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.

Namaste

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