Thursday, 21 May 2015

‘My green ribbon shows I am up for a conversation about mental health’

Today I gave myself a pep talk. I sat in a room by myself and I talked, out loud, to me!  Things I had been fretting about were causing doubts within me about how strong I really was, not just physically, but mentally too.

I'm not going to relay what I told myself here, but I would like to tell you about one of the most important parts: my big, red cape with purple splotches.

Georgie Cantwell (second from left) pictured with other IGG Leaders
from Douglas who did the Darkness Into Light walk in aid of Pieta House
My name is Georgie, I am 21 and I am a Leader of Douglas Guides and Senior Branch in Cork. I wear a necker, like all of you, but on mine I have a green ribbon. You may have noticed one falling out of your May/June Trefoil News.

This green ribbon is not a label identifying me as someone with a mental illness. It is a green ribbon to show that I am up for a conversation. It is a green ribbon to let those around me know that it is OK to talk about mental health with me; no judgment. It is a green ribbon signalling the fight against stigma.

On my wrist, I wear an orange bracelet. I wear it every day and, like the green ribbon on my necker, I do not wear it as a message to you that I deal with mental health issues. I wear the orange bracelet to remind myself, and everyone who sees it, that it is OK not to feel OK and that it is ABSOLUTELY OK to ask for help.

The Green Ribbon campaign and the Cycle Against Suicide are just two of a plethora of mental health organisations and movements and, as the largest female-only organisation in this country, I think it is vital we share the message amongst each other and with our girls. We need to encourage conversations and reduce the stigma within our units. It is one small step that can make the world of difference.

I give myself pep talks where I speak to myself in the third person, as if it were another Girl Guide I was talking to. And I have a big, invisible, red cape with purple splotches on it. That cape is MY cape and with it I am a super hero. I am a super Leader with super strength and super courage. It combats my anxieties and helps me fly even when I'm down.

But YOURS can be different. You can be your very own superhero, and you can have any cape you like: an orange one, a rainbow-coloured one, one with a picture of Leonardo Di Caprio’s face printed on the back.

You can give yourself pep talks, although, my mother did advise me earlier that it would be best not to do it in the shops .... I won't lie: you would probably get a couple of looks.

There really are a million, billion ways to look after your mental health and what works for me may not work for you. The cape might be a little too silly, and the pep talks a little bit too weird. And that's OK!

Personally, I also find creativity helps me. Every day, I take a photo with a set theme. Sometimes it does my head in, but it keeps me motivated. And at the end of every day I can pat myself on the back (which is another thing I do quite a lot; patting myself on the back for even the smallest little thing. I did it today after cleaning the bathrooms for example) for sticking with it and, best of all, I have a lovely photo to show for my day.

It's all a step-by-step process; minding ourselves and supporting each other. But with those little steps and a little determination, as a unified organisation we can help reduce that stigma and promote conversations and positive mental health.

~ Georgina says of the photo she took of two glasses: "This is a recreation of something I saw on Pinterest. I just fell in love with the concept of 'Point of view'. Everything is as you choose to see it. Like the age old 'glass half full or glass half empty?, some prefer to look at it more positively than others. But in the photo, even though the glass on the right does not have any water in it and appears to be empty, you could view it another way and realise that it's full of air. Nothing is ever as empty as it first seems."

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

My memories of Guiding - fun, friendships and independence!

My name is Linda McCormack and I am 19 years old. I have been involved in IGG for around 12 years and in those 12 years I have travelled to the most amazing places and met the most driven and friendly women that I know.

When I think about my memories of Guiding I think about fun, friendships and independence. I think of sleepless nights and rainy days. I think of campfires, singalongs and adventure. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be in Guiding, or ever think of it in a negative light. Guiding has made me the hyper and crazy person I am to this day. I have climbed the Guiding ladder from Brownie to Guide to Senior Branch and now to Leader. 

Linda McCormack (right) pictured at Sangam World Centre
in India in January 2014
My journey started as a little Brownie in the Kiltale Unit, County Meath. I couldn’t wait to be of age for Guides and gain some independence. I was in Guides from the age of 10 onwards and my experience was unbelievable. With the Girl Guides I was able to travel internationally to many places such as the Isle of Man and even to India.

My first known memory as a Guide was a camp we did on Girley Farm and I probably would have only been 11! This was my first time being away from home and my first time camping. I remember the difficulty I had putting up a tent, which seems silly right now as putting up a tent is now my second nature! I remember the campfires and the fun games and activities but what I remember most is the tent getting flooded and having to move into Girley Hall for the remainder of the stay! And would you believe that this didn’t even turn me off Guiding?! I always say that when it comes to life, and especially to Guiding, ‘it’s all an experience’ and it’s better to regret things you did do rather than things you didn’t do!

Another memory was travelling to the Isle of Man. The boat journey over will always stay with me. All I can say is that it wasn’t the smoothest ferry crossing! At one point every single person on the ferry was lying on the ground, or on the couches, in order to avoid being sick! Some people would say I am mad to be in an organisation that involves camping in torrential rain or getting sea sick on a boat but to me that’s what Guiding is all about - challenging yourself to try new things and having new experiences.

As a Guide, I was lucky enough to be a part of the international camps - Camp Le Cheile and Camp 101. I thought that seven whole days away from my family was going to be a challenge but I absolutely loved the freedom and spending a whole week in the outdoors with my best friends. I loved both of the camps as it was amazing meeting people from different countries. I remember frantically swapping badges and trying to talk to as many new people as possible!

Camp 101 will always remain in my mind as one of the best memories that I have of Guiding. Camp 101 took place in Lough Key Forest Park in Boyle, County Roscommon. Three of the girls and I took the exciting bus journey down and arrived in Boyle. Yet again, like any Guide camp in Ireland, the rain struck us just as we were putting up our tents. The raingear was thrown on and the hoods were up on our jackets and, I am telling you, we put up those tents in record time! I remember the singing, dancing, zip line, Mamma Mia singalongs and hauling trolleys of food up to our camp site!

The biggest moment in my Guiding journey so far was our trip to Sangam, India, in January 2014. I was in charge of organising the fundraising for our trip, which provided a challenge as I did it in my Leaving Cert year, but it was a million percent worth it in the end. 

There was a diverse group of us travelling over from the youngest (which was me) to extremely experienced Guide Leaders who were mothers. During the months leading up to our trip I think collectively hundreds of buns, cakes and pies were baked and hours were spent bucket collecting and bag packing. In the end it was worth it because, as we stood in the sweltering heart of Mumbai, the hours of hard work fundraising and baking seemed distant. In India we got to experience Indian culture, including extremely spicy food and beautiful saris. I loved working with the amazing kids in the community partners. My experience in India was both amazing and heart-breaking at the same time. It made me realise how ungrateful everyone can be, and when I saw how little the children over there had, it broke my heart. Since leaving India last year I have vowed to go back again and volunteer for a longer period of time.

A big learning curve for me was assisting the Quarter Master at a little weekend away in Orchard Cottage in March of this year. Even though I am studying to be a Home Economics teacher (which involves a lot of cooking) it still proved a huge challenge for me. Luckily, the QM was a trained chef and we got through it together. After doing that, I will be forever grateful to the Leaders who gave us endless hot chocolates and food when we were Guides!

I recently entered the Rose of Tralee competition to be the Meath Rose for 2015 but unfortunately I didn’t get the title. However, I made sure to speak highly of the Girl Guides and the judges were extremely impressed by my involvement in such a positive youth organisation. On stage I recited the poem/song Can a woman? which seemed to hit home with some of the female audience. I had one woman coming up to me telling me she was a carpenter and that, yes, we can be whatever we want!

In conclusion, thank you Girl Guides for the amazing contribution to my life and shaping me into the person I am today!

~ Linda McCormack, Meath Senior Branch 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Some of my best friends are Girl Guides – both nationally and internationally!

Hi! My name is Àine Foley and I’ve been an IGG member since the age of 10. I am a Leader of Newbridge Guides and a member of Newbridge Senior Branch. I have had many opportunities with IGG, such as trips to Switzerland and Paris and many camps around the country, and also an opportunity to work in Pax Lodge in London - one of the World Centres - at the young age of 16 for work experience for school. Most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to make some of my best friends within Girl Guides - both nationally and internationally.

Áine Foley receiving her Chief Commisioner's Award from
Chief Commissioner Helen Concannon in the Burren in August 2015
I am currently a student studying travel and tourism management. For my work experience I completed a 30-day work placement, which was covered from September 2014 - April 2015 here in National Office. There were many areas where I was lucky enough to work, including reception and administration work, media and promotional work, and I even got the chance to book flights for members representing Irish Girl Guides in different countries. It’s safe to say that all went well on their trips, their airport experiences went well and they are now safely back home.

I was so happy to be welcomed with open arms to National Office; everyone was so welcoming. I had great fun over the past eight months and I feel like I have learnt loads from being in the office. I now feel like I am a fully-trained IGG member who has experienced everything from the behind-the-scenes work and the everyday work to the extremes on camps. 

I would just like to thank everyone in National Office, and especially in the General Office, where everyone had to listen to my musical Mondays. Katherine would agree it spread fast around the office! I’ve learnt a lot from being here and feel like my experience here has made me appreciate Irish Girl Guides more than ever.

~ Áine Foley, IGG Leader & Senior Brancher, Newbridge