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.