Monday, 25 July 2016

Sika Senior Branch join US Girl Scouts in 'Heart 2 Heart' initiative

On Tuesday 12 July 2016 we, the Sika Senior Branch, met up with an American Girl Scout Troop 10047 from Florida, which we had been in contact with for the last few months. 

Our leader Sarah Canavan had come in contact with this group and organised skype meetings for us to introduce ourselves to them and we understand the reason for their visit until we finally met them in Muckross Venture Centre. 

The Girl Scouts had arrived in Ireland earlier that day and were both tired and excited. We got to know each other further and completed the American Guides Tradition Badge and also the Irish version. We also packed and prepared our "Heart 2 Heart" care packages, which we again met up to distribute the following day. 

Keeping with our idea of Guide outings and traditions, we made hot dogs and tried Irish and American s’mores! As a gift we received many Girl Scout cookies, which we had only seen before in movies! 

On Wednesday morning 13 July, we met the Florida Troop at 10am at St Columbanus Hospital with the “Heart 2 Heart” care packages, which were filled with T-shirts, towels, toiletries, crossword books etc. and enclosed within nicely decorated canvas bags. Before entering the hospital, a photographer from Kerry's Eye Newspaper arrived to take a few photos of us with the care packages. 

We all then proceeded to go into the hospital where we separated into little groups to distribute the care packages among the many patients who live there. The patients were delighted by this kind gesture and the fact that we took the time out to visit them. It was also a fantastic way of interacting with the American Girl Scouts while also doing a good deed. Judging by the positive response on the successful visit from the residents and nurses, it has inspired us Senior Branchers to continue on with the kind donations for these worthy causes.

“Heart 2 Heart” is a programme set up by the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida. The younger Girl Scouts design the cloth tote bags and the older Girl Scouts collect the items for the care packages. These packages are then donated to nursing homes, foster kids, children’s hospitals etc.

This experience has taught us much more about Guiding and the kindness of the American Girl Scouts was overwhelming. There was plenty to learn from meeting up with a group of Guides from so far away!

~ Orla Finn and Rebecca O’Reilly (Sika Senior Branch)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Journey through London - Day 6

Friday was our final morning at Pax Lodge. We woke up to finish our packing, amazed at how fast the week had gone by. We hurried down to eat our last breakfast. The group from the Philippines had left really early and sadly we didn't get to say a final goodbye. We managed to say goodbye to a few of the Pennsylvania Girl Scouts before they headed off for the day, promising our new friends that we'd keep in touch.

We went to our last Flag Ceremony. Many of our group had left so it was over quickly. We brought our bags downstairs so we could pick them up later before our late-night flight. We arranged to meet the Californian group later in the day, but first we went to Camden market and walked around the stalls. We found a lovely Indian shop with beautiful wall hangings, rings, bracelets, incense and other delights. 

After Camden, we took the underground to the city centre to visit Harrods. We amused ourselves looking at the ridiculously expensive prices for clothes and shoes. We went shopping in the food hall and bought chocolate for our families and a bakery lunch for ourselves! 

After Harrods, we had a quick visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum to look at some older fashions, then we hurried over to Westminster Abbey. We met the Californian troop in the queue and went inside the Abbey. We were all in awe of the beautiful architecture, stained glass windows, and the monuments and graves of kings and queens like Edward the 7th and Mary Queen of Scots. Our visit was on the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme in World War One, so there were readings and prayers every hour to commemorate the people who died there and poppy wreaths laid out around the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. In Poets Corner we saw memorials to great writers like Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. As we left, we made time to visit the memorial to Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, who founded  the Scout and Guide movements.

After Westminster, we went to get ice-cream, spending our last few minutes together before we had to say our goodbyes to the friends we'd been inseparable from for the week. When we finally said goodbye and had swapped information over and over, we headed back to Pax Lodge to relax for an hour. Then we gathered our things to travel to the airport by underground, chatting about the unforgettable memories and wonderful friends we made this week, and how lucky we were to have had this experience!

We'd like to thank WAGGGS and IGG for giving us this opportunity, and we encourage Guides and Senior Branchers to keep an eye on Trefoil News for other international events coming up.

~ Clodagh Butler and Nia Daly, Kinsale, Co Cork

Journey through London - Day 5

Thursday - our last full day of our Journey through London! Today was our Service Project day in the local community. 

After breakfast and Flag, we all walked up to Hampstead Heath to meet Colin, the Projects and Volunteer Manager of Heath Hands, a charity which looks after the Heath. He explained that a plant called Himalayan balsam competes with native plant species for space, light, nutrients and pollinators. Not only does it take over and exclude other plants, but it also dies back to bare earth at the end of the year and causes soil erosion. He showed us what it looked like and explained how to pull it up from the root and break the stems so the plants would die and not reseed. We put on our gloves and got to work. First our group cleared a section by a stream. After a busy few days in the city, it was lovely to enjoy the sunshine and the relaxing calm of working away pulling plants and clearing the ground. The plant looks really pretty but we all remembered that Colin said every plant gives off 300-400 new seeds a year, so they had to go!

Colin came back at lunch-time and brought us all to an open area of the Heath for squash and biscuits. It was quite funny walking along because all of a sudden we could spot patches of balsam everywhere and we couldn't help pulling up a few more plants as we passed. Colin told us about the history of Hampstead Heath, which was very interesting. By now it was nearly lunch-time so we ate our picnic lunches. The afternoon programme was an optional treasure hunt-type challenge around Hampstead, but we decided to ask Colin if we could stay on and clear a few more patches of balsam instead, as it really was relaxing! 

The rest of the group went off for the afternoon while the Irish contingent got back to work. Colin gave us high-viz jackets and gloves and left us to it. We managed to clear two large sections along a walkway. It felt great that lots of passers-by commented on the good work we were doing and we explained to them that we were Irish Girl Guides staying in Pax Lodge. We even managed to recruit a new volunteer for Heath Hands! By the time we got back to Pax, we were sweaty and muddy and ready for our showers.

Then it was time for the BBQ party, the closing ceremony and SWAPS! The rain held off and we got to eat outside as a whole group for the last time. After a dinner of burgers and sausages (and chocolate cake!), we exchanged SWAPS. Luckily for us, the majority of the group were American so everybody wanted to swap with us! We got loads of cool badges, pins and keyrings from the other girls and Leaders. 

The closing ceremony began with a slideshow of pictures showing our group throughout the event. It was really cute and everybody was laughing, but a few tears were definitely shed too! The Pax Lodge team had prepared certificates for each of us, so we were called up one by one to receive these. The Journey through London event came to an end with a pinning ceremony, where we were each given a special Pax Lodge 25th anniversary pin before singing Taps. 

After some tearful group hugs and goodbyes, we headed to the London Room again with some of our Californian friends. 

~ Clodagh Butler and Nia Daly, Kinsale, Co Cork

Journey through London - Day 4

Wednesday morning started off like every other, with breakfast and a Flag Ceremony. After Flag we headed straight to the Tube station to begin our day! Our whole group, along with Maria and Hannah, went to the Tower of London. We split up, and decided to go visit the Crown Jewels along with four of our friends from California. They were really spectacular and we spent about an hour looking around in there. Next was the White Tower, where we climbed the 204 stairs to see the armoury and artwork of the British monarchs. We could have spent hours in the grounds but we had to rush off for our free afternoon.

After the Tower, we all split up into our Units. We chose to go to the Sea Life Aquarium for a calm afternoon after a fast-paced few days. Our
Leader went off for coffee and we spent a few hours wandering around the exhibits. We weren't sure what to expect from an aquarium right in the middle of London, but it was fantastic.
We saw sharks, exotic fish, crabs, sting rays and even penguins! We tuned into a couple of interesting talks from the staff and had great fun messing around with the green screen, where we were shown with polar bears and orcas!

We decided to stay out for dinner and headed to Chinatown, near Leicester Square. Some of the shops and restaurants were a little unusual with endless displays of Peking duck hanging in the windows, and we found a nice place to eat. After dinner we explored the area a bit more before heading back to Pax Lodge on the tube. It was much easier to travel as a group of three rather than a group of fifty! 

We hung out in the London Room to watch a movie with some of the girls from Western Washington. By now we had gotten to know all the girls and it was great to spend some free time with them. 

~ Clodagh Butler and Nia Daly, Kinsale, Co. Cork

Journey Through London - Day 3

We got up early to have breakfast and prepare our packed lunch. Our first duty for the day was to help with the Flag Ceremony along with the group from the Philippines. We organised everyone into two lines then we marched into a circle around the flagpole. We helped Hannah to raise the World Flag and the Pax Lodge flag and then we sang the World Song.

The activity planned for that day was "Challenges Across London". We had three choices - Monopoly, Harry Potter and Turn Back Time. All the challenges looked really interesting but we finally decided to sign up for the Monopoly one. We had a big group of 22 girls and Leaders, but it was the 11 of us Guides who had to make all the decisions! We set off into Central London with our tube maps, challenge booklets and confused faces. It was really fun figuring out the Underground system and we managed to tick off King's Cross station, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, and The Strand. Along the way we completed lots of small challenges including counting souvenir shops, visiting the Queen in Hamleys Toy Store (although she was made of Lego), squashing into a red phone box, helping out a street performer and re-enacting our favourite movie on Leicester Square (we tried to imitate Finding Nemo but...).

Early on we gave up on the street maps and started asking policemen, locals and shop assistants for directions and advice - much quicker and way more fun! Our last stop of the day was Abbey Road where we attempted, in peak London traffic, to recreate the iconic Beatles album cover. We ended up with a lot more people in our photo! At the end of the challenge, one of the American Leader's Fitbit told us we had walked over 10 miles, which included hundreds of stairs up and down the Underground, so we were exhausted.

We arrived back at Pax Lodge at 4.30pm but there was no time to waste - a quick shower and into our good clothes before heading out again to our 5.30pm dinner, then straight on to the theatre to see the musical Wicked! The other half of the group went to see Phantom of the Opera. The shows were brilliant and everyone had a really good night. 

~ Clodagh Butler and Nia Daly, Kinsale, Co. Cork

Journey through London - Day 2

Today started with our first Flag Ceremony, and fortunately the rain stopped in time. Afterwards we gathered outside Pax Lodge for our official Event photograph. At 9.30am we started our WAGGGS session. Tadeja, Maria and Hannah had prepared a great programme with information and presentations about the different regions, along with games to play from around the world such as Kim's Game and Simbii. Kim's Game featured clip art from Ireland, but alongside the usual shamrock, leprechaun and pint of Guinness, there was a unicorn. We had to explain to a lot of excited international Guides that those didn't actually live in Ireland!

We also learned how to write our names in hieroglyphics and Linda, from the Friends of Pax Lodge Committee, showed us how to make Rakhi bracelets out of wool. We took part in some interesting games and exercises to explore WAGGGS initiatives such as Free Being Me, Stop the Violence, and World Thinking Day.

After a fun (and informative) morning, we set off on a round-London coach tour. We saw all the main sights - Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, statues and war memorials. Our guide, Moira, was full of fascinating facts about the history of London, the Royal family, and England's battles.

Next stop was the London Eye. The weather was clear and the views were absolutely amazing! Afterwards there was a race for ice-cream before we got back on the coach. Moira entertained us with sweets and quiz questions on the drive back to Pax Lodge. We came via Camden where all us girls eyed up the shops for our free time on Wednesday.

Before dinner we had our daily chore duty - this time it was to write up the news report of the day's activities. After dinner, we had a Pax Lodge quiz night. Our teams came first, second and third, so we were really proud! The day went really well and we're making loads of new friends from lots of different places.

~ Clodagh Butler and Nia Daly, Kinsale, Co. Cork

Journey Through London - Day 1

Hi, we're Clodagh and Nia. We're in Kinsale Senior Branch and we also help out with Kinsale Guides and Brownies. We first heard about Journey Through London in Trefoil News in March. IGG offered two places to members aged 13-18 to attend this international event in Pax Lodge - the World Centre in London. We sent off our applications and got ready to attend selections at Go Global in Dublin in April. 

We had a great day at Go Global - we learned new things, gabbled our way through our interview and made some new friends. It was a really good day and it became even better when we later found out that we had both been selected to represent IGG at Journey Through London. We travelled to Pax Lodge with Kinsale Guide Leader Carol-Anne O'Reilly on June 26th.

Day 1 - Sunday

We arrived at Pax Lodge at noon. Much to our delight, we were one of the first to arrive, which gave us time to relax and explore. We met Sr Anna and Mamahase from Lesotho who had just had an 11-hour flight! Soon everybody else started to arrive, and at 3pm we all gathered in the dining room to have a traditional British cream tea. The journey Through London Event Team introduced themselves - Tadeja from Sloveni,a who works at Pax Lodge, and summer volunteers Hannah from Canada and Maria from Venezuela. They explained the tradition of afternoon tea, then we were free to enjoy our tea and scones. We then had our opening session where we went over our timetables and talked about what would be happening over the course of the event.

The World Board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts was meeting next door at the World Bureau, so we were very excited when Tadeja said some of them wanted to drop in to say 'hello'. We got to meet World Board Chair Nicola Grinstead, Vice-Chairs Connie Matsui and Natasha Hendrick, World Board member and WAGGGS Treasurer Fiona Harnett, and WAGGGS Chief Executive Officer Anita Tiessen. They told us a bit about Guiding worldwide and the jobs that they do in WAGGGS and in the 'real world'. It was really inspiring to hear from such interesting, successful women who are so passionate about Guiding and WAGGGS. They gave each of us a special World Board Badge. 

Next up were some ice-breakers, where we got to know our new group members a little better. We soon discovered that our event group was made up of Guides, Girl Scouts and Leaders from the Philippines, Lesotho (in Africa), California, Washington State and Pennsylvania. And, of course, us three Irish. After the games, it was time for a lovely roast dinner!

We had a bit of free time before our International Night, which started at 8pm. It was fascinating to listen to our Event Team tell us about Guiding in their home countries. We were amazed to hear that Slovenia has both boys and girls in its Guide units, and therefore these boys are members of WAGGGS.

Then it was our turn: we had songs and presentations from the USA, the Philippines and Lesotho. We sang a song, 'The Rattlin' Bog', with Clodagh playing the mandolin. Luckily some of the Californian Girl Scouts knew the words so we had plenty of help. We had great fun and we learned loads of new songs and games that we can hopefully teach to our girls back home. International Night ran late and we were all exhausted so the Leaders decided to keep our SWAPS* until the last night.

*We always thought that Swaps, those little tokens and badges we exchange with international Guides at camp and overseas, were simply that - an exchange or swap. But this week we found out from one of the Californian Leaders, Chicha, that SWAPS stands for 'Some Watchamacallit Affectionately Pinned Somewhere' and that the name came from the Girl Scout Round-Up in Michigan in 1956. How does Chicha know this? Well, she was there at the event! She is 77 now and still leads a troop of Girl Scouts with her daughter, Debbie.

~ Clodagh Butler and Nia Daly, Kinsale, Co. Cork