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)