Thursday, 16 June 2016

‘My time in Ghana has changed my outlook on life’

My journey to Juliette Low Seminar 2016 in Ghana stared in Dublin Airport on a bright and sunny Sunday morning on the 29th of May. I was nervous because it was my first time travelling alone and my first time in Africa. Once I reached Heathrow, my nerves were gone as I met some other JLS participants from the UK and Finland.

After two planes and one crazy bus drive, I arrived at Kusafiri. Kusafiri is the fifth World
Centre; it doesn’t have a fixed address but it travels around Africa. Ghana Girl Guides hosted Kusafiri for JLS 2016, at their national training centre in Accra. After registration, house rules and a couple of ice-breakers, it was bed time. Everyone went straight to bed as some people travelled as long as 30 hours to get to Accra.

The seminar official started on Monday morning at 7am with a yoga session, which gave us an opportunity to get centred and focus on ourselves making a commitment to ourselves and our groups to bring our visions for our future to pass.
before the day began. This was my first experience trying yoga and surprisingly I enjoyed it. After breakfast, we were divided into our patrols: I was in the Red Patrol with Cecilia from Sweden, Magdalene from Tanzania, Salomey from Ghana, Alphonzi from Liberia, Hadiqa from Pakistan, Akinsete from Nigeria. We decided to change our patrol name to Happy World as it had a more positive vibe. The morning session was spent reflecting on our personal journeys and our vision for the future. At the end of the session, we wrote our vision on a piece of cloth, which we tied to a tree,

After lunch was the JLS 2016 opening ceremony. We were welcomed with African drummers, dancers and the Chief Commissioner of Ghana Girl Guides, Mrs Juliana Ofori-Kissi, welcomed us to Ghana. The afternoon and evening sessions were based around leadership. We learned about two different models of leadership, ‘Lean In’ and ‘Athena’. ‘Lean In’ empowers women to claim their voice in a personal and professional context and ‘Athena’ proposes a feminine-driven model of leadership, focusing more on qualities that are naturally embodied in women.  My patrol and I came up with the conclusion that a great leader needs to use both the ‘Lean In’ and ‘Athena’ models.

On Wednesday we got the opportunity to explore ‘community change’, which involved a community partner visit. The community partner I visited was Oba Kurowa, which teaches girls who left school at a young age to make jewellery, that they can then sell at markets and support themselves. Oba Kurowa is supported by Ghana Girl Guides Association and it moves to different communities every couple of months. Oba Kurowa was set up in a school for this particular community, so we were also given the opportunity to run activities for the kids in the school and this was one of my favourite parts of JLS16.

On Saturday we played a refugee simulation game. We were broken into families and everyone in the family was given a role: I was a three-year-old great-granddaughter whose family was trying to escape from Afghanistan. It was four hours long and it felt like 400 hours: we were attacked by rebels, our shelter, food and water was stolen by people who were “trying to help us”, we ran through minefields and crossed rivers, lakes and seas. Once we reached the border with Pakistan, nothing changed: no-one was helping us, families were being put in prison for no reason. When we finally got into Pakistan, we were treated like criminals and had absolutely no rights. I’ve never felt so defected in my whole life and it was only a game; I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like if it was real life!

Every night we had a different evening activity. We had a movie night, an African night, a free night where everyone went and got pizza, but my favourite evening activity was the international night. Each WAGGGS region presented as a group. Europe region decided to use the Eurovision song contest to show that as a region we are accepting and that Europe isn’t just one big country.

My time in Ghana has changed me and my outlook on life. I have learned so many valuable life lessons and made lifelong friends, but the one thing I’ll never forget is what Nadine El Achy said: “If you think that size affects your ability to bring about change, you have never been in bed with a mosquito!” which is so true: it doesn’t matter who you are, we all have to ability to bring about change.

I’d like to thank IGG for this amazing opportunity and I would encourage all of you to keep your eye on Trefoil News and the weekly communications emails for the next WAGGGS Leadership Development Programmes and to apply. You won’t regret it!

~ Sarah Canavan, Sika Senior Branch Leader, Killarney

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