Monday, 14 September 2015

Campfire Against Suicide: Show you care, Ask the question, Make the call!

Well done to Cork Guide Leader, Georgina Cantwell, on organising a hugely successful Campfire Against Suicide on 11th September to coincide with Suicide Prevention Week. Here Georgina writes about the experience ...

Campfires have always been one of the happiest places on Earth for me. When I was younger, every Saturday morning at Guide camp, I would wake up knowing that in just a few hours I would be singing and dancing around a crackling flame. And then the day would go on, and drama would nearly always ensue, energy levels would dip and emotions would be running high: the campfire becoming something I had no more interest in.

But, ever since I progressed to become a Leader with the Girl Guides, it has changed ever so
slightly. I still get tired and my emotions still run high, but I always know that no matter how bad I might be feeling, or how little energy I have, there is a young girl in the group who is going to be missing home, feeling way more sad than I and with even less energy.

So I know that this campfire has to be extra special, extra fun and extra positive. I need this
campfire to be the happiest hour and a half - silly, fun and entertaining. So, around Saturday
afternoon, while all the girls are off doing what Guides do, I pull out my camp songs and plan the best campfire I can.

The only problem is that 10 to 16 year old girls are full of those self-conscious and too cool
vibes, all worried that they will look foolish or be made fun of if they go all in. But, if there is one thing that is not allowed at one of my campfires, it’s judgment.

Generally, around eight o’clock we all move into the campfire circle, some with blankets full
with badges, me with my shirt. And, almost from the very get go, my loud, very happy, very
exuberant self comes to the surface, even when I am in the depth of a nasty depression. I put the whole day behind me and all I care about is everyone having a good time. I make it as active as I can so that, while I forget about my issues, the girls can forget about theirs.

For two hours there is only happy vibes and laughter, songs and silly dances. And, the next morning, as we prepare to end camp and ask the girls what the highlight of the
weekend was for them, and hear back ‘The campfire’, I know I’ve done my job well.

This past week has been Suicide Prevention Week and not too long ago, the main man behind Cycle Against Suicide , Jim Breen, messaged me to see if I would host an event for this particular week to further spread the message that ‘ It is OK not to be OK and that it is
ABSOLUTELY OK to ask for help ’. Within an hour of him sending that message, preparations
were underway for a Campfire Against Suicide especially for Girl Guides.

Weeks passed and soon enough it was the day of the event. The day prior, things were looking great. All the prep was done, and the excitement was mounting. But on the morning of the Campfire, I woke up to weather warnings and quite a bit of rain. I was close to tears as people started dropping like flies, but I was not giving up! This campfire was going ahead, even if I was to be the only one there.

But people did turn up - many, many people. It quickly sunk in that this campfire was 100%
happening, right now! My legs trembled right up until the last second, even as Jim Breen and his mate Barry assured me of my greatness. Even as some of my closest friends and my wonderful mother patted me on the back, gave me thumbs up, winks, smiles, everything they could to support

I was a nervous wreck the whole way through, but at the end of it all when people swarmed up to hug me (something I was in much need of) to tell me how proud they were of me, how impressed they were and how much of an awesome time they had, hearing the laughter of all the girls and seeing the smiles going from ear to ear, it was enough. It was enough to assure me I had succeeded in exactly what I set out to do, even if it was indoors around some candles rather than outside around a giant flame.

And a whole bunch of girls, some as young as nine, went home that evening having learned
nine new words:

Show you care, Ask the question, Make the call!

~ Georgina blogs at

Friday, 11 September 2015

The Journey Programme encourages us to find our path & invent our own future

Claudia Carey, a Senior Branch member in Limerick, was excited to be able to take part in the launch of the Journey Programme. She said it was great to be able to show people the opportunities that are available to young girls and women through the Irish Girl Guides and how the new programme would help them grow and discover their potential.

“The launch event was a great evening and I was extremely impressed by how the new programme has been rewritten,” she said. “It was an evening full of presentations and music, even a little bit of dancing at the end. Being an Irish Girl Guide for 13 years, it was lovely for me to be able to see the changes being made to the programme and the positive effects it will have. Through this programme we are encouraged to be our own hero, investigate the world around us, find our path and invent our own future.”

Claudia spoke at the launch about her experience being an IGG member, including a service project in India in which she participated during the summer. This is the text of her presentation:

My name is Claudia Carey and I'm a Senior Branch member in the Caherdavin area of Limerick. I have been a member of the Irish Girl Guides for 13 years and today I'm going to tell you about the opportunity that I had during the summer to visit one of our world centres - Sangam in India. I went with a project group that would be working in conjunction with Door Step Schools - this is an organisation in India that helps disadvantaged people by teaching them English.

At 17 years old I was the youngest member of a group of 13 women from all over Ireland, we were from all different walks of life and had only met three times before we met at the airport. That is where our journey began.

After two eight hour flights and one four hour bus journey we finally reached Sangam World Centre in Pune, which is South East of Mumbai, and had some well-deserved rest. Later that evening we had our welcoming ceremony in true Indian style.

Our first few days were spent team-building, so we could get to know one another better, and planning for our project. There were four sites we could be split up to work in; the name of my site was Liviano.

When we weren't planning we were exploring Indian culture - the way they dress, the language they spoke and their traditional foods. We even had the chance to visit an Indian family and they told us all about their day to day lives.

Sangam is very involved in the local community and is invested in conserving energy.
While in Sangam we completed a few challenges, such as learning to count to 10 in Hindi, climbing the water tower and taking funny photos around Sangam. We also made friends with the groups who were staying in Sangam while we were there, many of whom we are still in contact with. 

However, this wasn't just a relaxing holiday. We had a goal - to help in the Door Step Schools in any way we could for the time we had there. Liviano, the site in which I was based, could have 25-35 children on any given day all between the ages of 4-14. They welcomed us with open arms and were eager to learn. We started with easier topics, such as numbers, the body and colours, and as our time went on we introduced shapes, emotions and hygiene. As well as this we did some crafts, played games and sang songs like ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’.

While we were there the children made phenomenal progress, one of the young boys in the school, named Rashid, walked over to me on our last day and said to me, "Madam" (that's what they called us),"thank you very much, we will miss you, goodbye". That moment is something that will stay with me for a very long time.

On our last night in Sangam we had our Indian Afternoon which included sari-tying, henna, rangoli and an Indian feast. It was a wonderful event.

For our last day in Sangam we managed to get in a little sight-seeing of Pune so we visited the Aga Khan Palace, which is where Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned for some of his lifetime.

Later on we had our closing ceremony and after that we got a bus to Mumbai train station. It was difficult to say good bye to the staff at Sangam - they had made us feel so at home and welcome that we had become good friends.

From the station at Mumbai we got a 16 hour train to the city of Agra, which is in the north of India. All I can say is that the train journey was an experience.

We spent one night in Agra and saw some beautiful sites such as the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, which is as breath-taking in real life as it is in the photos.

Then we travelled to Jaipur and spent two nights there. During our stay we got an elephant ride to a hill-top fort known as the Amber Fort. This region is famous for textiles and precious stones, so we also visited a textile factory and gem-shaping facility.

For our last night in India we staying in its capital, Delhi, and that morning we went to see the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial before making our way to the airport.

On our journey home we all found it hard to believe that our adventure in India had come to an end. We as a group had all grown closer together, like a family, and we all had this amazing experience along with some fond memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

This was a once in a lifetime experience that has changed me for the better, but it would never have been possible for me if not for the Irish Girl Guides and the group of inspirational women that I went with. I would like to thank you all for your continued support and encouragement because, if it were not for you, India would still be a dream.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

The atmosphere was electric at the Journey Programme launch!

The launch of our new Journey Programme in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, was a great success. The atmosphere was electric as we started off with our photo shoot in the courtyard outside, with girls from each branch posing with copies of the new programme, rucksacks and even a mini mountain!

During the launch, presented by our wonderful Girl Guide M.C., Anna Sexton, we were treated to a speech from our very own Jillian Van Turnout, who immediately captivated our audience (consisting of many Guiding and non-Guiding guests) with a taster of our new programme.

This was followed by two extremely impressive presentations from two Senior Branchers from Caherdavin, Limerick. Naomi Keays showed us how much training and fun she had while training for - and then completing - three summit hikes in the Swiss Alps, while Claudia Carey made us teary-eyed hearing about her work for a service project in Sangam, India, while she was working with disadvantaged children in the local area.

Later, we heard from the Minister for Education Jan O'Sullivan, who said she was proud to support the Irish Girl Guides, and made us laugh when she perfectly recited the Brownie Song. We also were privileged to have Niamh Briggs present - the Irish Women's International Rugby captain. She spoke to us about her experiences as a Guide shaping her to become the confident and outgoing woman she has grown to be. We were all greatly inspired.

In between all of this activity, we sang songs (one in particular – Can a Ladybird? written by Pauline Kennedy - I'm hoping it becomes available for use in our units!) and saw the vast amount of interest badges available to our girls with the programme.

The evening was wrapped by our Chief Commissioner Helen Concannon, who encouraged us to keep up the good work and to keep instilling confidence in our girls. We ended the festivities with (you guessed it!) a dance and a song that even the men in the room joined in with.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally can't WAIT to start the programme with my Ladybirds next week.

Roll on the Regional Conferences, where we can all share in the excitement! 

~ Sarah Condren, Caherdavin, Limerick

My crazy, fun-filled (& sometimes out of my comfort zone) time at Ventact!

For me, Ventact started in a camp field in Kilkenny while enjoying our Regional Camp. Light-headed from the altitude, I volunteered to go to Ventact (I’m sticking to that excuse): a new challenge and new milestone to add to my Guiding journey. A little unprepared for what lay ahead, we registered for the crazy fun-filled weekend.

As I packed the car for the forthcoming weekend, I was in the mind-set of a Guide camp: cooker, gas, food, tent, first aid kit and so on. I was really in the Guide Leader zone making sure that every possible scenario was covered.

As I drove to Kilcully House, I was excited to see how a joint camp could be run, but also nervous as to how it could possibly work.  Upon arrival, I was taken aback by the sea of tents - it was like a scene from the Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I really felt like a Muggle compared to seasoned Ventact leaders, who were taking the set up in their stride; we were more like Harry, Ron and Hermione falling flat on our faces after exiting the portal key. 

As we arranged our tent and planned our tea, the true relaxed nature of the camp became apparent. As the night rolled on, I felt more and more confused: life was laid back and mapped out, but with flexible boundaries. As the activities were given out and the swap phase started, it reminded me of the stock exchange on Wall Street, with traders calling out their commodities for sale and the bidding war began!

As I climbed into my tent, I was delighted that the Senior Branch Guides had successfully swapped onto the activities they wanted. Chatting with my partner in crime for the weekend, I realised I was not the only Muggle (sorry Fiona).  By 3am I was finally asleep, but only to be woken at 7.30am with the sound of Good Morning Vietnam (and a great selection of music). A little dazed, I mentally prepared to face the day ahead. The camp staff were great; they herded the dazed Scouts and Guides in the right direction: onto the buses and off to their activities, to return by 4.30pm as excitement built for the Harry Potter-themed Disco and of course the Guide/Scout Own.  

It was after Guide’s Own that my ‘comfort zone’ became a little strained. Volunteering to help with security for the evening, we were given our tasks and the rules we were to enforce for the evening and we headed off as Guide Leaders.  However, by the end of the night I felt more like a dementor securing the prison of Azkaban: enforcing all the rules and regulations, but perhaps forgetting that these are teenagers who like to, and should be allowed to, bend (but not break) the rules.

The next morning, while chatting to the Scout Leaders, I realised that I had come to Ventact as a Muggle, expecting a structured camp, but was now going away with an open mind and the upmost respect for what Scout Leaders face.  I highly recommend Guide Leaders attend Ventact. Yes, your first year will be confusing, but the experience gained from this weekend will stay with you through-out your Guiding journey. I will be returning (and there are probably Scout Leaders shouting “Why Us?”) but I am truly looking forward to it.

Lastly, I would like to thank all the staff and committee members who organise this event every year. You are doing a brilliant job, so “Well done to one and all”!

 ~ Mena Timoney, St Bridget's Guides, Clonmel)