In a month, the second International Weekend for the Guiding county of Middlesex East will take place. As the County International Adviser, it's my responsibility to organise and run this event along with a team of enthusiastic fellow leaders, and it's one of my favourite events of the year. With planning well under way, I wanted to look back at the first time we ran this event last year...
The international opportunities that come with Girlguiding are vast, and in my opinion, that's one of the things that makes Girlguiding so exciting and inspiring, as we can genuinely offer girls and women the chance to have life-changing experiences around the world. Each year, we can select and nominate a couple of girls within our area to represent us on projects across the globe. It's always difficult to choose who to send, as we work with so many fantastic young women, and that's why we've introduced the international weekend: to give anyone who wants to chance to find out more and get involved!
The weekend is for our older girls: those who are nearing the end of their time in Guides and those aged 14-18 in the Senior Section, and they can come along and learn about international guiding, how they can use their voices to make an impact in the world, and have a lot of fun doing it, I hope! Last year found us sneaking around in the woods after dark, gathering around our little wood stove with cake at midnight, knocking up some internationally inspired food, and battling through some increasingly competitive team games! It was amazing to be able to discuss aspects of international guiding, and share with the girls how we in the UK fit in with a global organisation of 146 counties and 10 million women and girls: that's WAGGGS, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
And what happens afterwards? Well, In the past, girls have taken on volunteer projects in Malawi, Uganda, Vietnam, Peru, India... the list is long, and filled with possibilities. And it's a big commitment: participants usually need to fundraise around £2500 each and plan to be immersed in a culture that's completely different from their own. Our county nominees typically spend two weeks volunteering, and then have a week to visit the wider country they visit. Volunteering has included building and working in community centres, running games and fun days for children in orphanages, taking part in conservation projects and volunteering with disabled children. When I speak to girls after their trips, they have always loved it, they have found their perspective on the world has altered hugely, they have found it tough, they have made life-long friends and they have been inspired to make a difference in the world. I heard a presentation last week from a participant who volunteered in Vietnam this year, and it was wonderful to hear her describe her project and the incredible experience she'd had.
Alongside this, I have also been planning our first ever county trip so that we could offer everyone who came on the weekend an international experience if they wanted it. It's incredibly exciting, as in a couple of months we will be heading off together to Iceland!
Who knows what this year will bring? But I do know I'm inspired by the enthusiasm of the Guides and Senior Section member, and exited by the possibilities that the future may bring!
P.S. If you're reading this and you're local to me, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and to attend this year!