After a wonderful party atmosphere last night it was a pleasant surprise to see the turnout to Guides Own and Flag Ceremony. We weren’t disappointed by the inspirational reading reminding us to try our best but to also have time to dream. The flag was raised by our VIP visitor Nicola Grinstead, Chair of the board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and we all sang the Girl Guide Creed to the tune of Danny Boy.
Yesterday we had enjoyed hearing about the new ‘Journey Programme’ for the girls during Branch Day, today was the official National Conference and it was more about supporting the Leaders, hearing about the organisation and where we fit in.
So to begin we were into the main room to hear from our first speaker Nicola Grinstead. It was interesting to hear her journey into the prestigious position and you could hear the passion in her voice when she described her ambition to advocate to make a difference for people all around the Wworld. Advocacy helps to shape, drive and influence change. There are currently 146 countries in WAGGGS and by 2020 there will be at least 154 countries and it is hoped membership will rise to 12 million. WAGGGS are looking at ways to increase membership and one way is by helping more volunteers to get involved by trying to facilitate childcare support.
The WAGGGS programme Free Being Me is now being delivered in 70 countries and has been so popular it has been translated into 13 different languages. By 2016 it is expected that over 3.5 million girls will have learnt from the programme. Another WAGGGS programme, Voices Against Violence, looks at how girls can protect themselves and stand up against violence and this will be scaled up to be delivered to over 800,000 girls across the world in the next two years.
Nicola thanked IGG for all their hard work, not only how IGG has developed over the past few years, but for our overseas support through participation in key advocacy and influencing events, through participation in global programmes and by working with partners on projects around the world. She said IGG’s impact was significant.
IGG is very progressive in its use of social media, information and communication structures and now has the new OGM Online Guide Manager system. It was acknowledged that many of these changes were initiated during the time that Emer O’Sullivan was in office. It is fantastic to see that many of the changes have been very successful and are coming to fruition. It is an exciting time to be involved in Irish Girl Guides!
Helen Concannon, Chief Commissioner, understands that our daily lives are very busy and that many adult members find they have to step back from being Leaders of Units from time to time, but wish to continue in Guiding. Trefoil Guild is an option and is from age 18. There is also talk of setting up specialist guilds – student guilds for members in college or university, hill-walking guilds and book-reading guilds. So there you are: Guiding really is for life and not for one and a half hours per week!
We headed off to smaller rooms and some of the Leaders enjoyed hearing about Headstrong and Jigsaw and where young people can receive help with their mental health. We heard that some simple supports young people need is to have a sense of belonging and to be accepted for who they are: I think this could be a two-way referral system, with their young people being encouraged to join the Girl Guides!
With the upcoming referendum on 22nd May, we took part in an exercise to explore politically correct terms for sexual orientation and disabilities. These terms are often uncomfortable but it is useful to have some guidance. Members of voting age should be encouraged to use their vote with the decision for how they wish to vote being left to them to decide.
Governance Code and Good Charity.ie were discussed. Following the recent audit, the travel expense forms have been adapted and there is an emphasis on obtaining receipts or invoices at all times. We were reminded that when fundraising, it must be clear what you are raising the money for and to obtain a permit from An Garda Siochana. With the Youth Club Grants through the ETBs, groups need to sign up to the NQSF National Quality Standards framework: templates are available on the IGG website.
Irish Girl Guides is certainly a MOVEMENT and could never be described as stagnant. We are always looking for ways to improve and the Strategic Plan for the next 5 years was next on the cards! The next session asked us to explore what we felt should be included and ideas for how we can increase membership, improve the website, improve communication and support volunteers. We were invited to become involved in the Strategic Planning team and also to be the testers for the revamped website before it is re-released in September. It is great to get involved and to be part of these changes, there was no pressure and it was lovely to see people happy to step up and enthusiastically be involved in the future development of IGG.
All units who submitted their census through OGM on time were placed in a draw to win €100: it was won by Broadmeadows Brownies Ashbourne Co. Meath. Also the photograph competition winners were announced with the overall prize going to Linda Condon of Sallins Railway Girl Guides, Co Kildare, for her photo of Guides and Leaders making their way through a gorge on the Isle of Man last summer.
Later in the day Emer Foley, IGG’s great ambassador for Free Being Me, spoke about being a Brownie and Guide and her experience in the model industry as a ‘plus-size model’. She explained ‘I’m me and I’m happy just being me’. Emer is also a basketball coach and more likely to have her hair in a ponytail, no makeup and wearing comfortable sports gear, but she hopes that by her ‘real image’ being used for SimplyBe and other clothes lines, it will inspire others to follow suit. She assured us that her pictures are not airbrushed!
Free Being Me has been a fantastic collaboration between CGI and IGG and a wonderful influence on many of our girls today and into the future.
By now all the Leaders who had taken part in the three workshops had created their own lego min-fig, much to their excitement! The conference ended with an energetic rendition of ‘Reach for the Stars’. It had been a wonderfully informative, fun and friendly weekend; it was great to see the ‘buzz’ still in evidence at the end of the conference. It makes me proud, and even a bit emotional, to be part of such a fantastic organisation that make a difference to so many people and that has the growing in confidence of all its members at its core.
~ Anne Hyland, Navan Guides, Co Meath