Monday, 27 June 2016

15th European Guide and Scout Conference - Day 5

The final day of the conference started with the voting. We listened again to the motions put forward and the amendments to these. The voting also meant that the tellers were needed and so Aisling was busy again. There were several votes taken, which looked at future finances, strategies and general future planning.

After the voting, it came to the time where we had to say goodbye to the outgoing committee and officially welcome in the new one. The chair
(both the position and a small magenta chair!) was officially passed over. The final speeches were said by the outgoing committee and the final speech was said by the new incoming chair, and with that speech the 2016 European Guide Conference was closed.

After lunch it was time for the joint conference and again time for more voting. Here we voted on issues and motions that affect both the Guide and Scout groups.
One of the votes was to vote on where the next European Conference would be held. After the votes were calculated, the result was that the 16th European Guide and Scout Conference will be held in Croatia.

In the evening it was time for the closing ceremony, after more speeches a lovely dinner, a game of 'What's not Norwegian' and learning the truckers knot, the 15th European Guide and Scout Conference came to a close.
The Conference was a great way to learn about what is happening at a European level. It is a great place to meet people who are as passionate about Guiding as you are.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

15th European Guide & Scout Conference - Day 4

Looking to the future of WAGGGS ... Monday 20th June 2016

Firstly, an update on the conference itself: Today’s work was very much about the future of the Europe Region and of WAGGGS at a global level.
We began with the announcement of the new Chair and Vice-Chair of the Europe Committee. We look forward to working with them and with the rest of the Europe Committee during the next three years.
The first part of the morning was spent in breakout sessions on a variety of topics – Growth, Diversity, Free Being Me, Gendered Leadership.  It was wonderful to get an update from the Working Groups and Committee members on the work done and the work yet to be done. Attached is a photo of one of the activities at the Social Entrepreneurship session run by the Danish contingent. It was about seeing what is shared concepts between Guiding and Entrepreneurship. Perhaps this is an area IGG could do more on? 

We then had a number of presentations from members of the World Board about the Value of Volunteerism, Voting Procedures and Brand Consultation. They requested the engagement and feedback and it’s great to see the World Board consulting with the Member Organisations in this way and to know the Irish voices can contribute to change. 

The Chair and Vice-Chair of the World Board then presented information on Growth and asked us to consider the barriers we have to increasing membership and enabling more and more girls to join Girl Guides.  

The delegates then attended a Norwegian evening away from the conference centre. Beautiful scenery, tasty food and wonderful tour guides were provided but alas the rain fell, and fell, and fell!  However, the true spirit of Guiding prevailed and the Irish sang and smiled under all challenges!

Lastly, some of you may be wondering about the accommodation on site. The venue is huge and our meager (!) 500 participants have lots of room in this convention centre which can host 5000! It’s beautifully located on the edge of a fjord with rolling hills and forestry surrounding us. Accommodation is provided in small cottages that are like IKEA showrooms! Sleeping arrangements are interesting …. with two beds in a low roofed loft and two of our delegation sharing a small double bed! Guess which two calm, quiet, peaceful members of our delegation are sharing ?!

15th European Guide and Scout Conference - Day 3

Today was all about looking forward to the future as we heard from WAGGGS CEO Anita Tiessen on the necessity for restructuring the organisational working methods of WAGGGS.
Throughout the day our delegation took part in workshops focussing on growth, diversity, gendered leadership, tailored support and more!Helen presented on IGG's work within the Northstar research project on growth that has been taking place over the past year. This work will feed into the wider work WAGGGS will undertake with other associations who also wish to increase their growth.
 The climax of today was the election of the new Europe Region Committee. Aisling Claffey had been selected to act as teller and boy was she kept busy! 
After the first round of voting their was a tie for the final spot on the Committee and a second round of voting between those two candidates took place. After that round of voting there was still a tie! Much discussion ensued and the candidates decided to put the vote to the member organisations again... throughout this entire procedure the remaining candidates, including CIGA nominee Yvonne Browne were nervously awaiting the outcome.
Finally there was white smoke, a decision had been made and the six new Europe Committee members were announced.
Unfortunately Yvonne was not elected on this occasion. It's a brave decision for anyone to put themselves forward for consideration, thanks Yvonne for stepping forward on our behalf!
The evening activities focused on a European Village party where each country set up a table with items to sell or gifts to buy. The atmosphere was buzzing and the Irish table was very popular. A campfire on the beach closed another busy conference day.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

15th European Guide and Scout Conference - Day 2

Day 2 of the conference and the main event is the presentations from the 9 candidates for election on the Europe Committee. All were impressive but of course our hopes are with Yvonne Brown CGI . An afternoon session of ' speed dating ' gave everyone a chance to put questions to the candidates and hopefully make the right decision for the committee.It was amazing to see the knowledge and enthusiasm of the candidates and the work that they are preparing to do as volunteers to support  Wagggs.

Other presentations took us on journeys to Croatia and Malta who are vying to hold the next Europe region conference, as well as an update from Roverway which will have up to 5000 participants and many volunteers taking part in the largest European joint event held by Wagggs and Wosm . The ethos being ' Living and Building peace together '.

The Guide section of the conference was opened with an address by Dr Michele Paule, a gender expert who is working with Wagggs on gender and diversity . This was very interesting and raised many issues including how girls  have problems recognising their leadership skills . An interesting point is that when society says both genders are equal , girls see this is not the case around them and therefore believe the problem to be with them.
Some results from the gender survey indicate that most countries are compliant on Health issues. In terms of the economy it is fair while gender balance in politics is poor. This is a huge issue for us as leaders of girls and young women . What happens that the young sixer , the patrol leader and the senior branches who show great skill  in leadership within IGG but don't bring it to the larger community ? This is one of the challenges which Wagggs and IGG will be addressing in the coming years.
Michele's concluding words must be an inspiration to us all .

'The space is there but the onus is on women to step into it.'

Saturday finished with an International evening which went on until 10 pm outdoors to take advantage of the light filled Nordic evening .
Ireland's table was always popular with  stew , Irish cheeses, tea-brack and of course red lemonade !

Saturday, 18 June 2016

15th European Guide and Scout Conference - Day 1

500 people from 50 different countries have ascended on the Oslofjord Convention Centre over the last few days. Neckers of all different colours, people speaking different languages,  friends reuniting and people being introduced for the first time all here for one reason, The15th European Guide and Scout Conference.
The European Conference is made up of 3 conferences, The European Guide Conference, The European Scout Conference and The Guide and Scout Conference. The conference is a place to network with people, share ideas and make decisions on the organisations future.
The first day of the conference consisted of networking sessions for International Commissioners, Chief Volunteers,  Program &Training and Finance. Here we got the opportunity to talk to other organisations, we shared what is working for our member organisations , what struggles we face and came up with ideas about how we can help each other overcome these.
Later that evening we had the Opening Ceremony, We were welcomed to Norway by the Chief Guide and the Chief Scout of Norway. The European WAGGGS Chair and WOSM Chair both welcomed us to the Conference. We then listened to a speech from Stian Seland, President of the Norwegian National Youth Council. What he had to say was very relevant to what we do and what our vision is.
He said that Young people make up one quarter of the world's population, this is the largest amount of young people there had ever been. When young people were asked what large issues they cared about they said Health care,  Care of the elderly  and Poor people. Young people don't always think of themselves.
It's been said that the Youth are the future, but Seland tells us that this is incorrect, because youth are the present, in the future they won't be youth anymore! He ended his speech 
with a phrase that stood out to us; Youthless development is useless development.
The European Conference holds lots more exciting sessions, people to meet and things to learn. We look forward to the week ahead to see what unfolds.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Sarah Canavan, Sika Senior Branch Leader, Killarney

‘My highlight was climbing to the top of the mast!’

Hi! My name is Tracey and I took part in the Morgenster tall ship voyage from Belfast to the Isle of Man, Dublin and Cork.

I was the only person on board from Irish Girl Guides or, in fact, any uniformed organisation. I was one of 36 trainees. The group was mixed and from all walks of life and included two people who are partially-sighted.

We were placed into working groups and worked on a four-hour watch. My watch was from 8 to 12 morning and night. We also had a Happy Hour daily when everyone worked on cleaning the ship to music.

I was very nervous, shy and worried that I would find it hard as I have dyspraxia and don’t have a great sense of balance. My highlight was climbing the mast more than once and even going to the highest point. I did not fall off, did not get injured and was very pleased with myself.

In Belfast we visited a navy vessel. We berthed in Castletown in the
Isle of Man and went by bus into Douglas. In Dublin I acted as a guide to some of the other trainees and showed them around Dublin.  We went on a camping trip to Wicklow overnight and then went on to Cork.

I was very homesick and found it hard to be with 36 strangers 24/7 for two weeks in the ship’s confines. Most of the other trainees knew nothing about Girl Guides and were very interested in what I had done during my years in Guides.

I have been involved in Guiding since I came to live with my family when I was three. I have been at all the international camps here in Ireland during that time. I went to Saskatchewan in Canada as a Guide in 2007, and to India as a Leader in 2014.

The trip on the Tall Ship was the first time that I went anywhere without my friends in Guiding or a member of my family. I am very pleased that I did do it. It was the experience of a lifetime.

I did make a lot of friends and proved that I could overcome my disability and fears. I would encourage anyone who gets the chance to take it.

Thank you to IGG and Sail Training Ireland for the opportunity.

~ Tracey Cummins, Leader with Kiltale/Culmullen and Dunshaughlin Units

During her voyage Tracey was interviewed by RTE News2day. You can watch the clip here.  

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The fellowship of Errigal!

Every month I enjoy seeing Trefoil News pop through my front door. As soon as I have finished work I sit down and open the back page. I like to read it back to front - not sure why, hey we all have our little quirks! As I was perusing the pages, I came across a page full of promise – ‘Women with Altitude’ being hosted by Mountaineering Ireland in partnership with IGG. 

I would not be the fittest person but the idea of gaining knowledge and furthering my hill-walking skill intrigued me, so I picked up the phone and booked my place. 

On the drive up from Clonmel to Donegal (five and a half hours!) I was excited to see what lay ahead. The weather was fabulous as I drove through Northern Ireland and down in to Donegal; like any Irish person, I hoped it would last for the weekend ahead. When I finally found Garten Adventure Centre (stupid satnav- I really do think she hates me), I was struck by the cleanness of the surroundings, even at 10.30 pm - no light pollution, no sound of the human world at all.  As we all stood around the edge of the lake learning to navigate by the stars, it was amazing to see each constellation so clearly and to be immersed in total darkness.

The next morning, as we had our breakfast (side note – the food was fantastic for the weekend and the Garten staff really worked hard for their guests), we were introduced to our guide for the day- Geo.  Once Geo had readied the Senior Branch girls with their equipment, we were off. As we drove from the centre to our destination, it was as if we had entered a set from Lord of the Rings. It was as if we had driven through the lush Shire to what looked like the foot of Mordor. 

Errigal is 2,500 feet approx above sea level (I know what you’re thinking but don’t give up yet). As we started the trek, Geo introduced the girls to the idea of “Carry More Survival Stuff” - the concept of “Be Prepared” for whatever the mountain throws at you. At the time we didn’t understand what he meant, but we soon did.  As we pushed through the pass between Errigal and Mackoght on a wet boggy track, like the dead marshland Frodo and Sam traversed, so that, we could ascend on the North side of Erigall- we stopped to do a little bit of scrambling- climbing on roads only using proper balance and foot work. It was fun: scrambling forces you to think before you act, to plot a route that is manageable and safe.

As we stopped for lunch, Geo announced with a smile that from here on “was the point of no return” - that it was to the summit. As we rounded the valley we could see the crystal blue waters of the north coast, which houses Troy Island, Gweedore and Aran Island and to the east Malin Head, but most of all we glimpsed our first sight of Erigall’s granite cone. As we started to ascend the rocky steep slope of the North
Face - Geo’s words of warning – “Don’t let anything tumble back down as it’s a long way down” - echoed in my head. As I took a short break to catch my breath, I looked at my bag and thought, “Is there anything in this bag I really need if it falls?”

At the end of the track we carried on climbing until we met a flat, stony shoulder of rock where we found an amazing archway or “keyhole”. This marked our entrance to the steep rocky summit. As I watched the Guides in front of me
traverse this doorway, I realised that IGG offers an opportunity to achieve feats no other organisation can. At the summit it was amazing to see the relief and joy on the Senior Branch faces when they took those last few steps on the summit; more than that, they were proud of their accomplishment.

From there we continued down “One Man’s Path” descending on the southside of the mountain that seemed so mundane compared to what we had just accomplished. 

As we all climbing into the bus, some of us with wet feet as the Dead Marsh had managed to grab a foot on the way down, it was fantastic to hear all the laughing from the girls. You certainly would not have thought they had just climbed 2500 feet! 

To any Leader or Senior Brancher reading this blog, I would say: “Put on your boots next year and take up the challenge: it is enjoyable and leaves you with memories for a life time.”

On a final note, I would like to thank all the Senior Branchers and Leaders for accepting me into their community for the weekend. It really shows that Irish Girl Guides do live the Guide laws: a friend to all and a sister to every other Guide.

~ Mena Timoney, St Bridget’s Guides Leader, Clonmel