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.  

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Europe Region Volunteer Training at Our Chalet

Jenna Goodwin, Jemma Lee and Elizabeth Moody all took part in the recent WAGGGS Europe Region Volunteer Training at Our Chalet. Here Elizabeth reflects on her experience:

Having applied to be a Europe Region Volunteer back in January and being accepted onto the Communication Working Group I was delighted that the time to actually travel to Our Chalet had come, so to say I was marking off the days on my calendar would be an understatement. The trip to Our Chalet wasn’t just for a nice holiday or a box to tick on my Guiding adventure but an opportunity to experience what it means to be a member of WAGGGS and to train with women from across Europe. Each volunteer would get a general training in each committee - External Relations, Growth, Gender and Diversity and Communication - and the general strategy of Europe Region for the Triennium (three years; don’t worry my sister didn’t know it either)! Every Working Group would get a detailed look at their specific task and the strategy they wanted to work on over the triennium, with a sponsor from the Europe Committee to bridge the gap between us and them. But the rest would be revealed when we arrived.

When I applied I thought that the chance of being accepted was slim to none as my experience levels weren’t everything I felt Europe Region wanted. So I was shocked and stunned when I got accepted. When I got over the excitement of being accepted then the feeling of doubt came in, moments where I questioned my experience or knowledge began. I questioned did I have what it took to make the most out of it for myself and for the team I was to be a part of. This feeling persisted till boarding the plane to Switzerland and arriving at Our Chalet as many of the people I met had more experience, but one thing for sure I wasn’t going to let my doubts slow me down.

I was one of three girls going to Our Chalet from Ireland to take part in the training. I was the only one to sit on the communications working group as the other two, Jenna and Jemma, were to be in the External Relations working group (you can imagine the confusion this caused two girls from Ireland whose names were basically the same, with similar features that both were on the same working group)! Our trip to Our Chalet was long and each of us took one bus to the
airport, a plane, a train in the airport, four trains and then a taxi. We arrived just after 1 o’clock in the morning and exhausted! We made our way into the very quiet Our Chalet to find welcome letters for each of us detailing which room we were to be sleeping in, where we could get a midnight snack and all the other basic information we needed. The best piece of information though was the complimentary wifi codes we were given because, you know what they say, if it isn’t on Instagram it didn’t happen. Safe to say we all immediately checked in online, had a midnight snack and crawled into bed.

The next morning we got up at 8am for breakfast not really knowing what to expect. We were welcomed by the slim few that were early birds too. We all tucked into a huge breakfast spread and COFFEE! We got chatting to all the different women from around Europe that had decided to take the plunge and volunteer on a working group. After breakfast we followed the blind leading the blind as we tried to find where all our sessions would be taking place in. Our first session was led by the chair of Europe Regions Committee, Marjolein: it was an introduction to the training and a look at Europe Region’s strategy for the next three years, the length of the Committee’s term.

The day continued with a few icebreakers and more sessions about the strategies of the individual working groups and, for those not in the know, what they were about. Thursday focused on two of the key areas – Gender and Diversity and Growth. After the sessions all the countries came together to have an international night where we got to share food and entertainment from the different countries.
We were offered a campfire song from Germany, the UK, and Denmark, a dance from the girls from the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Ireland decided to teach everyone how to do the Walls of Limerick. After the performances it was down to the important part, the eating! We enjoyed Viennese sparkling wine, haribos from Germany, the “best soda in the world” according to the Danish at the Scandinavian table and scones from the UK. Ireland certainly left our mark at the International Evening with everyone leaving with a lovely Irish (temporary) tattoo, let’s just say they were ready to be kissed.

The next morning there was a slight change of plans. Originally, we were supposed do our sessions in the morning and go for a hike in the afternoon but due to the weather this was rearranged. So after breakfast we all set out on our hikes – one to the village and one to the mountain in weather that could only be described as standing in a cloud with visibility only an arms width ahead of you and a constant drizzle of rain (the Irish were in their element). We were told this was better than the weather forecast for the afternoon. With this in mind I decided to join the group trekking to the village as there was a chance of shelter and a hot drink instead of imagining seeing the mountains. So we set out in all the waterproofs and warm layers and we arrived at the idyllic village of Adelboden where we took part in a scavenger hunt and only got as far as the question about the café where we stayed and chatted for the remainder of our time. We hiked back up to Our Chalet just in time for lunch.

After lunch the serious part of the training resumed again. The sessions focused on the work of the External Relations Working Group and the Communications Working Group. Included in the Communications presentation was a talk about the rebranding of WAGGGS. I found this really exciting as finally we got a more detailed look into exactly what I would get to work on and the background behind the new branding. Plus we got an impromptu break go out and play in the surprise snow.

That evening after dinner we took part in an exercise on Gender and Diversity. We listened to music from different countries and tried to guess where they were from and, let me tell you, I failed miserably: modern music is almost impossible to guess. We then looked at the kind of world we wanted to live in and the obstacles that were in our way but, in typical Guiding fashion, we didn’t just sit around and talk about it we visualised it through a game. Each person wrote on a sticky note two characteristics of the society they want to be part of. Then we wrote on two balloons our obstacles. We then helped each overcome these obstacles by bursting each others’ balloons.

Saturday was the day we got to work in our Working Groups. My group got the T-Bar which, for anyone who has been to Our Chalet, is the best room in the whole place as it’s got the comfy chairs and the coffee and tea. This became vital in my group as there were three British among the group who loved tea! The Communications Working Group is made up of four women from the UK, one girl from Denmark and one girl from Ireland, me (in case you didn’t guess). Our meeting consisted of two of the women from the UK, the Denmark Elizabeth, the Irish Elizabeth, as well as our sponsor from the Europe Region Committee, Lilit, and Ruth from the UK who work for WAGGGS Global as part of the communications team. We discussed the guidelines set out by the Europe Region’s Committee for what they considered was important for us to complete. We looked at how we felt we should achieve this as well as how we could work with the other committees. This all went into creating our strategy for the next three years.

That evening we took part in the Our Chalet Who Wants to be a Millionaire. This version of the game was very different to the TV original.  Our version was not only Guiding-themed but also included a challenge every round that typically involved running around Our Chalet, and in girl guiding fashion and with Olympic competitiveness my team fought successfully to win the competition.

The next morning was the last of day of the training weekend and there was already a feeling of sadness about leaving. We started off the morning again in our Working Groups to finalise our plans and figuring out how we were going to achieve our goals. After this all the Working Groups came back together to discuss their strategy and goals for the triennium. As well as discussing how we, each group, could work together. This is very
important for the Communication Working Group as we will liaise with the groups the most. After the presentation from the Working Group we had to wrap up just in time before it was time for the Irish to leave. We were the last group to leave on that day after many heartfelt goodbyes throughout the day.

The journey back to Ireland wasn’t as long or as complicated as the journey to Our Chalet, I wouldn’t even change that for the world or all the Badges in Our Chalet.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Excitement is building for IGGNITE2017!

Girl Guides from around the world are getting excited as the countdown for IGGNITE2017 continues … there’s only 73 days to go!

Irish Girl Guides look forward to giving a big Irish welcome to Guides from Canada, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Georgia and Zambia as well as England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We’re thrilled to have received such a great response and we’re looking
forward to hosting Ireland’s biggest Girl Guide camp,” says IGGNITE2017 Camp Chief Jenny Gannon. “Some of our Guides and Leaders have visited Rockwell already; it’s a great location and the grounds are perfect for camping. Having a lake is a definite bonus as the girls will have the opportunity to kayak and do other water-based activities.”

The camp will see the girls building rafts, rockets and volcanoes, playing quidditch, cooking international dishes
and doing an assault course as well as taking part in drama, music, body confidence, yoga, meditation and coding workshops. There will also be sessions on climate justice and sustainability and trainings on how to advocate for gender equality and to stand up for refugees.

Day trips will include a visit to Cloughjordan eco village and to nearby Cashel where the girls will take part in a community mural project.

“We want to give the girls a fun and memorable experience,” says Jenny. “As well as the water sports and all the many other fun activities we will arrange for them, there will be a serious side to the camp too. Through a variety of activities and challenges, the girls will learn about the Sustainable Development Goals and they will be encouraged to explore ways that they can make a difference in their local communities and overseas.”

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Trefoil Guild AGM 'full of friendship and enthusiasm'

Thirty-three people from SW Region, SE Region, WCM Region, NE Region and Eastern Region attended Trefoil Guild's AGM and the atmosphere was full of  friendship and enthusiasm. 

Seven new Lone Members were enrolled by our President Maureen Murphy and eight members  (including Maureen)  were presented with the first bead of the Evergreen Challenge.  

We were also very excited to launch our  new Journey book and 95 of these have now travelled to Guilds around the country.

We had presentations about the visit to Our Chalet that six members had made during the year and also a presentation from a member who had attended an event in Slovakia.

Looking forward, a visit to Lorne is planned for the autumn and a presentation was made about an IFSG gathering in Eastbourne in October 2018. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Join our Lego Robotics Summer Academy!

IGG members aged 15-25 are invited to take part in a Lego Education Robotics Summer Academy in DCU St Patrick’s campus, Drumcondra, from 26-30 June … 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Good engineers are simply curious!

'What do you want to be when you grow up?' This can be, perhaps, the most limiting question you can ask a child.

Why? According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary school education today will be in jobs that don't even exist yet! The rate of development in the fields of Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Systems at the moment is amazing – even where I'm from in Cork, the city is changing all around me. The single largest research building in the European Union was opened just a few months back in University College Cork and it is dedicated purely to the computational and mathematical sciences.

The future work life of our current Ladybirds, Brownies and Guides is largely unwritten and, as Leaders and Senior Branchers, we can all do our bit in our own little way as volunteers to help them be ready for it. Looking back on how Guiding started up in the first place – with the intention of giving girls practical and outdoor skills and confidence to contribute their all to society, it does seem a bit absurd to be talking about technology but the closer you look, the more relevant it seems.

When I was in primary school, I was absolutely convinced I wanted to be a teacher and nothing else! All the other kids around me had similarly simple dreams, of being a nurse or a vet or a famous actress. I'm even struggling to think of more of the options we chose because they were pretty limited. That was fine for a bunch of primary school students filling in a bunch of questionnaires but the pattern continued into secondary school and, more troublingly, as the CAO application deadline approached. During one particular Irish class every student either wanted to be a nurse or a teacher – and when my turn came round to speak up as a hopeful Energy Engineering applicant, there was a bit of a silence – I mean, Engineering? What's that?

I will always stand firm in the belief that 'you can't be what you can't see' and the field of technology suffers hugely from this inconvenient truth. As a child I wanted to be a primary school teacher because day-in-day-out I headed into school and saw the teacher leading the class and doing a great job. I looked up to her and, at that age, I had a small understanding of what the job entailed. I can assure you I have no childhood memories of coloring in a picture of an engineer, but I was always taught how to spell 'nurse'.

Currently, the proportion of jobs in telecommunications, scientific research and development and computer programming that are held by women stands at less than 30%.  Ironically, the courses that are the foundations for these have some of the most attainable CAO points (Engineering in CIT was 410 in 2015) while primary school teaching and medicine continues to be unreasonably high. To further add insult to injury, these jobs are amongst the best paid in the country. Soon the gender pay gap, in Ireland anyway, will not be stemming from society’s bias against women, but more so from women's uncertainty and lack of confidence in pursuing tech and engineering careers.

Even as a college student, I am noticing the great benefits of following the path of an Engineer – faculty loans are offered to Engineering undergrads at a lower interest rate, I am in receipt of an industry scholarship from Intel to help with college fees, and there are plenty of summer internships to go around for everyone. These little things make such a huge difference, and would not be accessible to people outside of the STEM fields.

What can we do to help solve this problem? Exposure! Has your unit ever visited an observatory? Would your unit like to call to a meeting of Coder-dojo? Would you like to do a show-and-tell session on the Guide or Brownies’ favourite invention? Could you get speakers in for your Senior Branchers?
I find these days I'm defining the Engineering mindset as, thinking about a more efficient way to get jobs done. That's the job description in general really. Engineers learn about how things work and how to make everything run better – they solve problems. We frame engineers, computer scientists and IT leaders as nerds, or people who just love maths but trust me, there are plenty of engineering students, even in UCC, who struggle with maths just as much as anyone else – most mathematical problems can be solved with a computer anyway! 

In reality, good Engineers are simply curious, like to complain about how things are run, and like to provide their own remedies for a particular problem - and I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find Guides to be particularly good Engineers at meetings!

In conclusion, I would like to mention why I chose Energy Engineering as my specified discipline. I never had any experience programming, didn't do Engineering for my Leaving Cert, and did not study Applied Maths either. I simply asked myself the question – What's the biggest issue facing our generation, and how can I help be a part of the solution? (I would recommend this as a solid starting point for anyone struggling with their career choice at the moment). I realised that reducing energy consumption and aiming for more sustainable and green production for our ever-growing needs seemed like a good cause, so here I am, learning all about it. 

~ Vera O'Riordan, McEgan Senior Branch, Macroom

Monday, 24 April 2017

'I started to appreciate how important the International Scout and Guide Fellowship is'

Sarah Cahill, a Trefoil Guild member living in Waterford, recently went to Slovakia to take part in a workshop organised by the International Scout and Guide Fellowship. Thirty-two people from 13 countries attended to discuss the challenge of recruitment. Sarah thoroughly enjoyed her first experience of international Guiding/Scouting and wrote the following about her experience:  
It was an unexpected and wonderful opportunity to participate in the 7th Europe Region Workshop that took place in Smolenice, Slovakia (3 - 8 March 2017). I am still not sure how I got the chance to go on this adventure. A lot of credit has to go to my Fellowship contact in Ireland, Margery, who was very good about explaining as much as she could to me and being very persuasive.
My first impression of Slovakia was definitely a great one as we left Ireland in the rain and came into Bratislava in full sunshine. For those of you who are from a warmer climate that may not be a novelty but, to an Irish person who hadn’t seen such sun in a long time, it was heavenly. Thankfully, this continued throughout the week we were there.
I’ll admit one of the main reasons I said ‘yes’ to this trip originally was because of the location. Who doesn’t want to stay in a castle? This certainly didn’t disappoint either but became very much a backdrop to a wonderful experience rather than the focus. The workshop itself was a great experience. I met so many interesting people and learned quite a lot about the organisation throughout Europe.
On the first day we learned a lot about Slovakian Scouting. It was great to hear about this group that I, for one, would not otherwise have contact with. This was also so throughout the workshop with a few of the members there telling us about their own organisation. It was fascinating to learn what was important to them and the many activities of the different countries that were present at the workshop.
I must say, for a country and people I knew nothing about, I was very impressed. They are really nice and accommodating. The one thing that was so noticeable when we went touring in the towns on the last day was the quiet and calm nature of everyone.
The food was always plentiful but the one thing I’d say is bring your own dessert: they do not know the sweet type of confectionery that we know! They are much better off for this, of course, but it’s not easy for me to go a whole week without any! Thankfully, some people had brought chocolate for sharing. One thing to remember for next time.
Over the course of the workshop we had many presentations on many different topics. For a new member, like me, there was a lot of interesting aspects to these. Of course the focus of this workshop was recruitment. For a group only representing Europe we had a certain amount of similarities but some very interesting ideas come out of it too.
The one thing I personally had to get my head around was the lack of groups for adults in Guiding and Scouting in other countries. In my innocence and lack of knowledge of the international side of Guiding (which I do plan to change) I thought every country with an established Scouting or Guiding organisation would have similar to us, an adults’ section or a group that you can retire to if you can no longer be an active leader. This seems to be not the case at all and the need for the Fellowship really started to solidify for me.

Over the weekend I really started to appreciate how important the Fellowship is to so many leaders. As a young member of this organisation I was in Slovakia as much to learn from the workshop as to get answers as to what it was, why does it exist? I definitely had my answers by the end and so much more.

Friday, 7 April 2017

'We should campaign for all the rights we deserve'

We are four Guides in Ireland, aged 11, 12, 13 and 14. We each believe strongly in gender equality whatever your age, faith, or nationality. We are all approaching this topic from different points of view, yet we are all approaching the same conclusion. 

I would consider myself a feminist and I am definitely for gender equality. It has been something I know women and men have been fighting for since time immemorial. We should never just accept the norm of society, we should campaign for all the rights we deserve. – Martha (14)

The world is evolving so much with technology, but some people like to move back rather than forward in society, and go against equality. – Aisling (11)

I believe that everyone should be given equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunities and it is disappointing to think that in some countries this is still not happening. Women and girls are being refused education and jobs outside of their home. – Hannah (12)

Women have not been treated nicely by men all throughout time. They have been denied their rights and opportunities. It is still very common and happening on a daily basis in offices, sports, factories, schools, and entertainment. I believe strongly that women's rights are important. As a feminist, I believe that both genders deserve equality. Equal pay for equal work, and so on. I strongly hope and believe that from our generation forward, there will be equality in our society. – Aoife (13)


This is a universal goal that we all wish to achieve and we hope you wish to achieve it with us. 

~ St Rynagh's Guides, Offaly

Friday, 31 March 2017

Our trip to Our Chalet was truly amazing … we would all go back in a heartbeat!

Dunshaughlin Senior Branch members had a fab trip to Our Chalet. Here they tell us all about their highlights:

On 20 February 2017 we met at Dublin airport at 8am. From there the excitement started to build between the whole group. After two years of planning, fundraising and waiting we were finally on our way.

Coming into Basel airport there was no sign of any snow. However, once we got on our way after all the trains, planes and automobiles (not to mention our own carriage on a train) we ended up waist deep in snow much to our leaders’ delight!

We were greeted by many different Guides and Scouts from Norway, America, England , Hong Kong, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Argentina, America and Canada. Later on in the evening, after we all got settled, we had a tour all around and learned about the Chalet, which we would have to remember later on in the week for our quiz.

Our early morning rise was definitely worth it once we looked out our windows to the amazing views of the Swiss Alps. However, if we wanted breakfast and to go snow-tubing we would have to get a move on!

Our slippery hike to the frozen waterfall was our first real experience of Switzerland. Once we reached the waterfall and took loads of pictures we
made our way back to an opening in the forest where the benches were covered with snow! There we had a fabulous lunch of sausages or falafel burgers, which many people described as the 'best sausages they've ever had'. Snow-tubing was next on the list. From our little 'camp' we made our way to a gondola which would take us high up into the Swiss Alps. From there we hopped into our snow tubes and down the mountain bringing us all the way into a cabin to have hot chocolate for everyone.

Back in the Chalet we had a Swiss night where we were treated to a couple Swiss traditions including chocolate fondue (which didn't last too long)!

After breakfast we had free time to work on our Our Chalet challenge badge and explore the chalet and the grounds a bit more before we headed off again down the hill and up another (longer) gondola to begin our sledging. We started off with the basics before being thrown into the deep end sledging on the
same slopes as all the skiers. We quickly found ways in which to make us move faster sledging down the twists and turns of the mountain (avoiding one speedy leader). Once we all got down the mountain it was a race back up to the top for another round!

That night we took part in a Thinking Day WAGGGS night learning all about each World Centre and about Guiding in different cultures!

Day 4 we were up and off to the wood carvers to get our woggles that we saw everyone in the Chalet had. Once we reached the wood carvers, after hiking up the long spindly roads, we each had a chance to look around and buy little woggles with our names on them. Our hike back into the village of Adelboden was steep but definitely worth it. We cleared out the Co-op of their 50c chocolate that we had been told so much about from the staff at Our Chalet and, before we left, we stopped in to grab a cake and some hot chocolate.

That night we had quite a strange dinner - mac'n'cheese with potatoes and apple sauce. They say hunger is a good sauce but I don't think that meant apple sauce!

Snow shoe hike to the magic tree was our last thing to tackle on this adventure. Getting them on in the dark was the hardest part but once we began our trip to the magic tree we all became accustomed to our oddly shaped shoes. Our night hike was something else. When we stopped to look at the stars it was truly magical and we hadn't even made it to the tree
yet! Once we eventually found the tree after a fair search we each stood inside and made our wishes. It was there that the people who completed the Our Chalet were awarded their badges before we made our way back to the Chalet for our final night.

On our last morning in Our Chalet we made our snowwoman and went sledging down baby chalet hill before going inside to swap badges and say our thank yous and goodbyes to everyone before we made our last trip
down the hill, which was not so bad as the hard part was getting up it so we headed off down the hill singing songs and taking in the sights all around us before our crazy manifesto of transportation began again! Nearly missing our plane definitely made everyone run through the airport with bags flying and all our bits and bobs falling everywhere gave us all a laugh once we were on the plane ride home.

Thanks to Annamarie and all our leaders for organising a wonderful trip! Our trip to Our Chalet was truly amazing and I'd say we would all go back in a heartbeat!

~ Dunshaughlin Senior Branch members

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

‘I am just one voice, but I am proud to have represented 10 million voices of WAGGGS members around the world’

I am just back from representing the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts at the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York and what a whirlwind of a two weeks it has been!

The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal body dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women at the United Nations. Each year the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) sends a delegation of young women to represent its 10 million members worldwide. This year there were 11 young women on the delegation from different countries including Chile, Argentina and Scotland, to name but a few.

Our adventure started on Friday 10th March when we all gathered at Girl Scouts of the USA Head Quarters on Fifth Avenue for our induction training. Throughout the day, we practiced elevator pitches of what we might say if we met a government official in a lift and how we should best communicate WAGGGS’ key messages to decision makers. As we would all have the chance to speak at various events over the next two weeks, we practiced taking part in a
panel discussion and also discussed what questions might arise from the audience during the Q & A section.

On Saturday and Sunday, we attended the CSW Youth Forum where we had the chance to listen to some amazing speakers, including Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations who told us that “Every one of us has a journey and that path is what you make of it – Even if you end up being a bread maker, please make sure you make the best god damn bread the world has ever seen.” We took part in various sessions including “Young Women
and Mental Health” and “The voices of young women in peace and security” as well as skills exchange labs on digital and political advocacy. I was part of the WAGGGS team running a session on the Free Being Me body confidence programme and some other members of the delegation also ran a session on WAGGGS’s Stop the Violence campaign.

The 61st Session of the Commission officially began on Monday 13 March 2017. Each year CSW has an official theme around which all events are based and this year the theme was “Women’s
Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.” Throughout the two weeks, we each had the chance to influence policy makers by meeting with our governments to lobby them on the important and unique issues facing girls and young women in today’s society. Women’s economic empowerment starts with girls and we wanted governments to understand that investing in girls is a primary means of increasing economic outcomes for them in later life.

During CSW, each member of the delegation had the chance to sit on
various panels at different events in conjunction with other non-governmental organisations to speak out on important issues such as empowering girls’ economic futures through education, eliminating all forms of violence against girls and young women and addressing discriminatory social norms and practices that inhibit girls and young women in society today.

During the second week of CSW, I had the opportunity to deliver a statement on behalf of WAGGGS at an interactive
expert panel on “Enhancing availability and use of data and gender statistics to support accelerated implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”. I talked about the importance of collecting data by age, gender and other categories so that progress for all girls is adequately captured. I also spoke about U-Report, a social messaging tool developed by UNICEF to enable anyone anywhere to speak out on the issues they care about.

At the end of the two weeks, the principal outcome of CSW is the Agreed Conclusions, which is a document that 
contains a set of concrete recommendations for action by governments and non-governmental organisations to advance gender equality. This document contains an assessment of progress, as well as the gaps and challenges facing girls and women. On St. Patrick’s Day I had the chance to attend a reception at the Irish Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Here I met with decision-makers from the Irish
government as well as officials from the Permanent Mission who were engaged in negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions and had the chance to share WAGGGS’s key messages and highlight the importance of governments recognising the unique perspectives of girls and young women and the barriers preventing gender equality.

Being part of this delegation has been an amazing opportunity for me to not only represent WAGGGS at a global level, but also to have a meaningful impact on global decision makers to ensure that the challenges facing girls and young women are taken into account. I have had the chance to develop my public speaking and critical thinking skills as well as connect with Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from around the

I am just one voice, but I am proud to have represented 10 million voices of WAGGGS members around the world.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

So much happening at the Commission on the Status of Women!

IGG Assistant Chief Commissioner, Jenna Goodwin, is currently attending the Commission on the Status of Women in New York: 
The WAGGGS delegation has been in New York for nearly a week now, taking part in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61). So much has happened in that short space of time!
Last Friday (10 March), we went to Girl Scouts of the USA HQ for our delegation training. During this training, we were prepared for what to expect from our time at CSW. 
We practised pitching our key messages and we answered questions as if we were on a panel at an event. We also talked about what our plans were for our action projects when we returned home.
Over the weekend, we attended the CSW Youth Forum. This was a chance for all youth participants attending CSW to input their ideas into the youth declaration – a culmination of the important issues that we see facing the young people of today. The youth declaration prepared by the participants highlights the issues young people want global decision-makers to address over the course of the next two weeks.  
Alongside the declaration, we also attended lots of events including panels and breakout sessions which gave us food for thought on a range of issues including investing in young women’s leadership in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, building young women’s entrepreneurship skills and how we can strengthen inter-generational partnerships.
At the Youth Forum we ran a Free Being Me session. Participants had the chance to try some of the activities offered by the Free Being Me programme. We had important and engaging discussions around the “Image Myth” and what we can do to build body confidence among girls and young women.
Some members of our delegation also ran a session on Stop the Violence which provided a chance for participants to discuss the causes and consequences of violence against girls as well as what solutions could be provided to overcome these challenges.
On Monday 13 March, CSW started and we all began to attend different side events and parallel events which were being run by various other NGOs as well as governments. Many of the members of our delegation had the chance to speak at various events and highlight our key messages as the only global movement for girls worldwide.
As we continue through the first week of CSW, we are looking forward to attending more events and speaking out on behalf of our 10 million members worldwide.
I am so proud to be part of this delegation. It’s so important youth voices are heard at CSW because young people are the adults of tomorrow. Young people understand the issues that affect them in their lives and who better to share these issues with global decision-makers than young people themselves.
~ Jenna Goodwin, IGG Assistant Chief Commissioner

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Brownies attend ‘Dream Big’ Engineering Week launch

Liffey Brownies, Celbridge, and Droichead Nua Brownies, Newbridge, were thrilled to attend the launch of Engineering Week. Here Leader Georgina Guy and Liffey Brownies, Edana and Megan, share their experience of the event:

The film ‘Dream Big’ was the starting event for Engineering Week. The short stories were about girls and why they pursued careers in engineering and science - the stories behind them and how they make a difference.  

One story was about a girl who lived through an earthquake with buildings falling down around her. She decided to study different types of ground and how to make buildings survive earthquakes by going down to bedrock.  

Another was a group of secondary students who built an underwater robot out of pipes and won the competition against MIT. Another secondary school built a solar car and raced it across Australia: they came last but crossed the finish line with an $800
solar car they built themselves.

The girls were amazed to discover that, by twisting a building, the wind current goes around the building, not pushing agent it. The girls loved the story about a man's wife who died crossing the river to get medicine. A woman engineer goes around Africa teaching the locals how to make suspension bridges; she said for every one bridge they teach, the knowledge is then brought to build ten more bridges. The bridge meant the community could go to school and the hospital without crossing the high river every day.

The girls came out saying how interesting the stories where, especially the one about the difference a bridge can make in a community .

The girls really enjoyed the day and would like to thank all the staff at Engineering Week.

~ Georgina Guy, Liffey Brownies Leader

On the trip we got to go on a train because it was in Dublin. In Dublin we went to see a movie but it wasn't just a movie, it was a movie about Engineering Week. It was called "Dream Big". It was great, it was also a lesson. We all enjoyed it very much. After it Margaret went to buy Georgina a cupcake for her birthday and we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’. It was a great day and so much fun. We got to come home on the train too. - Edana.

We started off by meeting Margaret and Georgina at the train station in Maynooth. Then we got on a train. We got the train to Dublin, then got off and onto the Luas, which brought us to the engineering event. The minute we got in we saw a ninja turtle in the corner. Then we went on the escalator and at the top the
Engineering Week girls greeted us with wristbands. There were lots of colouring sheets on different tables, they had science things on them about rockets and particles. There was face painting, there was a mad scientist doing some experiments making a balloon supper train racing them against one another. He showed us how to make a volcano with coke and menthos and the reaction that happens. Everyone that helped had to wear safety glasses and a white coat. When we went to the film we got popcorn, jellies and a drink. We watched the film ‘Dream Big’ and afterwards we got the Luas and train home. - Megan

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

‘I am learning what we can do to help make things better for women and girls everywhere’

My name is Grace; I am nine years old

I believe that girls are at least as smart as boys (actually, I think that sometimes they are smarter but we won’t tell my little brothers that)!

I have learnt a lot of things about girls and women all over the world since I joined Ladybirds when I was just five years old. Since then I have moved up to Brownies and am learning more and more about change in the world and what we can do to help make things better for women and girls everywhere.

I do not know yet exactly what I what to be when I grow up but I met a very important person when I was just 10 months old: her name was Mary Robinson. She was the first female president of Ireland and she also became a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She now is working on important issues about climate change. In case you do not know we need to reduce, reuse and recycle and do so much more.

I think children should be able to vote but I am not sure what age would be best. Maybe about nine?  

I am not sure if I will be the third female president of Ireland, or maybe the first Taoiseach or maybe a female builder, electrician carpenter or plumber or any other job that women don’t usually do. I may even do something out of this world, like be an astronaut.

I think girls and women should be allowed to be the best that they can be, whatever they like and whatever they are good at. I hope whatever I decide I will be happy.

This is a picture of myself and former President Mary Robinson; I have changed a lot since then.

~ Grace Keane, Merlin Woods Brownies