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 or order online. 80 cents of every sale in Ireland goes to Irish Girl Guides. 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Discovering the fun of STEM through Lego Robotics Summer Academy

Twenty-two members of Irish Girl Guides aged 14-22 took part in a Lego Robotics Summer Academy in Dublin City University's LEGO Education Innovation Studio. Here two of the participants, Maggie Cumiskey and Méabh Lonergan, tell us of their experience:

Before starting our LEGO camp journey, we were all very excited and a bit nervous.  Some people came with friends, some with sisters, and some went without knowing a single person.

We arrived in St Patrick’s campus, DCU, on the Monday morning. We were each assigned our own room in student accommodation, which comprised of a desk, bed, wardrobe and a sink.

Each day was different on the Robotics course. We were gradually introduced to the robots and the idea of coding. We started off rather simply with a cute robot called Milo. Building the robot was really fun as I think most of us hadn’t played with LEGO in years. It was really nice to be able to sit back and feel like a kid again! Coding Milo was also really fun and surprisingly easy. We followed instructions step by step to make him go forwards and backwards as well as make him stop with different sensors.

At first it was really daunting because I don’t think many of us had done any coding before. However, once we got into it, it was very easy. Each of us turned to our partner at some stage and said “That was us. We did that!” and maybe high-fiving each other every once in a while.

After Milo, we moved onto a new, slightly more complicated robot. We built him as normal but the coding was slightly different and way more specific. It was a lot harder to make him move and there was a lot more work involved to make him go. We had to measure the distance we wanted him to move and then calculate the number of wheel rotations needed to get there. My original thoughts were Oh dear God, maths. I haven’t done maths in two years!” It was very easy maths, though, so I was very relieved. We also could make this robot turn, unlike Milo, which took two robots. On this new one we had to be very specific and calculate the exact degree we needed. He was a lot more challenging but also a lot more fun. It was really cool to code it ourselves and make it complete little challenges that we were set.

We used this robot for the rest of the week in our “Mission To Mars project. This was so much fun and I think it’s safe to say the most enjoyable part of the week. We were all split into groups of four and given a new robot to build (We called him Tobias Walowitz and Brobot). The aim of this project was to build and code a suitable robot to complete up to seven challenges on Mars in under than two and half minutes. This was so much fun as we had the freedom to extend our robot and use the skills we had learned in the prevoius few days. We measured, calculated distances and angles like crazy. There were so many different emotions running through everyone those few days when it went right and when it didn’t. Needless to say, we were all very proud of our robots when we finished the challenges. Especially as both our teams came at a respectable first and second.

During the week, we heard talks from Dr Niamh Shaw, a woman who took part in a Mars simulation experience and Rosemary Steen, director of Eirgrid.  It was interesting to hear these women speak, and hear their opinions on how to succeed in male-dominated areas.

After we left the robotics room, we took part in a number of evening activities:  we went to the cinema to see Baywatch and Wonder Woman, went rock climbing in Awesome Walls, went to Bounce Zone, and finally visited Google and Milanos! These were a great way for us to push our comfort zone and get to know the others better.

We learnt a lot from this week: like, how to programme a robot (of course). It wasn't as hard as I imagined: so much of it was measuring and working out angles, before writing them into a basic code. I'd never played much with LEGO before and I was surprised at how easy it was to build a robot that could grab, lift, drop and spin things. Overall it was an excellent week and I think we were all sad to be going home. It definitely opened our eyes to the world of programming and computing, and especially how women can influence STEM.

One of the best parts of the week was because of the fact that, as we were such a small group (22), we all bonded really well with the others over the five days. Seeing each other push our comfort zones in the evening activities, watching each others’ creations fail and succeed, and supporting each other all the time, (and having impromptu singalongs to Fall Out Boy), made us become great friends, and feel almost like one big (and loud) family by the end of the week.

We'd like to thank Ross, Rob, Deidre, and all those at DCU for creating such a fab week, Rosemary and Niamh for giving up their time to talk to us, and Lorna and Emer for organising it, and making sure we didn't die or get lost in Dublin. And the other girls, for grabbing the opportunity with both hands (and not killing me every time I asked them could I use them on the IGG and SB Snapchat stories).

Make sure to sign up for next year!

Counting down the days until IGGNITE2017!

1,800 Girl Guides are counting down the days until the start of international camp!

IGGNITE2017, which starts on 30 July 2017, will see girls from 12 countries join Girl Guides from all corners of Ireland camping under canvas at Rockwell College, Thurles, Co Tipperary.

It will be the biggest ever Girl Guide camp to take place in Ireland!

There will be a total of 250 visitors, including Girl Guides from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Georgia, Zimbabwe and St Vincent and the Grenadines as well as England, Scotland and Finland.

“After two years of planning, we’re excited to be in the final days of the countdown until camp takes place,” says IGGNITE2017 Camp Chief Jenny Gannon. “We can’t wait to welcome all the girls and introduce them to the different kinds of fun and adventurous activities they’ll be taking part in during the camp.”

Activities will include kayaking, horse-riding, water obstacle courses, building rafts and rockets and playing quidditch as well as drama, music, body confidence, yoga, meditation and coding workshops. “The girls will also learn how to advocate for gender equality and to stand up for refugees and, by learning about the Sustainable Development Goals, it is hoped they will be enthused to make a difference in their local communities and overseas,” says Jenny.

“Guiding aims to ignite a social and environmental conscience in our members from age five-plus while they take part in team-building and problem-solving games and challenges. They learn how to speak out on issues that concern them and how to inspire others to take action too.

“Our overall aim is to see our members become responsible citizens of the world; that is part of our ethos. Guiding is also a wonderful place to make friends for life!”

Jillian van Turnhout nominated for WAGGGS World Board

Former IGG Chief Commissioner and former Senator Jillian van Turnhout has been nominated to run for election for the World Board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

Jillian writes:

I am greatly honoured to be nominated by the Irish Girl Guides and Catholic Guides of Ireland to run for election for the World Board of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

In my volunteer and professional work, I instinctively advocate for children’s and women’s rights. From an early age, the Guiding flame burned brightly when I joined Brownies at the age of seven. The fundamental principles of Guiding and Scouting continue to be a beacon to guide me on my path through life.

WAGGGS has 10 million members in 146 countries across the world supporting girls and young women to develop their full potential as leaders and active citizens of the world. I believe we must see more women in leadership roles and this is one of the reasons that has motivated me to stand for election. I would bring my practical experience of working with Guides in my locality and leading the re-invigoration of the Irish Girl Guide national programme for girls and young women aged five to 30.

I would share my global knowledge of advocating for children’s rights at UN, European and national level. I believe my governance experience on European and national Boards would be an asset.

Anyone who knows me can see my belief in Guiding shines brightly. It is a tremendous honour to even be considered and I hope everyone can support me in my campaign to get elected to the WAGGGS World Board at the World Conference in September in India.