Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Crumlin Hospital Guide Unit wins Olave Award!

Well done to Crumlin Hospital Girl Guide Unit, which has received an Olave Award from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) in recognition of its “outstanding service to the community”.
The Olave Award is an international award to honour the memory of the World Chief Guide, Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, and to keep alive her belief in the spirit of service. It is awarded by WAGGGS to Girl Guide groups around the world that have created change in their communities.
IGG Leader Róisín Fitzgerald, who runs the Crumlin Hospital Girl Guide Unit with a team of volunteer Leaders, says: “We are delighted that Crumlin Hospital Girl Guide Unit has been recognised by WAGGGS for the role we play in bringing a new fun experience to children who are ill in hospital. We are very proud to be associated with other outstanding projects across the Guiding world.
“Each week we meet brave children who are facing health challenges at a young age. We offer them a brief distraction during their stay in hospital and give them an opportunity to have fun, to learn new skills, and to meet fellow patients that they would not otherwise get the opportunity to meet. The commitment of the Leaders over the last nine years has been outstanding and their enthusiasm for the project has ensured the service that we provide is of the highest standard.”
Crumlin Hospital Girl Guide Unit, which was established in 2008, is the first and only Guide Unit active in a hospital in Ireland. This unique project was set up to bring Guiding to children who are in need of fun and distraction from their illnesses. Once a week a group of volunteer Leaders bring girls aged seven upwards away from their wards for an hour and a half of fun and activities.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Network Meeting

The Network Meeting is a joint event with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in Europe, which brings together people from across Europe who are active in representing their organisations on external forums, such as on their National Youth Councils. IGG Leader Jemma Lee, who was on the planning team for the Network Meeting as a Europe Region volunteer, writes about her experience:

There were seven of us on the planning team, two volunteers and one staff member from both WAGGGS and WOSM, as well as a member of the Malta Girl Guides who were hosting the event this year. We met in London for a planning meeting in October, which was really useful and it’s sometimes just easier to get work done in person rather than over the internet! We planned most of the event in two days and all went home with a long to-do list to get all the sessions finalised.

On 6 November I flew to Malta and we had one day to put the final touches to our plans before the participants started to arrive. We had 29 participants from around Europe, including a Georgian Girl Scout who had been on activity staff at IGGNITE and was very excited to see me in my camp t-shirt!
We also had a number of experts and guest speakers fly in over the course of the week, one of whom I had volunteered with in Sangam in 2008 and hadn’t met in person since. It always amazes me how small the world Guiding and Scouting community really is!

During the week we took turns delivering the sessions. Participants learned about the European decision-making structures, they presented to us their own country’s work on external relations and they identified priorities for advocacy and taking action after they went back home.

We were also very well looked after by our Maltese hosting team who organised the evening programmes, taking us to the walled city of Mdina for a ghost tour and late night snacks, and over to Gozo island on a ferry for an evening of traditional Maltese food.

As a Europe Region volunteer, I’m excited to see what kind of projects I end up getting involved in over the next two years! My main role at the moment is to link with the European Women’s Lobby and to continue to find ways that WAGGGS Europe can get involved in gender equality issues in Europe.

You will be able to read more about my Europe Region volunteering experiences in the International edition of Trefoil News, which will be available from 8 January 2018.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

It's Our Brexit Too!

Four members of Ardagh Senior Branch, Co Longford, took part in a cross-border conference, It’s Our Brexit Too, organised by the Ombudsman for Children Office (OCO) and Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY). Here Nora-May Pearman Howard writes of their experience:

We arrived in Newry for registration at 11am on Friday 10 November. After the Brexit referendum in June of last year it became clear to NICCY and the Ombudsman for Children that not enough concern for the rights of children had been put into the decision. In June 2017 a steering committee was formed with over 20 children from the North and the Republic. This group would go on to organise the youth forum in question over a span of five months. The conference was an opportunity for children and young people to come together to discuss Brexit and how it will affect us in the future. The information we collected will be spread and hopefully acknowledged by the governments on both sides.
We started the day with tea and scones. We were then welcomed by Koulla Yiasouma, the Northern Irish Commissioner for Children and Young People and a video message from Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was unable to attend. We were presented with the key themes by members of the steering groups and then began the youth café.

People spread around 14 tables and 7 topics, identity and non-discrimination, family life, nationality and travel, child protection, non-EU children needing extra protection, health and disability, education and standard of living. Each table had at least one person running the conversation. As much as possible the conversations were led by the youths and listened to by adults. On each table was a large sheet and several markers; whenever a relevant point arose, it was written down on the sheet. Each session lasted 18 minutes before participants moved on to the next table.

After the first three sessions we broke for lunch, which lasted about 45 minutes. Following lunch we did two more rounds so everyone got to discuss five of the seven topics. When we finished the youth café we received feedback from MP Chloe Smith. Then came a panel question and answer session with several MPs from the North and Republic of Ireland. This was conducted through an app called sli.do in which people submitted their questions and others voted for the ones they were most concerned about. We finished with some closing comments from Dr. Niall Muldoon, the Ombudsman for Children.

In conclusion, I feel as if the day was very productive, the table I was running had several good conversations and good points came from them. The app sli.do was used throughout the day, through which several live polls were conducted. The information we collected from the day will prove valuable throughout the remainder of the Brexit deal-making.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Cookie selling a runaway success!

Let’s face it! Who does not like cookies?

Carrigdoun Girl Guides took on the challenge to sell 1,500 packets of cookies to fundraise for new camping equipment and art materials.

It’s important for us to fundraise, to ask our families, friends and community to support us.

I have learnt that not everyone could eat the cookies I was selling due to
food allergies. I had to remember all the information our Leaders gave and then I was able to answer customers' questions. It was important to explain that the monies raised by selling the cookies would be staying in the local Girl Guide Unit. When we were selling cookies out in the community it was important to wear our uniforms to show who we were representing. I really enjoyed selling most of my cookies to my classmates!

We had planned to do two cookie selling days in our local Supervalu. On the first day of selling we completely sold out of all our cookies! We were so happy with the community support shown on the day.

We enjoyed setting out goals and working together to achieve these while also gaining valuable skills along the way.

Rihanna Wrenne, Carrigdhoun Girl Guides

Mission to Mars Lego Robotics

Fourteen Guides and Senior Branchers took part in a Mission to Mars Lego Robotics Autumn Academy in Cork during the mid-term break.

It was hoped that, by taking part in the Academy run by the Dublin City University Lego Education Innovation Studio, the girls would be enthused to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects in school and, perhaps, consider careers in STEM.

Following the course, Eve Cunningham of Schull Senior Branch said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the camp and I would highly recommend it to other Guides. I would love to pursue a job in STEM.”

The girls, who were aged 13 to 19, gained a range of skills in computational thinking, engineering and programming during the course, which was engaging and hands-on.

The girls are grateful that they are getting to experience the practical side of STEM through Guiding.

Erin Scott of Kenmare Guides said: “I liked the course, I thought it was very interesting and I have learnt many new things, such as coding and building, and now I understand what STEM is.”

Siun O’Reilly of Arbutus Guides said it was one of the most enjoyable weeks of her life. “I have made some amazing new friends and I definitely think I might want to pursue a job in STEM,” she said.

Sophie Moore of Edenderry Guides said: “At our Lego Robotics camp we overcame programme errors, expanded our knowledge of coding and made new friends. It was a blast!”

During the course, the girls skyped with Irish space enthusiast Dr Niamh Shaw who was in the European Space Centre.

IGG Chief Commissioner Helen Concannon said: “Irish Girl Guides are always trying to challenge stereotypes and, by partnering with Dublin City University, we can give our girls opportunities to build robots, programme rovers to explore Mars and develop problem-solving skills. All this is useful for everyday life as well as giving the girls a taste of careers in engineering, science and technology. Seeing these girls embrace the challenges presented to them is inspiring. The future is safe in the hands of our youth representatives doing this course.”

You can see lots of photos here.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Lucan Guides will treasure their London memories!

The first day began with an early start as we had a flight to London at 6:30, which meant meeting up at the airport at 4:30am! We were all very tired, but the excitement powered us through.

We arrived at Stansted and got the train to Victoria station where we collected our Oyster cards. Then we decided that since we were so close, we would go to Kings Cross station and see platform nine and three quarters. There we waited in a line (for a very long time) and got pictures underneath the platform sign! Some of us bought merchandise from the shop. Then we headed to Trafalgar Square for a Harry Potter walking tour!

There was a very nice tour guide who brought us all around London, telling us things about J.K. Rowling, such as where she got her inspiration for writing about Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley (which was a bit spooky)! The tour ended at Hyde Park. We said ‘thank you’ to the tour guide (his name was JJ) and we went straight off to get lunch in McDonald’s.

Soon after, we went to Girl Guiding UK’s shop, but on the way we visited Buckingham Palace. There we saw the beautiful palace and the guards. Girl Guiding UK’s Shop looked lovely and there were lots of cool things to buy there. There were badges and pins, notebooks and mugs, and even the UK Girl Guiding uniform!

Everyone bought their items and off we headed again to Pax Lodge! When we arrived there, we were buzzing with excitement! It was so big and modern and the rooms were fabulous! We left our bags in our rooms and went for pizza in a restaurant nearby. We waited for the pizzas for a long while but when they were finally served, it was all worth it.

Afterwards, we went back to Pax Lodge and swapped our badges in the swap box. Then two very nice ladies hosted some fun activities for us. We did puzzles, we hunted for things all around the world centre and we learned how to make cool decorations for our neckers. Afterwards, we had tea in the fabulous kitchen and we went to bed happily.

The next morning we got up and we had a delicious breakfast in Pax Lodge. Next, we attended a ceremony where we were given some beautiful pins that you can only get if you actually visit Pax Lodge World Centre! We sang the World Song around the Pax Lodge flag and we made a promise to honour our new pin.

After that, we went back inside and bought some really cool things from the shop such as badges, mugs and t-shirts. Just when we were getting ready to leave, some leaders from another UK Girl Guide Unit gave us some of their badges and we gave them some of ours. They were visiting Pax Lodge as one of the Leaders was celebrating a 51st birthday! We left Pax Lodge with a smile on our faces because it had been an amazing experience that none of us will ever forget.

After having a great start to our Sunday morning, we headed off back to central London to continue our holiday. We started by going to Chinatown, and we had a look around. It was very interesting to see so many shops and restaurants from a different culture. After that, we visited Buckingham Palace and witnessed the changing of the guard. It was organised very well, and I loved being able to watch such a famous event. While waiting for M&M World to open, we headed off to Trafalgar square and found the smallest police station in London. We also witnessed two protests while in London and these really showed the true spirit of the Londoners and how they care about society. After spending a while exploring, we decided to go back to Leicester Square and shop in M&M World. It was such an enormous building and it was a lot of fun to look around. Despite being in the M&M shop, everyone was starving, so we went to a very nice small sandwich shop.

Once we were all fed, we went on a boat tour of the River Thames. It was beautiful and everybody loved seeing all of the great bridges, Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, and many more famous landmarks. We also had a great tour guide who was very informative. Once the tour had finished, we set off towards the underground and travelled to the Science Museum. We used the underground many times during our trip, and we had gotten the hang of it.

The Science Museum was extremely interesting and it was great that there were so many interactive activities and many things aimed at our age group, including games and songs. After spending a few hours in the museum, everybody was hungry once again so we visited a lovely restaurant called ‘Pizza Express’ which is the equivalent to Ireland's ‘Milanos’. In Pizza Express we devoured our food while exchanging jokes and giggles.

After having an amazing day, it was time to return home. We took the tube as well as the train, and headed to the airport. The airport process went very smoothly since all of us had learned how to navigate security and board a plane. The flight went well and before we knew it, we were back in Ireland.

Our trip to London was such a fantastic experience that we will never forget, and it wouldn’t have been possible without our Leaders, so we would like to thank them very much, and we will all treasure our memories from this holiday.

The Academy offers amazing personal growth!

“You have to try the impossible to achieve the possible.” If we take this thought and use it as a window into our adventures at The Academy 2017 it will only give you a small insight into the amazing personal growth that this event offers. 

We attended many sessions with the underlying theme of ‘change’ running throughout.  These sessions were like seeds, planting thoughts to grow for the future but most of all highlighting that today’s thoughts must become tomorrow’s realities.

The Academy is a holistic training tool that encourages both social and educational growth.  We had the opportunity to take part in various challenges throughout the week that pushed us to work collaboratively. These included tasks based on Hungarian culture and a 12km “lost in translation” hike in the glorious darkness that swells above the Danube. 

It has allowed us to build our personal memory palace where our thoughts and dreams for the future now live thanks to the Hungarian Scout movement and the incredible Academy event.

~ Mena Timoney and Helen O’Reilly

Thursday, 2 November 2017

'My amazing time at Polaris Youth Forum'

At 11:40am on Friday 27 October 2017, I left Monaghan Bus Station for Dublin Airport to meet a Leader called Joanna and another Senior Brancher called Nora May, who are both from Longford. Once I found my fellow IGG members in the maze of escalators and people carrying suitcases, that is Dublin airport, we soon boarded our flight to Glasgow.

The flight from Dublin to Glasgow was very short; we were literally in the sky, when the pilot was telling us to get ready for landing. In Glasgow Airport we met Annmarie, Orna and Méabh from Cork. All six of us headed for Auchengillan Outdoor Centre, just outside Glasgow. On Friday evening we were introduced to all Scottish Leaders and Senior Section members who would become our friends over the weekend. We were also given an outline of what we would be doing over the weekend and we also did a scavenger hunt.

On Saturday we got to go pole-climbing or abseiling; I chose pole-climbing. I had never done this before and I am not a fan of heights so this was a bit of a challenge but I was proud of myself once I reached the top because I can usually get no more than a metre or two off the ground! In the afternoon a woman called Jane came in to talk to us about public speaking. She was from a charity called Speakers Trust. I thought this was very useful because public speaking is a vital skill that everyone will require at some point in their life. Later we gave our opinions on new logos, names and straplines, which could be used for the Youth Forum (Polaris*) weekend in the future, as they were trying to rebrand it. That evening we went to a campfire which was organised by a group of Scouts, Cubs and Beavers who were camping at Auchengillan Outdoor Centre. I really enjoyed this and it was great to hear some Scottish campfire songs. Afterwards, back at The Providore Building, where we were staying, we had a table quiz. Joanna, Jennifer (from Scotland) and I made up the winning team.

After breakfast on Sunday morning we talked about sexism and gender stereotypes, as part of the campaign for Girlguiding Scotland in 2018. We talked about how sexism can affect girls and women in day to day life and different activities which could be organised from Rainbows/Ladybirds, Brownies, Guides and Senior Section/Senior Branch members to make people more aware of these issues. We also talked about what events could be organised for Senior Section members in 2019 and we told them about some Irish events that we had. I then got some swaps from the Senior Section members as well as the Scouts, Beavers and Cubs. We said “Goodbye” and headed for the airport, were we bought some Scottish souvenirs and got on our flights back to Dublin and Cork.

Overall, we had an amazing weekend, the people of Girlguiding Scotland were very friendly and the food cooked by Vicky and Beth (two Scottish leaders) was delicious. I thought the subject of sexism and gender stereotypes was very well chosen as they are quite topical in today’s society. Auchengillan Outdoor Centre had fantastic facilities for all adventure-enthusiasts. I would highly recommend Youth Forum (Polaris*) to anyone who wants to meet new people and voice their opinion on current issues in a safe environment.

I had a great weekend and I would like to thank Hannah, Gale, Vicky, Beth and all the people from Girlguiding Scotland who organised this event, Joanna and Annmarie who travelled to Scotland with us Irish Senior Branchers and IGG for giving me this amazing opportunity.

~ Lauren Mooney

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

We believe in the power of young people!

Equality was the theme of Youth Work Ireland’s conference this year, which was held in the beautiful Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. The conference was attended by national Youth Work Ireland groups as well as representatives from various other youth-led organisations. It was evident from everyone in the room that we were all there for the same purpose. We all believe in the power of young people to create a positive change in the world.

The conference was opened with a discussion on equality. It was demonstrated that access to education is something which is unequal in Ireland. Three volunteers attempted to reach graduation caps which were placed high up on the wall. It was easy for the tallest person to reach but the other two people had difficulty. When they were all given a chair, they could reach the caps. However, the point was made that giving the same resources to everyone still does not ensure equality, as it made it even easier for the tallest person to reach the cap. Although we all have similar needs, the resources and facilities we need to access these needs are different.

We were then given boxes with letters spelling out equality on them. Throughout the day, we were encouraged to ‘think outside the box’ and write our thoughts and feelings on the box. We then heard from five young people sharing their stories of what equality means to them. Many had experienced inequality in their daily lives, having to tackle discrimination, racism and stereotypical views. We then heard from the keynote speakers such as Emily Logan of the IHREC, Minister Katherine Zappone and Senator David Norris. They encouraged us not only to look at young people as the future, but also as the present.

The second session was a panel discussion, which included speakers such as Senator Aodhán Ó Riordán and Emily Logan. Topics such as the government’s position on equality, direct provision and LGBTQ+ rights were discussed. It was obvious that the marriage equality referendum has proved to be a lasting success that many have used as their template for future campaigning.

After lunch, there were workshops about working with the Traveller community, disability awareness, work experience and social action. I chose to attend the social action workshop. The workshop was run by a group of undocumented young people living in Ireland called Young, Paperless and Powerful. This was by far the most beneficial part of the day as I learned that as soon as these young people turn 18, they become essentially ‘invisible’  to the state. They cannot attend college, get a job, medical card or a driver’s licence. They are seeking a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and have been doing so for the past two years. Even though they have experienced many setbacks, they are still adamant that they will meet the Minister and improve their situation. I learned how to run a successful campaign within my organisation and how to gain more confidence when addressing public representatives. As well as the workshops, there was an exhibition space where organisations such as NYCI showcased their work. There were TED-style talks given by inspiring speakers  from TENI and Senator Fintan Warfield.

The day came to a close with everyone taking a vote on the theme for next year’s conference, which hopes to promote positive attitudes towards sexual health. Overall, I left feeling empowered, ready to take action and raise awareness about equality within IGG and my community. 

~ Amy McAuley, Drogheda

Monday, 23 October 2017

My personal experience with Free Being Me

I discovered Free Being Me after returning home from filming a television series in Canada about self-acceptance regarding appearance. I was determined to find an Irish-based organisation that followed a similar message to the Canadian project, where I could share the knowledge I had gained from people around the world and learn more from people in my own country. I was researching online when I came across the Free Being Me project, and thought “what a revolution” and “inspirational project that was right up my street!”  I was so happy to hear about these Irish girls and women spreading this message online; even if I could not be a part of it, I was so happy with the knowledge that it was there, benefiting others. My one and only sad feeling upon discovering Free Being Me came from wishing that I had been taught the values of this project at a younger age

                                        A little about my own background:
I come from an industry that many may say contradicts Free Being Me. That being the fashion and modelling industry. I hope by listening to my own personal experience, people will understand that I needed to be taught the Free Being Me values just as much as the young girls in the Irish Girl Guides meetings. I started modelling at age 18, after Leaving Cert, as a hobby alongside my degree in University of Galway. My dreams were there, the opportunities were there, but unfortunately the dark side of the industry to shatter a young woman’s confidence was there too. What you need to understand about being in my shoes was that, to the outside world, they were a glamourous pair of sparkling stilettos - they look pretty but only the person wearing them feels how painful they can be.

Over the past nine years of working in the modelling industry, I have had some amazing experiences. I have represented Ireland four times in four international beauty pageants, including the Miss International Contest – (one of the top three pageants in the world along with Miss Universe and Miss World). I have flown to Cancun and Canada to film an international TV series. I was flown to Barcelona for a week just to train with a pageant coach who produced many Miss Universe winners. I have walked international fashion weeks, been in number one hit music videos, worked on RTE shows and met celebrities such as Elle Macpherson. And this all looks lovely on Instagram and Facebook.  What people do not see on social media is the amount of times I cried over the not-so-fun moments. I never posted about the many times I cried from not getting an audition, or from being told the many “flaws” in my appearance that stopped me from being a model. 

Yes, I have amazing memories, I have made amazing friends (I am a bridesmaid for Miss Malaysia next year) and have been successful in something I wanted to achieve through hard work. However, I have also many bad memories. My oldest memory is from a “Modelling and Grooming” one-day course I begged my reluctant mother to let me attend as a 13-year-old. In the course we learned about walking, having the right attitude and skincare and dieting expertise from “professionals”. I vividly remember the diet talk as it was my first negative experience of the industry. The lady explained to me and a full room of model hopefuls that that sick feeling when you haven’t eaten all day is “your fat burning” and that we could “choose to feed that feeling, or allow it to burn fat”. I was appalled, as a 13-year-old girl who had never worried about her weight in her life. And that was only the start of the negative experiences.

It was difficult going from being told I was skinny my whole life and asked, “do I ever eat?” to being the biggest girl in the room. I remember the first time I found a blog of anonymous comments on a photo of me in a bikini naming out the numerous reasons I should “know my limits” and not have entered. I have been told I have needed liposuction, a nose job, wear fake tan to hide my pale skin, load on the makeup and just generally to lose weight more times that I can count. What is most upsetting to me looking back is that by any normal standard outside the modelling industry, I have never been underweight. I have been clinically underweight, naturally and by being sick, and thinking back it was only times I wasn’t made feel embarrassed about my body in pageantry. I am healthy, I exercise, I eat healthy food most of the time with the odd baked treat. I may change in dress size from time to time but I am a woman, this is natural, common, and something we need to teach the younger generation not to be ashamed of. I believe Free Being Me is an amazing way of teaching these ideals.

                                                           My Revelation:
 In 2014 a contestant I competed against in Miss Galaxy International 2012 asked me to be a part of the pilot filming “The Fashion Hero”. This TV show is aimed at helping people who have been rejected by the unrealistic standards of the fashion industry. People who have been rejected due to weight, height, skin conditions and other factors that did not deem the individual “perfect” took part in the project. I flew to Cancun, Mexico, to film the pilot and in that one week decided that this was 100% what I wanted to be a part of in the industry. The years of uneasiness and upset with the industry finally made sense. I had to go to that place to get to this one, and this one felt like home. Therefore, I was delighted to be asked to fly to Canada in 2016 to film the first series over a month with the wonderful host Brooke Hogan – The Hulk’s daughter.

However, there were still some issues I needed to address which filming the show series helped me with. I came in with the “curvy, healthy and proud attitude” thinking I was in full “flaw” acceptance for the filming. What I never realised I had an issue with was my reliance on fake tan and make up. I really did not want to be filmed without it. I was so ashamed of my natural skin that when the cameras were put in the bedroom, I removed my eye makeup for bed and re-done my foundation just in case my natural face was seen on TV.  When it got to the part of the show where we were asked to remove our make-up on camera with a face wipe I was terrified. Then followed more bare-faced filming and my first photoshoot without make up. The challenges gradually strengthened my inner confidence by teaching me not to focus on my outer appearance, as many of us, not only models have been taught growing up.  I won a place on a designer’s team after these challenges that thought me that there was nothing wrong with a bare face and no tan. The experience and acceptance and love from those on set brought my confidence from about minus 50 to 100. The filming was the best experience of my life. 

                                               I am now Free Being Me
Since returning home, I have stopped wearing make-up almost every day, unless I have a shoot or event that asks me to wear makeup. I have changed from posting overly-filtered, heavily made up selfies to natural “naked-face” snaps.  I am a free being me girl and I love it!  Therefore, I love being part of the project and meeting all the speakers and Irish Girl Guides in person. When looking at the girls speak, I see intelligence, strength and determination to change our world and show that these young women have so much more to offer other than outer appearance. I love meeting the women and having conversations - about anything but makeup! I love how they love to camp and wear runners, and just generally rough it (I had to camp on the show before the no makeup photoshoot so being at the IGGNITE campsite brought back amazing memories). I love the focus on arts and crafts and meeting people from different countries and learning about different cultures. These are the values the world should be celebrating and I was so happy to be included! 

This was my first, and certainly not my last, no makeup selfie. I am Katherine Gannon, and I am Free Being Me!!        

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Get Active! Human Rights Education among Young People

When I found out I had been chosen to represent IGG at the human rights workshop in Vienna, I was both over the moon and a little apprehensive. I knew that I had human rights but I didn’t exactly know what they were, or how to advocate for them. The thought of travelling abroad once more representing IGG filled me with pride. This would be my first time in Austria, and I couldn’t wait to explore the city, as well as to educate myself about my rights.

Eve and I met for the first time at our briefing with Lorna in National Office. We had lots of homework to prepare, including choosing a picture which best represented human rights in our country. Eve and I clicked immediately and after the briefing we got straight to work, researching different examples of human rights and activism in Ireland.

Arriving at the airport on Sunday morning, we were filled with excitement and nerves. We said a quick goodbye to our parents and, four hours later, we had arrived in Vienna. We stayed in a lovely youth hostel in the 20th district of Vienna. We had barely started our dinner when we were invited to go and explore the city with some participants. The course hadn’t even begun, and we’d made friends from Austria, Armenia, and Hungary. We spent the evening walking beside the Danube, visiting parks, shops and some monuments.

The course began early Monday morning. We had plenty of energy, but felt a little unsure of what to expect from the course. We spent the morning playing icebreakers, energisers and name games, so we’d get to know each other easily. The afternoon was spent forming a class contract, where we promised to treat everyone with respect and to give 110% in every session. We were briefly introduced to the topic of human rights by brainstorming words linked to what human rights meant to us. It was interesting to hear the differing opinions of people from different countries. That night, we attended an intercultural evening in the Grenzenlos office, the organisation running the event. We represented Ireland with pride, bringing Tayto and whiskey toffee for participants to try. We sang the national anthem and taught everyone some Irish and modern dances and were then showed up when the girl from Russia taught everyone how to Irish dance properly. It was an amazing night sampling food, singing songs, and learning dances from different countries. We did it all from the Macarena to a Traditional Hungarian dance that was so fast we couldn’t keep up to a limbo competition where Eve was crowned Champion.

Tuesday began with a simplified version of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. From here on in, we were told that the course would be a bit more intense and theory-based. I was afraid that we were going to be bombarded with information and that I wouldn’t be able to retain everything. However, there was nothing to worry about, as the trainers ensured that the theory was mixed with fun and creative activities. We designed maps of our perfect cities and then linked the human rights to different buildings in our cities. What became clear was that some human rights are easier to categorise than others and that, no matter how perfect we make our cities, human rights violations can occur everywhere. Each evening, we had reflection groups where we discussed the day we had and suggested what worked well and what didn’t. One group per day would also type up a small blog post for the website.

On Wednesday, we played the ‘Walk in my Shoes’ Game. We were each given a persona relating to the participating countries, and we had to take a step forward if the statements read out applied to us. It was inspiring to hear the thoughts of others on what it’s like to live in Ireland, compared to the truth. After our tea break (the most important time of the day), we were split into smaller groups and were asked to act out the main events in the history of human rights, starting from ancient Egypt onwards. It was fun to act out the different periods in history and made me understand the history better. That afternoon, we went on a walking tour of Vienna to see the sights. Afterwards, we had dinner in a restaurant that employs refugees and ex-convicts to help them begin a new life and it was brilliant getting to know everyone better.

After a late night, Thursday morning was spent doing group meditation. This took me out of my comfort zone but it made me feel more focused for the day ahead. We split into groups and practised theatre of the oppressed. I had never done an activity like this before and was a bit worried that it would be a flop. Each group was given a scenario featuring oppression. My group was given the scenario of immigrants who were allowed within a country’s borders, however had no human rights. It took us a long time to come up with a suitable scene, however, we decided to portray the language barrier, sickness and hostility that immigrants experience in continental countries. I had little to no experience of immigration, however, others in my group had first-hand experience so this allowed the scene to become more realistic. We then acted out our scene in front of the whole group. Any time an audience member felt like an actor was being oppressed, they had to clap and intervene to make the situation better. This proved challenging at first as we had to improvise parts of our scene. Yet having finished this activity, I felt empowered and more confident to stand up for my rights.

Friday was the chance to use what we had learned over the week to design and carry out a workshop of our own. The previous night we had heard from another Grenzenlos trainer about the groups we would be working with. We had a choice of running a workshop in a centre for disadvantaged youth, a kindergarten, in the Grenzenlos office or create a public flash mob. Both Eve and I chose to participate in the public flash mob. We spent Thursday night and Friday morning planning what we would do. We decided on a street performance in the heart of Vienna. We wrote up the articles of the declaration of Human Rights in German and English. We wrote leading questions on our arms and dotted ourselves around the busy places in Vienna, such as the Museums Quarter, the shopping district and People’s Park. One person would hold up an article and the rest of us would spread out and point at that person. We created a human circle each holding up articles in German and English. Some of us stood at either side of busy roads. When the lights were red, we ran across the road and gave each other hugs. We did this to draw attention to the right of equality. The street performance was an incredible experience and it gave me more confidence to run workshops and projects about things I’m passionate about.

Saturday was the last day of the workshop and it was met with great sadness but also fulfilment in all that we’d achieved. We reflected on the week and what we had accomplished. We suggested what could have been done differently and wrote positive messages to each member of the group. That night, we had our farewell party and it marked the end of what was an amazing, empowering and once in a lifetime week.

Sunday was our last day and we got the chance to visit the Crown Jewels and do some shopping in the city. We had entered the week anxious, worried and with jittery nerves. We left feeling empowered, confident, and ready to make a change back home. Not only had I gained a greater knowledge about human rights, but I had done so in an encouraging and non-judgemental environment, where I could be myself. I made some great memories and earned some very intelligent and generous friends from all around the world. As this wasn’t a WAGGGS event, it was eye-opening to learn about the various worldwide organisations that have similar aims to that of IGG. Thanks to Lorna, Ruth and Fiona for all their support and for giving us this opportunity, as well as all the trainers at Grenzenlos. For anyone who has thought about applying for international events with IGG, it is the most rewarding opportunity that you can get, and I can’t recommend it enough.

~ Amy McAuley and Eve Moody

Welcome to the new Guiding year!

After an exciting summer, which included IGGNITE 2017, thoughts now turn to the new Guiding year. Many opportunities and new experiences were on offer and it was good to see that so many Leaders, Senior Branchers, Guides, Brownies, Ladybirds and Trefoil Guild members were involved.

The new Guiding year is beginning and weekly meetings, that are core to the Guiding programme, are up and running. Autumn and winter offer their own opportunities and, even with daylight disappearing early, we can get into the outdoors or bring it in! I look back to working with Guides and remember that simple ideas could work well, torches always added to the fun and what can be done with fallen leaves is non-ending.

There are lots of opportunities coming up - Free Being Me Month in October, Cookie Month is coming up in November and they will provide opportunities for raising self-esteem and gaining new skills.

Irish Girl Guides has always been very involved with international Guiding and WAGGGS and Jillian van Turnout was named first substitute for the World Board. Elspeth Henderson and the late Diane Dixon held positions on the World Board previously. Today’s girls may well have similar opportunities in the future and it is in the local Units the fostering of Guiding and friendship and self-confidence is begun.

Getting everyone settled in can make for a busy start to the year - new members, new plans and maybe new Leaders.  I hope you all have a good year and hope to meet you over the year at the events and I will be happy to receive any invitations. Listening and talking to Irish Girl Guide members helps me to keep up to date and represent you well at outside events.   

Best wishes to everyone for the year ahead. 

~ Maureen Murphy, President, Irish Girl Guides 

Saturday, 2 September 2017

'I recommend volunteering to anyone with adventure in their hearts!'

My name is Edel Harty and I am a Senior Branch member in the South West Region, (but my camp name is Sunflower) and I'm here to tell you all about the amazing experience I've had during my last two summers as a staff member at Camp Lachenwald!

I stumbled across this opportunity in 2016 as I was reading the IGG weekly communications newsletter and I thought ‘Why not?’!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into but, before I knew it, I was booking my flights from Dublin Airport to Munich.

Camp Lachenwald is a resident camp that is held for one week for USA Girl Scouts who are stationed in a European country because one or both of their parents are in the military/navy and are not living in the United States. It is such a great way for girls to make friends with fellow Girl Scouts who may have
to move to a different country every two to three years.

Pre-Camp was a great opportunity for all the staff to get to know each other and their camp names, figure out our schedules for our girls and make sure everything was set up and ready to go. Don't get me wrong, this is very tough work. This year we had 115 girls at camp and each unit needed to be cleaned out, provided
with cooking utensils, picnic tables and benches, mattresses etc! Staff and the campers slept in platform tents that held 6 cots each.

A Typical Day at Camp
7:45-8:00 - Morning Flag
We raised the American, German and Girl Scout flags.

8:00-8:15 - Singing time
All girls and staff head to the singing porch and sing camp songs and grace to get us in a good mood for the day!

8:15-8:45 - Brekkie
This is very different to Irish camp breakfast - at Lachenwald we had American cereal, cinnebuns,  fruit and, every second day, we had a cooked breakfast. One morning we had a unicorn-themed breakfast and it was truly magical!
(I have no breakfast pictures because generally people were understandably cranky this early!)

9:00 - Lunch
The girls did two different rotations of activities (with snack in-between). The activities included arts and crafts in the Kunst Haus (Art House) like Tie Dye (my absolute FAVE), outdoor activities like archery and shelter building, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), like building catapults and learning about simple machines. On the Monday and Tuesday of camp the older girls had a canoeing and high ropes trip, which they really enjoyed!  We then would have lunch normally on the green and sometimes we even got official Girl Scout cookies for snacks (which are delish)! We then had two more rotations of activities before dinner.

17:45-18:00 - Evening Flag
We would retire the American, German and Girl Scout flags. There are specific ways to fold the American and German flags, which we taught the girls.

18:00-18:15- Singing porch
Everyone joins in song to get in the mood to line their tummies. I learned so many different songs that I had never heard before … along with the actions, of course!

18:15-19:00- Dinner
We had a different themed dinner every night! We had Italian Night, Chinese Night, Mexican Night and Hawaiian night. The dining hall was decorated as per the theme and the food to match!

As I had the Brownies, after dinner we would bring the girls to the shower house and head for bed - you would be amazed at how long this process took! Older girls continued
activities like glow in the dark archery and street art.

Thursday 27th July- Europapark Day!
Camp Lachenwald's theme this year was Thrills and Adventures so 150 of us headed off to Rust on a bus to the second largest theme park in Europe. We had such a fantastic day filled with fun and thrills.

The kids returned home on the Friday to many different European countries and all the staff were happy, yet sad, that camp had ended. We headed out for the annual staff dinner where we shared funny stories from the past week and we received our "paper plate
awards". I was awarded the "Brownie Whisperer Award" as staff had joked all week that I had some sort of magic power to handle 21 Brownies!

I had an absolute ball with the best staff team anyone could ask for. From campfires to thunderstorms, I experienced everything that Girl Scout camp had to offer and it's an experience I will never forget.

I truly have made friends for life and I would highly recommend volunteering as a staff member to anyone with adventures in their hearts!

IGGNITE was so much more than I expected!

As a Leader relatively new to Guiding I had no idea what to expect. I thought we would be pitching our tent in a field and the girls would “do activities” the other side of the field. The reality was so much more…

Our girls did themselves proud. Cheerfully lugging tons of bags and tents they set up camp with a flourish. Hauling water from the water station and eating outside, they got themselves ready. Despite eight to a tent, they prepared for the many challenging activities organised for them at 10.00am each morning. Happy chatter filled the air as they headed off in hail, rain or sunshine for the day ahead.

The “field” became a “village” of tents all shapes and sizes, each Region having their own space, artfully decorated and signposted.

The programme ran like clockwork. Evening sessions were a chance for everyone to get together and badge swapping was a favourite activity, especially with the international Guides.

As a Leader, our food plans submitted months ago were allocated to us daily and we became Master Chefs on our two ring gas stoves churning out five different dishes of an evening to cater for all needs!

What was most impressive was the focus on inspiring and empowering our girls to believe that they each can make a difference. It was an inspiring message, powerfully delivered. The girls proved themselves capable and confident, resilient in all weathers and, working together, they had a busy, fun-filled week that should prove to them that they are more than capable of overcoming any obstacles they come in their way.

Standing Up for Equality at IGGNITE2017!

When I first heard that I was going to be an activity Leader for IGGNITE2017, I was anxious but ready to take on the challenge. When I heard that I would have to incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into my activity, my readiness slowly began to dwindle. The SDGs are 17 global goals with 169 targets between them. They are focused on achieving sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most serious problems, including poverty and climate change. They build on the Millennium Development Goals and were formulated by the UN, which hopes to achieve these goals by 2030.

When we went to the staff training, there was a session on the SDGs and, once we had completed this training, I began to grow in confidence. I also did my own research on the SDGs so I arrived at camp fully prepared and excited to get started. I was placed in the ‘Be an Advocate’ zone and the activity I ran was called ‘Stand Up for Equality’. The SDGs that the activity focused on were 5-Gender Equality and 10-Reducing Inequalities. I was delighted to be running a workshop on equality as I believe that everyone deserves to be equal but that it is something we all are still struggling to achieve. I had attended the Use Your Voice international camp in England last year and I was excited to bring what I had learned at their advocacy session to this camp. We were going to run our activities four times a day and have around 30 girls per session. 

Before I get into details about my activity, I want to make it clear that I could not have run any activity at all without all the other amazing staff in the ‘Be an Advocate’ zone, especially the zone leaders Niamh Teeling and Aisling O’Boyle. I had been really busy preparing my activity, but the amount of work that they put into that zone to make it enjoyable and educational, was second to none.

It was probably the most challenging zone. It was more educational and mostly based in classrooms. There was less running around and I was afraid that the girls would get bored easily. Nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelmingly positive response that I got from all of the Guides and Senior Branch members that walked through that classroom door over the week. Myself and two other staff members started the activity by asking the girls what they knew about advocacy, the SDGs and equality. At the beginning, the girls were all really quiet. However, once the brave person spoke first, we had great discussions about equality and how the girls could become advocates themselves.

After the discussion, we played a game called ‘Walk in my Shoes’. The girls were each given a persona, from varying backgrounds. They had to think about their backgrounds, financial and family situations, where they lived and if they experienced inequalities. A list of statements was read out, and the girls took a step forward if the statement applied to their persona and a step backwards if it didn’t. The girls that took a lot of steps were ones playing daughters of high-profile politicians, or people who owned companies such as Google. Those that didn’t take any steps forward included those girls who had the personas of disabled college students and refugees with no English. It was a great game to play as it got the girls thinking. What was surprising was that every group was different and the girls had varying reasons to justify why they did or didn’t step forward.

After this game, we decided to run a short activity to look at stereotypes surrounding certain occupations. The girls closed their eyes and a list of jobs was read out. They raised their hands depending on whether they pictured a man, woman or both a man and a woman doing the job. Many of the girls believed that builders, taxi drivers and football players were all labelled as ‘male occupations’ whereas jobs such as hairdressers, nurses and models were deemed to be ‘female’ roles. This was interesting as opinions varied from person to person and it also provoked a lot of chat.  What became apparently clear was that most of the girls had experienced inequalities in their daily lives, most notably in the subjects that they could take at school and the sports they played. The main reason for this was because they were girls. We quickly discovered that there are certain stigmas and stereotypes surrounding what it means to be a girl. The girls told me that certain subjects were labelled as ‘boys’ subjects’ and were unavailable to them. Those who play on sports teams receive less funding, support and equipment than boys’ teams. Some of the girls were told that they couldn’t play with the boys in their school as the boys were ‘too rough’ for them. Games were made easier for the girls and some teachers described them as ‘weak and incapable’.

We then watched a video of an advertising campaign ran by Always. The people in the video were told to run and fight like girls. The adults in the video all ran like Phoebe in Friends and portrayed themselves as weak. It was the men behaving ‘like girls’ that really made the Guides laugh. The men in the video believed they were not being offensive to women, however, in fact, they were. At the end of the video, younger girls were brought out and told to do the same thing. They behaved like themselves. We learned that it is only as we grow older that we become aware of the stereotypes surrounded with gender and that girls are particularly vulnerable to these stereotypes when they are teenagers. It was great to see the girls’ reactions while they watched the video.

We concluded the workshop by recording voxpops (voxpops are short interviews with members of the public). They are usually based on topical and political items and are broadcast on radio. The girls broke into smaller groups and discussed how they could use their voice in the media and stand up and be heard. We had a great array of voxpops including skits, interviews, conversational pieces, news reports, songs, raps, stories and poems. It was great to see the girls growing in confidence and breaking out of their shells. Many of the topics recorded were based on what they had learned in other workshops in the ‘Be an Advocate’ zone, such as climate change and the refugee crisis. We also had voxpops based on gender equality, how women are portrayed in the media and, of course, how the girls were finding IGGNITE2017.

I am overwhelmed with how much the girls learned over the week and how they used their voices to advocate for change. We all learned many new things about ourselves and overcame many challenges. Seeing the girls leaving our room with smiles on their faces and a passion for the SDGs was probably my favourite part of camp. The advocacy session on Saturday morning with females at the top of their profession was further inspiration to go out and make a change. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to run this workshop and I came away with an amazing sense of drive, confidence and determination, as well as tons of new badges, friends and memories. I am using what I have learned at this camp locally and I have just been appointed as the SDG Advocate for Louth. This camp was unbelievable and I cannot wait for the next one.

-Amy McAuley (Drogheda Senior Branch)

Brownie Lottie doll to empower girls to pursue their dreams

A newly-launched Brownie Lottie doll is set to empower girls to become more adventurous and to pursue their dreams.

The Brownie figure, like all Lottie dolls, is modelled on the proportions of an average nine-year-old child. She comes with a Brownie uniform and accessories include a tent, camping equipment and a kayak. There’s even a campfire and sausages and marshmallows!

The Brownie Lottie doll was launched on 4 August at our international camp, IGGNITE2017, which saw 1,800 Girl Guides from 12 different countries camp under canvas in Rockwell College. The girls took part in a range of activities to help them ‘BE’ adventurous, active, confident, unique, limitless, inventive and to ‘BE’ survivors and advocates.

Launching the doll, Nicola Grinstead, Chair of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), said: “We love the way Lottie dolls are age-appropriate and relatable and they empower children to be themselves, to be imaginative, adventurous and, of course, to have fun. This partnership is a perfect fit for us as WAGGGS’s vision is that ‘All girls are valued and can take action to change the world’.”

Irish Girl Guides Chief Commissioner, Helen Concannon, said: “We hope the Lottie Brownie doll will not only encourage our younger members to be more active and adventurous, but will facilitate the empowerment of many more girls besides and might encourage them to become Brownies and Guides too.” 

Ian Harkin, Managing Director of Arklu, the Donegal-based company that designs the Lottie dolls, described the new doll as “a must-have plaything for every young Brownie, who’ll be able to bring Brownie activities to life with Lottie in their very own home. She’ll appeal to other adventurous-minded children too.”

The Lottie Brownie doll retails at €19.95. To find your nearest stockist, use the store locator on Lottie.com or order online. 80 cents of every sale in Ireland goes to Irish Girl Guides.