boundaries. As the activities were given out and the swap phase started, it reminded me of the stock exchange on Wall Street, with traders calling out their commodities for sale and the bidding war began!

As I climbed into my tent, I was delighted that the Senior Branch Guides had successfully swapped onto the activities they wanted. Chatting with my partner in crime for the weekend, I realised I was not the only Muggle (sorry Fiona).  By 3am I was finally asleep, but only to be woken at 7.30am with the sound of Good Morning Vietnam (and a great selection of music). A little dazed, I mentally prepared to face the day ahead. The camp staff were great; they herded the dazed Scouts and Guides in the right direction: onto the buses and off to their activities, to return by 4.30pm as excitement built for the Harry Potter-themed Disco and of course the Guide/Scout Own.  

It was after Guide’s Own that my ‘comfort zone’ became a little strained. Volunteering to help with security for the evening, we were given our tasks and the rules we were to enforce for the evening and we headed off as Guide Leaders.  However, by the end of the night I felt more like a dementor securing the prison of Azkaban: enforcing all the rules and regulations, but perhaps forgetting that these are teenagers who like to, and should be allowed to, bend (but not break) the rules.

The next morning, while chatting to the Scout Leaders, I realised that I had come to Ventact as a Muggle, expecting a structured camp, but was now going away with an open mind and the upmost respect for what Scout Leaders face.  I highly recommend Guide Leaders attend Ventact. Yes, your first year will be confusing, but the experience gained from this weekend will stay with you through-out your Guiding journey. I will be returning (and there are probably Scout Leaders shouting “Why Us?”) but I am truly looking forward to it.

Lastly, I would like to thank all the staff and committee members who organise this event every year. You are doing a brilliant job, so “Well done to one and all”!

 ~ Mena Timoney, St Bridget's Guides, Clonmel)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Explorer Belt 4: Today is the day - THE END!

The girls have now completed 12 projects, walked a minimum of 180km, talked to a variety of people in Thuringia, and finished this part of the Explorer Belt challenge.

Although tired from the challenge, this morning meant the last few kilometres still had to be completed. They were, however, delighted to have an overcast morning which meant their journey was nice and cool. 

Once they arrived at their pick up points - Team A from the Paulinzella Monastery and Team B from the Bunker Museum- it was time for the last few words to be written in their logs and to have one last review of their projects, so that they were ready to hand everything over as soon as their lift arrived. 

Once collected, the teams are for Rieneck Castle where their dinner will be presented to them - a treat they're looking forward to.  Later this evening the assessment panels will read their logs and projects and prepare for the assessments, which will happen tonight and in the morning. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Explorer Belt 3: The Final Stretch!

The teams finally met each other on Day 5 in Blankenstein - a small town where four of the German long-distance hiking trails intersect. The girls swapped stories and, even more importantly, tips for the trail ahead.

The last few days have really shown the human spirit at its best. Sometimes it's the simple things that make all the difference and the last few days have really proven that to the teams.

The offers of showers, a simple cup of tea, a bed for the night, sharing of stories and even the treat of having their clothes washed provided the boost that will push the teams on for the second half of their expedition.

Team A – Katherine and Jemma - are heading to the Fairy Grottoes just outside Saalfeld today to complete their last compulsory project.

Team B – Grace and Emma - have completed all their compulsory projects and are enjoying the hiking towards their final pick up point.

Having met both teams in the last 24 hours, they can hardly believe it's Day 8 already. With many miles behind them, the end is almost within sight!

~ Lorna Finnegan, IGG International Commissioner

Friday, 7 August 2015

Explorer Belt 2: Tears and Triumphs ...

The boot tree near Blankenstein
In the past 24 hours each team was reminded of the challenge that is the Explorer Belt.

We know everyone in Ireland is praying for sunshine but at 33/34 degrees the teams here are praying for rain, or at least a little cloud to cool them on their journey.

Maps of unfamiliar scale have put each team to the test, but as the event continues they are growing in confidence with every step.

Team A - Katherine and Jemma - have completed their project on Kronach and are now heading for the Deutsch Deutches Museum via Blankenstein. They have met many lovely locals along their way including a nice lady on a tractor who wanted to drop them to their destination last night.

Team B - Emma and Grace - were very grateful for the hospitality provided by locals in Künsdorf yesterday. Today they visited the Deutsch Deutches Museum to learn about the former German division. Bear in mind that one of these girls wasn't  even born the year the Berlin wall came down!

Fingers crossed the teams will meet each other on the road tomorrow, possibly around Blankenstein. Here four of the main German hiking trails meet and walkers often leave their boots behind. We hope our teams keep their boots with them! It's hard to believe we are almost at the half way point already ... 
~ Lorna Finnegan, IGG International Commissioner

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Explorer Belt: 1st installment!

Arriving at Dublin airport the teams still had no idea where they would be going. Having been told to meet in Terminal 2 at 9am the teams scoured the departures information in an attempt to figure out their destination. However, the Explorer Belt was not about to give up its secret easily... the teams were actually departing from Terminal 1!

Once everyone had arrived the secret was revealed ... Germany was to be our base for the next two weeks.

The remainder of the day was spent travelling to the heart of our destination in the Thuringia Region of Germany. The teams spent their first night in Schwarzburg - their last night in a bed for the next 10 days.

Morning of Day 1 the nervous excitement began to build. Gear checks revealed well-prepared teams. After breakfast it was time to load up the cars and head for drop off points unknown!

Team A - Katherine Ryan and Jemma Lee - were dropped in Steinheid and are heading towards Kronach to complete their project on the Rosenberg Fortress, which they hope to reach by Day 3.

Team B - Emma Harvey and Grace Cronin - were dropped at the Feengrotten (Fairy Caves) near Saalfeld. They completed their project on the caves and are now heading for the Deutch Deutches Museum to complete their next compulsory project. They hope to reach here by Day 4.

Along the way both teams also have a number of optional projects to choose from. These projects will help bring them in contact with local people in the area.

Teams are checking in with staff each day and morale to date is high!

~ Lorna Finnegan, IGG International Commissioner

Friday, 31 July 2015

Wind and rain didn't spoil the fun at Camp Celtic Myths!

Over 130 girls from the North-East Region, and 9 Girl Scouts from America, enjoyed camping in Loughcrew, Co. Meath 15-19 July. Despite the bad weather a great time was had by all!
The theme was Camp Celtic Myths with three sub-camps called Queen Maebh and the Bull of Cooley, Grainne Mhoal and Deirdre of the Sorrows.

The first day was for Leaders (their own children) and Senior Branchers to set up the marquees etc. and to welcome the Girl Scouts from America. The Senior Branchers and Girl Scouts shared songs, stories and American folklore in the teepee tent on the first night; friendships were made from the get go.

The next day the Girl Scouts went off to Causey Farm for some traditional Irish cultural activities. The Guides arrived, pitched their tents, enjoyed some icebreaker games and learned all about what was in store for them. They were put into patrols and had the chance to get to know Guides from other units, especially ones that they would be spending time with during camp. There would be the chance to take part in Loughcrew's Got Talent on the last night and we would have time to practice during camp. Activities included First Aid, fun practical challenges, a heritage walk and a scavenger hunt. By the evening, the rain had set in, so after dinner and all camp jobs completed, the Guides decided to go into their cosy tents and chat about their plans for their performances. 

The next day was still showers and winds, but that didn't daunt anyone: there was too much to enjoy, like the Loughcrew Adventure Centre obstacle course and zip wire, warrior dance workshops and warrior craft, making scarves and props for warrior outfits. I got soaked but I didn’t care, the rain would soon wash it off!

In the evening the weather dried up, the sun came out and the four workshops came together for a dance off. Inspired, the Leaders also had a go, much to the delight and embarrassment of some of the Guides! It was brilliant fun! This was followed by a lovely campfire, where we learnt some American campfire songs and taught our American visitors some of ours. The campfire ended with the exchanging of gifts and badges or 'patches' as they call them. It was a special night that will be in our memories forever.

Saturday morning it was time for our visitors to travel on to Lorne, so after pancakes for breakfast, we sang Go Well and Safely and waved them goodbye with a few tears. We were soon perked up again when it came time for activities: we were treated to a visit to Loughcrew Cairns with a tour guide showing us inside the tombs! We learnt how to write our names in Ogham writing and how trees were so important in ancient times. We got to make a catapult gadget which could be used in combat; obviously ours was used for fun, but it has huge potential for a water-based game (haha)!
The evening was dry and the sun was out and we enjoyed dinner outside in a traditional horseshoe. 

We were delighted to be joined by our Regional Commissioner Elizabeth Lynch. She is also OA and was testing JoAnne our Leader for her QM qualification. Dinner was delicious so we knew JoAnne would pass.
In the evening we went into the church ruins; the church was once owned by St Oliver Plunkett. It was lovely but had no roof, but that was OK as it wasn't raining at that point. The Salmon of Knowledge Quiz was fun; questions were called out and everyone put up their hand if they knew the answer, and spot prizes were given out. It was then time for the Loughcrew's Got Talent: 11 acts took part - not everyone wanted to, but that was OK. There were songs as a group and a soloist, dance, and even a martial arts demonstration! The unanimous winners did a short play which really captured what Guiding is all about: everyone agreed they were the best! It was getting dark and we had beautiful tea lights in the windows and a campfire to keep us warm. With there being so many of us, the Senior Branchers cooked us gorgeous ‘smores and passed them around. Yummy! Then it was back to sub-camp for hot chocolate and bed.

Sunday morning the wind had dropped, the rain had stopped and it was time to pack up. After getting dressed and packed up we had a leisurely breakfast together before 'striking' the tents. We had to wipe them all down, so they were dry being put away. We all worked together and helped the Leaders packing away all the equipment in their cars and trailers. The marquee was the hardest to get down, but by working together we soon got it done.

Once everything was packed up, the whole camp gathered together on the hill overlooking camp. The Senior Branchers read out some lovely stuff about friendship for Guides Own. I have made some lovely friends through Guides and from other units. It’s great to get together and see them at other events too. We sang This Little Guiding Light of Mine and the Leaders told us how great we were and explained about the hard work that goes into camp and that it is very worthwhile to see everyone enjoying themselves in spite of the weather. The weather for camp had been a bit wet and windy but it hadn’t been too bad! It was nice to see the Leaders get presents for all their hard work and we were so proud when our Leader was given her CO for organising the camp. She works really hard all the time, she teaches us loads and is always there with a smile and something funny to say. I love being in Guides and hope I never have to leave. I can’t wait until September!

~ Amy Gorman, Navan Girl Guides

Monday, 27 July 2015

‘Every second was fast-paced and exciting, a true adventure’

My name is Róisín Neville and I am a 16-year-old Guide from Cork. I saw a tall ship voyage advertised in Trefoil News and I thought it sounded exciting and that it would be a unique experience.

I had some experience with dinghy sailing but I had never been on a tall ship before. The voyage was on the Dutch vessel, the Morgenster, and it was from 14th to 26th June. We sailed from Dublin and disembarked at Bangor in Northern Ireland. We visited Scotland and the Isle of Man and we ported at the Irish Maritime Festival in Drogheda for two nights. 

I didn’t know any of the other 25 trainees before I came on the ship and I was a bit nervous before I went. As soon as I arrived I knew that I would be fine as everyone was so friendly and we were literally 'all in the same boat!' Many of the other trainees were Scouts, so hopefully I will meet them at camps soon. 

The voyage itself was incredible. Every second was fast-paced and exciting, a true adventure. I learned many new skills, sailing and otherwise. We were trained by the incredible crew to sail the beautiful tall ship.

The highlight for me was on the last night when we all performed songs and stories about the trip. I made a video about the voyage, which you can see here.

I would definitely love to go on another voyage and I think I will apply for the tall ship races next year. 

I have been a member of IGG for five years. I have been a Patrol Leader and I am now on my way to becoming a Young Leader in my Unit, Arbutus. I absolutely love going to Guides every week. I have gained confidence, skills and lifelong friends from my years in Guides. My favourite parts of Guides are teaching the younger Guides about gender equality and going on camps, being close to nature.

I think it’s great to see girls being themselves in a supportive, happy environment. I would definitely recommend girls and young women to join IGG and become part of the great sisterhood of Guiding.

~ Róisín Neville, Arbutus Guides, Cork