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 

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