Thursday, 29 September 2016

Barna Guides' trip to Switzerland: Last Day

Today was our very last day in Switzerland and, in my opinion, one of the best days, because we finally got to visit Our Chalet. 

After breakfast in the barn we headed back to Hari 3 to change and pack our bags for the trip home the next day. Then off we went to Our Chalet. 

Once we got there (in the pouring rain!), we attended our Pinning Ceremony, where we were presented with the Our Chalet Pin, and we sang the Our Chalet Song. 

We were then brought on a tour and given the history of the Chalet. We were allowed to wander around Our Chalet on our own for a while, which I thought was amazing, since it had been my dream to visit Our Chalet ever since I was a wee Guide. 

The staff were so lovely to talk to and very helpful, and I myself am planning on applying to volunteer there in a few years' time. After a good look around the chalet we headed back to Hari 3 to prepare for the trip home.

~ Aoife Colfer, Barna

Barna Guides' trip to Switzerland Day 6: Scottish Girls!

We were up very early, around 6am, to get the bus to Berne. Everyone slept the whole way there. 

Once we arrived, we went to see the Bear Pit, which was really cool. Then we went on a mini-cultural tour of the city, where we followed a map to see some historical sites. 

After that, the girls had permission to go shopping for about an hour, and we went back to our chalet afterwards.

Earlier in the week, we were invited to another chalet to visit a group of Scottish Guides. We went to visit them after we got back from Berne. The lovely Jeka staff picked us up from our chalet, and we headed for the Scottish Guides' chalet. We arrived and we received such a wonderful warm welcome from a lovely group of 36 girls. We spent quite a while chatting and making friends. Swaps were swapped, snacks were had, and songs were sung. It was a great night, and everyone enjoyed it. 

After we got back to our own chalet, we packed up and headed for the little barn down the road to sleep in straw for the night! We thought it would be very rough, but it was actually very pleasant. We were supplied with pillows and blankets, and we played a few games and headed to sleep, anticipating the next day.

Barna Guides' trip to Switzerland Day 5: Adventure Park!

We got out of bed a little later than the previous few days and went straight to the Adventure Park and, afterwards, the pool. 

All the girls went up onto the high zipwires and some of them were even brave enough to abseil off a bridge! I wasn’t! 

I was too terrified to do any of those things!

Barna Guides' trip to Switzerland Day 4: Woodcarver's Cottage

Today was the day we were allowed a little lie-in - until 9 am! 

We took a very long hike to the Woodcarver's Cottage. When we arrived, the girls spent about an hour just wandering in and out of the cottage, buying some gifts for friends and family at home. 

Afterwards, we went to the café next door for lemon drizzle cake, which was absolutely fabulous, and some amazing hot and cold chocolate drinks.

After we left the cottage, we walked back through a gorge. It was so scary – you could see the rocks below you, and oh, I was very scared.

Barna Guides' trip to Switzerland Day 3: Blue Lagoon

Today was the day we went to Kandastag - a bus journey and a half! 

After we arrived, we were greeted by more cable cars to travel up the mountain! 

After we made it to the top, we went tobogganing, which was quite the experience I must say! There was a whole process involved in this activity – each person was allowed five rides on the toboggan run, and each could go as fast or as slow as they liked. 

Sharon, one of our Leaders, described it really well when she said: “On the first trip, you’re nervous and crawling along; by the third time, you’re flying it, and by the fifth, you’re yelling OWWWW!” 

This was completely accurate as there were a few burns and, of course, I almost broke a finger! Well done to me!

But this wasn’t the end of our eventful day! After this, we walked to the Blue Lagoon, which was very close to the toboggan run. It was beautiful. 

We had lunch there, and then the girls decided to go for a paddle, which brought some lovely photo opportunities. And of course, after we came back down the mountain again, we headed back to Adelboden and once again the pool, which was an almost daily occurrence. The girls loved it!

That evening the girls had to come up with an activity for everyone, so they decided on a Spa Night and a Talent Show! It was such great craic - a complete success!

Barna Guides' trip to Switzerland Day 2: Cows!

As a responsible Senior Branch Leader, I was given the responsibility of banging on the bedroom doors to wake up the girls in the morning, which they very much appreciated! And we were off, our first adventure in Switzerland! 

The plan for the day was to walk down to the bus stop and take the bus to the cable cars up the mountain where we planned to play some mountain games, like Welly Toss and hitting the cow bell with a ball (which is actually harder than it sounds)!
But my favourite thing about this day was definitely the new friends I made – the COWS! Honestly, I never thought I would be petting a cow in the Swiss Alps! But now I can strike this off my bucket list!

Barna Guides' trip to Switzerland - Day 1

After an extremely early start to catch the bus to Dublin Airport for our flight to Switzerland, we arrived in Zurich before lunchtime. We then had to catch another bus to bring us to our final destination. 

About three hours later, we made it to our Jeka Chalet, Hari 3, in Adelboden. 

All the girls jumped out of the bus, and we all stood in awe of the spectacular view in front of us. Picture the Volvic Water logo, except HUGE! It was amazing, like nothing I have ever seen. 

After a short time staring at the view, we went inside Hari 3. We had some food, and the girls went to get settled in. 

Needless to say, no-one got any sleep that night – there was too much excitement!

~ Aoife Colfer, Barna Senior Brancher

Thursday, 15 September 2016

‘I would be hugely overjoyed to see Ireland take a stand against prostitution’

Yesterday I met a woman around my age outside Leinster House. Her name was Fiona. My namesake. We joked that there are not many Fionas around these days.

Beyond our names and being of a similar age, however, I quickly discovered our life experiences couldn’t have been more different.

Whereas my life at age 15 revolved around hockey, youth club and friends, Fiona Broadfoot, who grew up in Leeds, was exploited into prostitution at the age of 15. “I immediately lost my identity and my self-esteem,” she said.

Fiona left the world of prostitution in 1996 following the murder of a relative who had also been pimped into prostitution at the age of 15.

For the past 20 years Fiona has been working with girls and young women involved in, or at risk of, sexual exploitation and adult women working in street prostitution. She set up a support group, Street Exit, which helps former prostitutes rebuild their lives. Many of the women she works with say they have been so traumatised that they describe themselves as “the walking dead”.

Fiona is adamant that the buying and selling of a human body should not be happening in this day and age. “We are not cattle, we are not born with price tags or bar codes on our bodies,” she said. “We won’t stop until all enslaved women and girls are free.”

Fiona was one of four prostitution survivors speaking at a Turn Off the Red Light (TORL) press briefing in Buswell’s Hotel. TORL, a coalition of 76 organisations (including IGG), is urging the government to enact the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 and target those who purchase sex and who traffic vulnerable women and children.

It was incredibly moving listening to the stories of the four women. It was courageous of them to speak so honestly and openly about their horrific experiences. You could have heard a pin drop.

It was good that there was a number of TDs and Senators present as well as media and all appeared to agree with John Cunningham, Chair of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, when he praised the four “warrior women” and said he hoped the Dáil would take this “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do the right thing” (enacting the Sexual Offences Bill).  

Rachel Moran’s route into prostitution was teenage homelessness in Dublin when she was just 14 years old. The four other girls who ‘worked’ the same corner as her had all been in state care. A recurrent theme during the press conference was that it is the marginalised who are the most likely to be coerced into prostitution.

Rachel now works with women across seven countries in the survivor group SPACE International, which seeks to raise awareness about the harmful impacts of prostitution and encourages people to pay political attention to the fact that the vast majority of those harmed globally are women and children.

Education proved the route back to a healthy life for Rachel when she went to college in 2000 two years after she got out of prostitution at the age of 22. Her book, Paid For, has been published in many countries and has drawn critical acclaim from leading human rights campaigners.

“Prostitution is experienced not by those who want to exercise autonomy and choice,” said Rachel. “We urge Irish politicians to take the enormously important step of enacting the Sexual Offences Bill. We owe it to girls and women.”

Ne’cole Daniels from the USA was introduced to the world of prostitution when she was raped by a family member at the age of seven. “I learned at the age of seven that my value was between my legs,” she said.

Ne’cole was a third generation prostitute but succeeded in breaking the cycle before her own daughter was at risk. She has spent the past 15 years working with marginalised populations and her advocacy experience includes speaking at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Bridget Perrier, a First Nations woman from Canada who was adopted as a baby, was eight years old when she was sexually abused by a family friend. A year later she was lured and debased into prostitution, being bought and sold in brothels and streets all over Canada.

The physical and psychological effects of prostitution can last a lifetime. “Because of the men, I cannot have a child naturally,” Bridget said. “Sometimes I feel frozen; my trauma is deep, I feel damaged and not worthy.”

Despite the devastating impact on her, Bridget succeeded in exiting prostitution in 2000. “My exploiters tried to break me in but I refused to give in,” she said. “I was able to exit prostitution and rebuild my life.”

In 2007 Bridget co-founded Sextrade101, a survivor-led organisation that educates the public about the real truths surrounding prostitution and trafficking as well as supporting those caught up in the cycle of prostitution with advocacy, exiting and mentorship. “Women and children need huge support in exiting prostitution,” she said.

“Prostitution is racism, it’s ignorance, it’s hatred against women. I would be hugely overjoyed to see Ireland take a stand against prostitution.”

Amen sister.

1,000 women, children and men are advertised for sex in Ireland every day. 87-98% are migrant women, many from impoverished backgrounds. People selling sex should be offered health, education and, if sought, exit services. 98% of women would prefer to leave the sex trade, if they could, and we must support this.

No-one has the right to pay for access to someone else’s body. You cannot buy consent.

If you agree, please take part in TORL’s email campaign urging TDs to enact the Sexual Offences Bill (it only takes 2 minutes) >>

~ Fiona Murdoch, Communications Officer, Irish Girl Guides