The world isn’t always great for girls – but Guiding is a powerhouse of support

nerissa
Even though we live in a world where girls are constantly treated as less valuable or powerful than their male counterparts, I’ve never believed that my gender makes me worth less. That’s because when I was 11-years-old I became a Guide – and I learned that girls can do anything. During 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, I’m shouting out loud and clear that in Girl Guides, girls are a powerhouse of support. We’ve totally got each other’s backs when it comes to letting the world know that girls are more than rather than less than whatever you perceive us to be.

Whether it’s on purpose or just an underlying bad habit, boys are often treated as stronger and more useful than girls. It’s not uncommon, especially in elementary school, to hear a teacher ask for “a big strong boy” to help carry something. And in my experience, boys often get the chance more often than girls to speak in formal and casual discussions. In a girls-only environment like Guiding, it’s simply not possible to brush us to the side.

Early on in my Guiding experience, it became clear to me that my gender should never limit what I can or can’t do. However, on a daily basis, the media and our personal experiences remind us that society doesn’t always treat girls the way we should be treated. It’s important for girls to believe they can do anything, but equally critical is learning to step up and speak up when we aren’t treated fairly.

As a member of GGC’s National Youth Council, it’s been evident to me that Guiding helps amplify girls’ voices. All the adult volunteers in our organization genuinely care, value, and respect what youth have to say. I’ve had the chance to share my insights and personal experiences with our Board of Directors and other volunteers on a huge range of initiatives they’re working on. Their desire to hear feedback from a youth perspective is always genuine and never a token gesture.

I’ve also been lucky enough through Guiding to connect with girls in my communities about what matters to them in Guiding, and what changes they want to see. For example, in April I attended the Ignite. Inspire. Innovate. Conference with 150 Rangers from across Canada.

girl guide
I was amazed by Guiding’s ability at this event to create a safe space for us to discuss everything and anything we found important. From sexual assault and harassment, bullying, queer issues, and micro-aggressions faced by girls and women on a daily basis, it was clear no topic was off limits. Safe space isn’t just a word you can throw around, it’s a series of steps you take. In the case of Ignite, this meant making participants aware of the topics that were going to be covered before the presentations began, letting us step out of the room if it became too much – and having dedicated areas to chill out and take a break.

Whether it’s meeting with my own Ranger unit or connecting with Girl Guides across the country, Guiding has taught me to value my strengths and use my voice. In a world where girls are often treated less than fairly, Girl Guides offers a space for us to stand up and speak out about the issues that matter to us, in an environment where we are always supporting one another.

Guest post by Nerissa Kassis. Nerissa is a third-year Ranger in Vancouver and a member of the GGC National Youth Council. She is a self-proclaimed science nerd and always loves a good cup of tea. 

 

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Let’s talk about… Violence against girls

Sexual harassment and violence against girls. While this may feel like a grown-up topic, it’s really not. The truth is many girls in Canada are already dealing with harassment. It can start with catcalling in the hallways, creepy comments online and escalate from there.

While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by this grim reality, girls in Girl Guide units across Canada are coming together during 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (November 25 to December 10) to inspire action.  They are working together to stand up for themselves and their friends – and to take a stand against violence and harassment.

say no to violence logoAnd that’s what our Say No to Violence Challenge is all about. Whether it’s Sparks and Brownies learning about safe friendships, Guides learning about online harassment or Pathfinders and Rangers discussing dating violence, Say No to Violence covers the topics that Canadian girls need to know for safe and fulfilling relationships.

Check out the video above to hear how one Guider is empowering the girls in her Guide unit through the Say No to Violence Challenge and community service.

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Why letting girls lead was the best thing to happen to our Guide unit

Last year, the Guiders of the 26th Orleans Guides stopped leading the horseshoe, the campfire, or organizing games – and it was the best thing we ever did.

girl guides
We had started our year with four Guiders and a productive planning meeting full of great ideas. We had no idea that our leadership plans were about to fall apart. A family tragedy, a new job, and a complicated pregnancy meant that suddenly, all but one of us was part-time and no one had time for planning. By Christmas, we were all stressed and exhausted.

So we put the girls in charge. They were in the lead when it came to choosing what parts of the program they wanted to cover and how we were going to do it.

It occurred to us that there was nothing in our meetings that the girls themselves wouldn’t be capable of leading. With our adult leadership team stretched thin, if we wanted to focus on delivering the great program ideas the girls had come up with, it would be much easier if we simply didn’t have so much to do at meetings.

So we stopped leading the horseshoe and campfire. Stopped leading games, handing out forms, even greeting girls as they arrived.

girls in guides doing activitiesWe made the girls do it.

After a month, we asked for their feedback. Here’s what they told us: “It was fun to do the things we had decided ourselves!” “Leading the horseshoe made me feel grown up!”

Most compelling of all: “It was really powerful being trusted with the responsibility of running our Guide meetings. I felt like for the first time in my life, the adults around me really, truly trusted me.”

As a Guider, this has been an incredible experience. Meetings feel relaxed and fun. We’re confident that the girls are going to enjoy the activities – since they choose what to do. We have a few minutes of breathing space every meeting while girls are leading things where we can assess and evaluate, have small but significant conversations with girls and with each other, and get set up for the next activity.

We’ve seen incredible things happen with the girls, too.

They’re more confident – our shyest, most tear-prone first-year who never spoke to the group as a whole announced loudly one meeting that she had not had a turn at presenting her Lego invention yet, and then spoke for a full five minutes. Two weeks later, she led the group through a song at campfire. This year, at our second meeting of the year, she chose to take the lead for an entire campfire.

They work together better. And, having led activities even when they’re not entirely sure they could do it, they’re much more supportive towards each other with more respect and empathy for each others’ differences in personality and ability. They’re less afraid to make mistakes and more likely to lean on each other in finding a solution.

Meeting attendance went up. Camp attendance went up. All our third-year girls earned their Lady Baden-Powell award. They all went on to Pathfinders. Putting girls in the lead has been truly transformative.

girls doing activities
But you don’t have to take my word for it.

In April, a guest speaker on mental health commented that our girls were very self-assured, thoughtful, and empathetic towards each other. Parents commented on the change in their daughters. Several parents made end-of-year gifts and donations to the unit.

We had thought that putting the girls in charge would be a fun way to teach program while easing our leadership burden for a month, and that we would look for more leaders to help with the rest of the year. We had no idea those new leaders would end up being the girls themselves, nor that it would inspire our girls to accomplish so much. Allowing every girl in Guiding to be to be everything she wants to be really does start with the girls!

Guest post by Andrea Drajewicz, a Guider with the 26th Orleans Guides in Ottawa.

 

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Smart. Funny. Confident. Why this Girl Guide should be your new role model

kinley girl guide
“Kinley is smart, funny, and kind. She also happens to have Down’s syndrome.” That’s how we were first introduced to 11-year-old Kinley in her 2017 Girl Greatness Award nomination. Kinley received an award in the Confidence category after being nominated by her friend and fellow Girl Guide, Julia. In Guiding, Kinley has truly found a place to shine.

Here’s what else Julia had to say about Kinley in her nomination:

“When we first started Brownies, Kinley was a little bit shy. She wasn’t too sure about sleepovers and camping trips but did a few with her mom. Now in Guides, she talks to all the other Guides and participates in all the activities. During Guide meetings, Kinley likes helping the Guiders and younger Guides. She is excited to go camping independently. Kinley loves being a Guide and is always very excited to attend. She has gained so much confidence in all areas of her life. She is involved in many activities such as skiing, swimming, wall climbing, yoga, skating, hip hop, tubing, fishing, basketball, choir and knitting. Kinley is an awesome, confident Guide!”

For Kinley’s mom, Janna, being part of Guiding has made a huge impact on her daughter:

“Having others notice and celebrate Kinley’s personal growth and achievements while attending Girl Guides is quite an honour. Attending Guides has given Kinley a huge sense of belonging as she has been very proud to be part of this amazing group of girls and leaders. Her level of responsibility and independence has grown over the years thanks to watching and learning from other Girl Guides. The many opportunities to participate in activities within the community have pushed Kinley’s independence. The volunteers and fellow Girl Guides of the 82nd group have given her exceptional support so she can be successful and have many positive experiences within a very inclusive environment.”

And what does Kinley think of receiving this award?

“I liked getting the award. It made me feel happy, proud, amazing and cool. I like being with the group of girls and doing fun stuff each week. My favorite is going camping and selling Girl Guide cookies. My friend Julia is so sweet, thoughtful, kind and helpful. Thank you for nominating me Julia!”

Meet all of the 2017 Girl Greatness Award recipients. 

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How I turned up my confidence as a twentysomething in Guiding

girl guide member krysta coyle
Let’s face it: becoming an adult is all kinds of exciting and terrifying all at the same time. There are so many new things to learn and do – but it can also feel like just so much new all at once. As twentysomethings, we’re learning to live independently, to develop our own community networks, to figure out which adulting skills we haven’t figured out yet. We’re also discovering our personal identity as adults. Being a young woman in Guiding has helped me learn so much about myself – and now with GGC’s new Link program for members under 30, I have even more support during this in between phase of my life. Here are three important things I’ve gained from being a Guider in my 20s:

  1. A network of supportive women builds confidence. I might be confident on the outside, but my twenties have been full of self-doubt. Whether it was moving across the country to go to school, taking on new leadership roles, or realizing I was the youngest person in the room, it’s pretty easy to feel like I’m in over my head. I’ve been lucky to have incredible groups of young women in Guiding to share experiences and worries with – they encourage me to take risks and support me in planning for success. There are so many opportunities within the new Link program to build these networks, whether they are in person or online.
  1. You don’t always know what you’re capable of until you try. A huge part of Guiding has always been testing your personal boundaries and trying new things. Guiding has definitely given me a love for challenge: embarking on a solo adventure, advocating for the rights of girls and women, learning new skills for communicating science… the list could go on! Embracing these challenges has given me new professional opportunities which I never would have thought possible. The Link program challenges young women to try something new – perhaps it’s trying a physical activity, leading an outdoor adventure, or beginning to advocate for an issue of importance to you.
  1. Giving back feels good. With Girl Guides, I’ve discovered how powerful intergenerational relationships are – I have learned so much from the girls I’ve worked with, and I’m always learning from more experienced members of Guiding. This is why I am so excited that a key part of the Link program is applying new skills and knowledge back to Guiding: I can help a unit plan a visit to the cancer research lab where I work, I can bring a new activity to other adults I work with, and I can keep sharing my love of Guiding with the community.

Being connected to Girl Guides of Canada has made many of the transitions in my twenties so much easier. It’s helped me build confidence, develop the skills I need for success, discover my passions, and give back to my community. And it’s getting easier and easier to take risks, quiet the self-doubt and develop my own networks – and the new Link program ties all of these together with the Guiding experience!


Over the last 18 months, we worked with Rangers, Link members and Advisers, and other young women from across Canada to build a dynamic and engaging program that recognizes the unique needs and contributions of young women within the Guiding movement. The Link program will support the leadership of young women in a way they can totally customize to mesh with their needs and interests. Check it out and start participating today!

Guest post by Krysta Coyle. Krysta is a Guider and District Commissioner in Halifax and volunteers as the National Link Liaison. She is a PhD student at Dalhousie University studying breast cancer biology.

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Why Guiding is the ULTIMATE Choose Your Own Adventure

There’s nothing like a Guiding trip to empower girls to see the world – and themselves – in a whole new way. Bonus – it’s a pretty awesome way to find your global girl squad, too. With applications closing Monday, October 30 for our 2018 nationally sponsored trips, three girls share the impact a Guiding trip has had on them:

My passport to adventure

My passport has taken me on some of the best Girl Guide adventures of my life –  the best by far was Mexico. The day I arrived with 10 other girls from Canada at Our Cabana – a WAGGGS World Centre – is a day I’ll never forget. As with anyone venturing to a new place, I was filled with excitement, wonder, and a slight sense of insecurity as I didn’t know what to expect. However, the Our Cabana team welcomed us into their centre, which shortly became my home away from home.

I met so many different girls from different walks of life and made everlasting friendships that still thrive, though we are millions of miles apart. At Our Cabana we learned to be very thankful for what we had, the food we ate, and the friends we made. This lesson became very real to me during one event where we invited an orphanage to Our Cabana to participate in activities with us. During our activity we made paper bag puppets with the children and they loved it! It seemed like such a simple craft but it really opened my eyes to what little these kids had and overwhelmed me with joy to see them become so excited over what we had done with them.

This is an adventure I will forever cherish. Years from now I will look back on the impact I helped make because of Girl Guides and the person I have become because of my experience in Mexico.

  • Kaitlin

Setting my sights on the world

My trip to Ireland and the IGGNITE camp had endless adventures and I love that I got to participate in every single one. The biggest adventure of all might just be all the amazing girls I met. And it turns out that swapping and trading crests proved to be the ultimate way to meet other members of the global Girl Guide squad. I loved being able to trade with so many girls and I got to know many of them well. I am pretty sure every time I went to my tent or the washroom there would be someone hollering my name up and down the rows of campsites trying to find me to trade. It was cool getting to meet so many girls from around the world, and sharing a bit of Canada with them.

  • Bethany

Apply now for our 2018 Nationally Sponsored Trips to the United Kingdom, Mexico, Switzerland and Australia. Application deadline: October 30, 2017 at 5:00 pm EST.

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The world may be divided, but the girls of the world are not

janicenoble
I am one of a kind. And I am also one of 10 million. I stand together with the 10 million girls and women in Guiding around the world who are making our mark and fighting for gender equality.

Attending the recent 36th World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) World Conference in India gave me the chance to see what it truly means to be a part of the ONLY global Movement for every girl and any girl. In 150 countries, Girl Guiding is the place where girls’ interests and the issues that matter to them are front and centre. This is our space and we’re making it count.

At the conference, I watched in the emotion-filled moments as new countries joined WAGGGS. Countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Aruba and war-torn Syria, where girls are coming together for sessions on self-esteem and gender-based violence. I stood in solidarity with my fellow youth delegates as we moved our own motion to include more young members in the global decision-making processes of WAGGGS. And I was continually inspired by the strong women who devote their time to Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting. Together, we are united in creating safe and inclusive spaces for all girls around the world.

group photo of conference
Being part of the WAGGGS World Conference gave me the chance to connect with young women representing a multitude of nationalities, cultures, languages, and worldviews. We asked questions, learned from each other, and ultimately formed connections that I know will stay with me as I continue to carve out my place in this world. But what truly blew my mind was that no matter how many differences we may appear to have, we all shared a common passion and mission for girls’ rights, education, and success. The courageous girls and women I met at the event are working tirelessly for the change they want to see in the world.

As I was growing up and a member of a rural Guiding unit in Nova Scotia, Aline was simultaneously doing the same in Burundi, Andrea was doing so in Cyprus, Katrine in Denmark, Alyssa in Barbados, Yoshika in Japan… and the list goes on. The exact activities we did in our respective countries may have been different, but they all resulted in shared values and belief in the power of girls to be a positive force in changing the world for the better. In a world where many things seem to divide us, I am ever so thankful for the global Movement of WAGGGS that unites girls and women.

Guest post by Janice Noble. Originally from Nova Scotia, Janice is now a Guider in Fredericton and is completing her undergraduate degree in Interdisplinary Leadership at UNB.

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Wonder how much pressure teenage girls face? Just ask them

Too girly. Not girly enough. Too smart, too dumb. Too skinny, too curvy. Too anything. For girls, the mixed messages they get about how they should act, look, and think are confusing and demoralizing. The sad reality is that girls are being held back by all of the unrealistic expectations placed on them. And way too often, most of the people around them haven’t got a clue about the realities girls are facing.

What better time than International Day of the Girl to reflect on the lives of girls in our own communities. While today the world shines a once-a-year spotlight on girls’ lives, listening to what girls have to say is something we do every day at GGC. And that’s a good thing, because addressing the issues they face is integral to who we are as a girl-driven organization.

infographic

What exactly are girls telling us? That society has an unrealistic vision of them – and that leaves them feeling like their appearance, ideas and abilities are never good enough. This is what we heard at our Ignite. Inspire. Innovate. conference in April. The girls were pretty blunt in describing all of the negativity, hurdles and barricades they face in their lives. Their stories were poignant and powerful – and we heard them loud and clear.

To determine whether these concerns affect the wider teenage community, GGC recently commissioned a nationwide survey of girls aged 15-17. The data confirms that the challenges identified by our own girl members are indeed widespread across the country and are negatively impacting the self-esteem of teenage girls.

All of this reinforces for us that it’s imperative to listen and understand what girls are saying so that we can empower every girl to become everything she wants to be. To support girls in overcoming all of the negativity thrown their way, we need to engage girls and ensure we are consistently giving them a platform to be heard – and as an organization, act on what they are telling us.

Girls’ voices matter. They are the experts in their own lives. In a world that largely devalues, objectifies and mocks them, Guiding can fill the niche of being their space where they are valued, respected and empowered to shape their world.

Jill Zelmanovits is the CEO of Girl Guides of Canada.

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Adventure. Confidence. Leadership. How my daughters found it all in Guiding

Fact: Guiding has changed the life of my daughters drastically in the past five years.

mom and daughter

It all started simply enough. I registered my third daughter, Hari, in Guides. In just a few weeks, I noticed some positive changes in her and soon enough I was registering my second daughter, Rishi, in Pathfinders. My youngest daughter joined Sparks, and my eldest daughter joined me as a Brownie leader. My whole family was now part of a larger family – the Guiding sisterhood.

Over the next few years, my daughters received so many opportunities and did so many things that I never could’ve imagined for them – or could have dreamed of for myself as a girl. Rishi was accepted to be a part of the Ontario Youth Forum, a tremendous opportunity that she recommends to all Pathfinders. She also went on a Nationally Sponsored Trip to the Sea of Cortez. Hari was part of the Ontario Youth Forum, as well as the National Youth Council. She even traveled to Scotland and Iceland through Guiding this year. It made me proud to see how my girls were taking hold of their future and achieving incredible things.

My youngest daughter, Ruby, had many friends at her school who were intrigued by the Girl Guide cookies she brought to school to sell, and were interested to know all the things she was doing at her Girl Guide meet ups. I seized the opportunity to speak to their parents. I told them not only about what my daughter does in Brownies, but also about my older daughters, and the benefits of being in Guiding as a teenager.

At first, they were skeptical as they mistakenly thought that Girl Guides would be a mainly white-dominated, Christian-based organization. But I quickly reassured them that this was not the case. Any girl can join Guiding, and every girl will find a safe and accepting space.

So many joined that eventually my daughter had trouble selling cookies at school! There were so many Girl Guides in her midst. Eventually, Ruby moved schools and she was worried she’d have to leave her friends behind. But now she looks forward to seeing them in Guides, where every week the girls pick a new activity. It can be as simple as a craft or inviting a female member of the Canadian Armed Forces. It’s such a diversity of experiences that you just don’t find at school.

To all parents of girls in Canada, Girl Guides of Canada is the organization for your daughters.

Guest post by Vidhya Ilangomaran, proud Girl Guide parent, cooking fan and a teacher in the Toronto area. 

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The Guiding year is starting and the excitement is REAL

Excited. Like really excited. That’s how girls, parents and volunteer Guiders are feeling about the start of the Guiding year. But don’t take our word for it (even though you can always trust a Girl Guide). Check out all the feels and all the 😍 😍 😍  members are sharing online. Because if a picture (and accompanying hashtags) is worth a thousand words, then these snaps speak volumes about Guiding’s impact.

Sometimes it’s just #AllAbouttheHashtags to show what Guiding means to you….

Who says adults can’t get in on a little Insta-crushing and gushing on being part of the Girl Guide sisterhood?  

Lift each other up, cheer each other on – that’s what Girl Guides do. 

Mother-daughter Guiding duos  yes!

First Girl Guides meeting of the year! #girlguides #guides #girlpower🌼

A post shared by Jolyne De Marco (@jolyne16) on

The countdown is on for the launch of our new Girls First program in 2018  and this Guider can’t wait!

When trying something new can lead to awesome adventures…

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From networking to chilling out: 5 reasons being a Guider is an A++ idea

We all know that Guiding empowers girls to learn, explore and find their place in the world. And as I discovered, volunteering with Girl Guides as a university student also pays off in a big way – both for the girls and for you. Here’s why:

girl with guider

  1. The girls will teach you more than a textbook can.As a Psychology student, you can ask me all about children’s language milestones or at what age they begin to feel empathy for others. But what I’ve learned from the girls I volunteer with is on a whole other level. They’ve taught me everything from how to improvise when an activity doesn’t go according to plan to how to empower other girls and women as we work together on a goal (something that should come in pretty handy when I enter the workforce.)
  2. Guiding is a chance to connect IRL.Making those real life connections is a big part of Guiding. It would be easy to use your four years in university to just go to campus and not really explore the new city you live in. For me, Guiding was a chance to dive into my new community and get to know it beyond the campus quad and the library. It was one evening a week dedicated to a group I feel a part of. And nothing beats the network and support you build in Guiding.
  3. It’s also a chance to chill out.Whether it’s hustling between classes, studying for midterms, writing essays or the 237 other things on your average student’s to-do list, who couldn’t use a chance to zen out? Volunteering with Girl Guides is the perfect balm for all that busy – whether you’re just laughing with the girls, learning how to master a power drill together or dealing with a glitter explosion during a craft. (Because, let’s face it – there can never be too much glitter in your life.)
  4. Volunteering in university is an A++ move.Volunteering is an opportunity that I’d recommend students take advantage of while in school. In a few years, I’ll find myself busy with full-time work or traveling – so this was the perfect time for me to get into volunteering while developing some skills that’ll give my resume a boost.guider in university
  5. Guiding is a chance to be the kind of role model you’d want for your 8-year-old self.I volunteer with Brownies (girls 7-8) and it’s a little bit humbling to know that these girls look up to me and the other volunteers – just as I looked up to my own Guider when I was a girl. But this may also be the best part of volunteering. These girls want to know that someone is listening, that someone is paying attention – that someone gets them. With just a few hours a week, you can be that someone – someone that helps them explore activities that’ll leave them feeling a little more confident, a little more resilient, and a whole lot more like the world gets them. And that’s pretty A++ in my books.

Guest post by Paisley Pinard, a recent graduate of Trent University and Brownie volunteer in Peterborough, ON. Interested in volunteering with Girl Guides? Get started on our website.

 

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How a Girl Guide trip helped me find my #globalgirlsquad

Travelling as a teenager to another country can definitely be a little bit scary – but also super exciting and amazing at the same time. This summer, I was part of a Girl Guide trip to Ireland and it’s no exaggeration to say it was the most amazing, unforgettable and fantastic experience. I met girls from across Canada, Ireland and around the globe. I got to be a leader, to do things I never would’ve done before, to take a giant step out of my comfort zone – all while being myself. TBH if you asked me if I’d want to go back in time and relive it all, the answer would be a thousand times ‘yes.’

The minute we stepped off the plane in Ireland, I knew this Girl Guide trip would be my passport to adventure. We started by exploring Dublin, learning so much at every place we visited. Then it was off to IGNITE, an international camp hosted by the Irish Girl Guides. Every day, we got our adventure on with classic camp activities like kayaking and swimming. But we also got to explore topics like gender equality, refugees, science and tech and more with activity themes such as Be Limitless and Be an Advocate. I learned so much, but it was nothing like school. I was just having so much fun.

marlina in ireland

And when we went with our Irish hosts to the town of Cashel to learn Irish dancing, I knew I’d found my global girl squad. The Irish girls totally had our backs, helping us learn and encouraging us even though our dance moves were pretty rough at first. By the end of the week, it was incredible to see girls from so many different countries coming together as a united squad.

girl guides in ireland
This was honestly a once in a lifetime trip. The girls I met and the places I explored will forever have a place in my heart. Every minute of the trip made an impact on me and it was unforgettable.

My advice? Be the girl who decides to go for it and apply for a Girl Guide travel experience – it’ll give you a whole new view of yourself and of the world.

Guest post by Marlina Forgione, a Ranger in Toronto. She loves chocolate, gymnastics, swimming and of course, Guiding!

Apply now for our 2018 Nationally Sponsored Trips to the United Kingdom, Mexico, Switzerland and Australia. Application deadline: October 30, 2017 at 5:00 pm EST.

travel graphic

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These girls put the POWER in empowering by mastering how to use a drill

Learning how to drive a nail and use power tools are empowering skills that can make girls feel strong and fearless.  Meet some Girl Guides who mastered how to swing a hammer while learning about female entrepreneurship along the way.

Girls with drills

In the 12th Toronto Girl Guide Unit this year, we’ve really dived into exploring different career paths and trying our hand at new skills. We’ve done everything from taking a self-defence class with a female boxer and making urban planning maps with our city councillor to learning about some pretty awesome careers at our career night meeting. By far one of our top highlights this year was getting busy with power tools – and the girls totally knocked it out of the park.

We invited the experts at Fix-It Females, a local all-women renovation company, to come in and teach the girls about proper tool use and what it takes to run your own business. After a tour of their tool truck and a few parking lot cheers of “GIRL POWER!” the girls got hands-on lessons on hammering a flush nail, how to use a drill, and how to safely saw wood planks. Energy levels were high as the instructors doled out high-fives and the girls cheered for their friends focused on efficiently hammering a nail.

The girls’ confidence grew as they realized they too could use their strength to complete tasks put in front of them, and be rewarded with cheers from their fellow Guides. As one girl exclaimed as she looked up triumphantly from her wood plank, “Look, I literally nailed it!” (I’m not sure what she was more pleased with, the pun or the nail in the wood.)

Girls hammering

While learning how to use power tools like a boss is an important life skill, what was truly rewarding was watching the admiration in the girls’ faces while the Fix-It Females did their demos and talked about the challenges and rewards of their careers. In a world that often tells girls to be quiet and take up as little space as possible, the Fix-It team showed us that women can successfully run a business centered on strength, technical knowledge and a willingness to get their hands dirty.

When girls have the chance to explore new skills in an all-female environment like this, it’s a great way to make them feel empowered and ignite a spark of just what they’re capable of. And that’s just one way Girl Guides helps girls thrive.

Guest post by Rachel Vickerson. Rachel recently returned as a Guider to her own childhood unit of 12th Toronto Girl Guides and is also a member of the National Programming Committee. She is currently completing a Masters in Public Policy at the University of Toronto. 

Registration for the 2017-18 Guiding year is ongoing! Find a group (unit) near year. 

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Why giving girls a little bit of freedom in the great outdoors is a recipe for awesome

Think Sparks are too little to cook their own meal or set off on an adventure? Think again. As this Guider writes, when girls get outdoors and have the chance to discover just what they can do on their own, they’ll show you they’re pretty unstoppable.

As a Girl Guide volunteer who’s been lucky enough to work with girls of every age, it always amazes me when I hear other Guiders (or parents) say “Oh, if you’re working with Sparks you probably can’t do {insert uber fun, cool or challenging activity}. They are just toooooo little!”

WHAT? Sure, I can’t take my Sparks white water rafting but can a Spark go canoeing for the day? YOU BET SHE CAN! And, this small adventure may give her the confidence to try out for a new school team or to tackle some rapids when she’s a Pathfinder or Ranger.

When our group of awesomely capable Sparks recently visited a local Girl Guide camp for  an afternoon of adventure, they proved once again just how awesomely capable they truly are. We started off roasting hot dogs on an open fire. Each girl had their own roasting stick and safely cooked their own lunch like the mini culinary pros that they are. Shocking, right? When their hot dog was roasted to perfection, the girls got busy getting their own buns and toppings. (Yes, some did have a bit too much ketchup on them, but that’s what napkins are for!) Then we had s’mores for dessert – because obviously.

Girls cooking at campfire

 

Next it was off to the shore of Lake Okanagan to have some land training for our canoeing fun. We donned our life jackets and into the canoes we went. Each girl got to paddle along the shore of the lake proving they’re ready to go anywhere.

Girls canoeing at camp

Once back on shore, the girls got to work on a craft that involved some pretty intricate knot tying. A few friends had said to me, “Oh, I bet you’ll end up having to finish all those crafts. Five and six-year olds can’t tie knots let alone their own shoes.”  Well, doubters back off – the girls persisted and all of them completed their own distinctively styled flip flops.

Girls doing flip flop craft

So before dismissing a fun activity as too challenging for younger girls, think again. By encouraging age-appropriate levels of independence and freedom, girls can discover just how brightly they can shine on their own and succeed at whatever path they choose. And that’s what’s so awesome about Guiding – it gives girls a sense of fearlessness and independence they can’t get anywhere else.

Guest post by Claire Sokoloski, a Sparks Guider in West Kelowna, B.C. She has been lucky enough to work in all the branches of Guiding as well as travelling numerous times with older girls. Currently Claire is also the Monashee Area Program Adviser.

 

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5 retro camp pics way cooler than anything on Instagram

Who needs Instagram to give their camp photos a nostalgic vibe? At Girl Guides of Canada, we’ve got lots of classic camp pics with that hazy look that can only come from the 1970s and 1980s. More permanent than Snapchat and more legit than an Instagram filter, our archives has an authentically curated photo collection that proves that Guiding has always been the ULTIMATE place for girl-driven adventure.

  1. Have K-Way jacket, will travel.
Girls arriving at camp

GGC National Archives APH 2213

When packing for camp, you always want the essentials – like a rain jacket that folds into a pouch (hello, K-Way jacket). And of course, a Cabbage Patch doll. You never know when you might need a Cabbage Patch doll.

  1. Photobombing was the bomb even in the 1980s.
Girls hiking at camp

GGC National Archives APH 2431

Hi mom! Look at me – making friends and carrying a gi-nor-mous backpack!

  1. Girl Guides were crafting and DIYing long before Pinterest and Etsy.
Girls building at camp

GGC National Archives APH 2444

Give a girl some sticks and some string and she’ll build something amazing.

  1. Girl Guides were taking foodie photos before it was even a thing.
Girls doing campfire cooking

GGC National Archives APH 2436

No, it is not just a hamburger. It is authentic Canadian beef cooked over an open flame and nestled in the finest of Wonder Bread goodness.

  1. Girl Guides are not afraid to be daring and try the latest food ‘trends’.
Girl Guides cooking at camp

GGC National Archives APH 2440

Pour some cupcake batter into an orange peel and bake it over the fire pit? Sure, we’re game! (But let’s leave the relish for the authentic Canadian beef cooked over an open flame and nestled in the finest of Wonder Bread goodness.)

Camp T-shirtYou know what else makes for a great retro camp pic? Our new Camp Hair Don’t Care t-shirt. It’s available in navy and red on The Girl Guide Store Order yours today!

 

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The moment this Guide learned to ride a bike will give you all the feels

Guide riding a bike
Learning to ride a bike is a childhood rite of passage. But it can be scary. Like really scary. What if you fall off? What if you get hurt? What if other kids laugh at you? It can take a lot of courage to try riding a bike in front of other kids.

So I’d like to introduce you to Emmy, who found a safe and supportive space in Guiding to to learn to ride a bike. Emmy showed all the courage in the world – and then some – when she decided to tackle this new skill when our unit was working on our Cycling badge.

Emmy was a little nervous, but we loaned her a bike with the pedals removed and let her practice balancing and scooting as the other girls arrived. By the time we started talking about safety, signalling, and some basic maintenance, her nervousness was almost all gone.

After we had all done our checks, the girls who were confident riders headed out with three Guiders to tour the bike paths near our meeting place.  I stayed behind with a Unit Assistant and a determined Emmy.  This was her first time trying to ride in years – she’d never shown much desire to ride before and was generally more interested in her books and her tablet. We put the pedals back on and let her figure that out for a few minutes.  By her tenth push, she was able to keep the pedals going for a few cycles and finish without falling over!

Guide learning to ride a bike
Once she had her confidence built up, she tried starting herself off.  That was more difficult… but she stuck to it.  She was drenched with sweat, but high on success and praise.  By the time the girls got back from a 45 minute ride, she was able to get herself started and keep on going!

Our girls are awesome. The moment they got back and they realized what Emmy had achieved, their praise came fast and loud. They were so pleased for their friend.  They sat and watched Emmy keep working and cheered her on.  (We may have disrupted the baseball practice across the street – just a little!)

The next day, we got an email from her mom thanking us.  It turns out that not only did Emmy come home excited about her new skill and wanting a bike, but she inspired her brother who now wants to give biking a try, too.

I am very grateful for the safe, secure, supportive, empowering environment that Girl Guides gives our amazing girls.  And I’m so thrilled for Emmy, who has come such a long way since she was one of my first Sparks a few years ago.  Riding a bike gives kids such freedom and Emmy is on her way!

Guest post by Cathy Hirose.  Cathy is a Guider for 312th Guides and 308th Sparks in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Guiding offers a safe and supportive space for all girls. Register now for the 2017-18 Guiding year.

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This Sparks pj party will give you the warm and fuzzies


Pajama party checklist:

PJs? Check.

S’mores? Check.

Campfire? Check.

Giving back to your community? Check.

To celebrate the end of the Guiding year, the 73rd Toronto Sparks put on their finest and fuzziest to celebrate with a pajama party. But this being Sparks, it was so much more than just your standard slumber party. The girls rolled up their fuzzy pj sleeves to take some Action on Poverty as part of our National Service Project.

When you’re five years old, it can sometimes be difficult to understand  or imagine what it’s like to live in a shelter. One thing that makes it easier is to think about all the things you need in order to feel safe and comfortable before you go to bed and pass those on to someone who needs a little extra support.

Decked out in their warm fuzzies, the Sparks and their moms kicked off their pj party by creating good night bags for the kids in a local shelter. After decorating the bags with sleepy-time messages, they filled them with flashlights, bedtime snacks, bath friends, and another little piece that makes for a truly special bedtime routine  –a story!

Some people can be quick to underestimate Sparks, but this pj party showed what we already knew – that it just takes a little Spark to make the world a little warmer.

Guest post by Ashley Pamenter. Known as Chickadee to her Sparks, she’s also part of our national Programming staff team.

Make sure to log your units’ actions on the NSP website before the end of the year.

 

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Six Important Things I Learned from Six-Year Olds

SparksThere are so many reasons to volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada. And now that my second year of volunteering with Guiding is about to come to a close, here’s a list of what I’ve learned from a group of five- and six-year olds:

Lesson 1: Little Girls Walk the Walk

Don’t underestimate little girls. Our Sparks start every meeting by reciting the  Promise. This year I learned that our young Sparks understand that the Promise is more than a fancy phrase, but a way to live. Over the past year our Sparks demonstrated their understanding of their Promise by filling a Birthday Box for a young girl in Canada’s North, spreading cheer with Valentines for Veterans, and learning to take care of their friends with their very own first aid kits.

Lesson 2:  Engineers are not just for trains!

We celebrated National Engineering Month with a visit from two engineers from Engspire. At first the girls were slightly disappointed that they were not engineers from trains, but they soon learned that these engineers could teach them some really fantastic things like building flashlights and catapults on their own.

Lesson 3: There Is No Such Thing As Too Much Glitter

If you turn your back on a Spark with a jar of glitter, your Spark will be much more sparkly.

Also glitter is hard to clean up.

Also Girl Guide cookies make great gifts for school caretakers who help clean up said glitter.

Lesson 4: Glue

See Comments re: Glitter

Lesson 5: Cookies Have Magic Powers

It is undeniable that Girl Guide cookies are delicious. This year I also discovered that Girl Guide cookies are more than delicious snacks – they have the magic power to turn quiet little girls into a supercharged group crushing cookies sales. I brought a group of girls to sell cookies at our local subway station. At the beginning of the day they were shy and quiet – but by the end they were confidently selling their cookies, coming up with creative marketing ideas and having a blast.

Lesson 6: Things don’t always go according to plan – and that’s totally OK

Sometimes carefully planned meetings don’t go quite according to plan. Sometimes the girls want to play and giggle (and play with glitter). Lesson learned – sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

Okay, I couldn’t stop at just six things – here’s one more thing I learned this year:

Lesson 7: Volunteering with Girl Guides of Canada was a great choice!

In my past two years as a Guider I’ve slept in a science centre, been to camp, discovered the recipe for a campfire treat called a ‘hairy beast,’ learned to Hug a Tree, made new friends and figured out just how long glitter stays stuck to a Guider’s uniform. Life experiences learned from six year olds!

Guest post by Angela Comella, a Guider with the 363rd Toronto Sparks and the mom of a first-year year Spark and a second-year Spark who can’t wait to be a Brownie!  In her non-Guiding life, she spends her days amongst books and briefs as a lawyer.

Online registration is now open for the upcoming 2017/18 Guiding year. Girls can register in their current units, or move to other units or branches at this time.

 

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How this shy, dinosaur-loving 8-year-old found her strong in Guiding

When you sign your daughter up for Guiding, there are tons of opportunities for her to shine. Let us introduce you to Ellie – she’s all kinds of amazing. She was recently recognized with a 2017 Girl Greatness Award. We dare you not to feel all the feels after reading her story:

“My name is Ellie. I am 8-years old. I am one of the only girls in my unit who cannot read and write things on my own. This made me feel very bad about myself because I try really hard to read but it is taking me longer than anybody else I know.

I am the only homeschooled girl in my unit. I am also the only girl (that I know of) that loves dinosaurs and snakes more than dolls or dresses. All these big differences make me stand out and feel really shy.

I begged my mom to let me quit Brownies because I felt so silly and different. She told me to be myself and take my time. I stopped trying to be like the other girls and started talking about what makes me special.

I am going to read a story to the unit this month. Brownies gave me confidence so I am excited to do it because I know they will support me. I am also planning to bring my toy dinosaur collection so I can teach them all about the different dinosaurs. I am so excited that I can teach them… maybe another girl will learn to love dinosaurs too!

Thank you for helping me with my confidence. I’m pretty awesome and Brownies helped me see that.

Here’s what Ellie’s mom Caroline has to say about how Guiding helped her daughter truly shine:

“I continue to be in awe over how much Elizabeth has grown over her two years of Guiding. She had one year in Sparks before moving up to Brownies and that transition was very difficult for her at first. She was still quite shy and was feeling like she had to start all over again with a new group.

By the spring, she was a completely different girl – she was racing out the door to go to Brownies, going to every sleepover and not shying away from questions about her love of dinosaurs, homeschooling experiences or things that made her unique.

Just a few short months ago, Elizabeth would become quite distraught if she thought more than one person was looking at her and the thought of introducing herself to anybody terrified her. Now she has no problems making friends, proudly wears her Brownie sash (it’s nearly full after only her first year) and is an incredibly confident and helpful little 8-year-old both at home and in her unit.

Brownies has truly brought out the best qualities in Elizabeth that were hiding right under the surface. I can honestly say that being a Brownie is one of the best things that ever happened to our Ellie girl.

 

When you sign your daughter up for Girl Guides of Canada, you’re giving her the opportunity to discover herself – and so much more. She’ll explore, create, learn – and shine. Registration is now open for the 2017-2018 Guiding year.


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Move over Wonder Woman – these super hero Sparks are super every day

While Wonder Woman leaps into movie theatres across the planet this week, there are real-life female super heroes in our midst every day. We’re talking about Girl Guides.

Super heroes like the 1st Valley East Sparks in Sudbury, Ontario, who recently hosted a superhero night for their dads and other guests. These pint-sized super heroes are an awesome reminder that there’s a little bit of Wonder Woman in every Girl Guide.

In comic book world, Wonder Woman is part of an all-female warrior group. They are peace-loving and respectful of differences. In real life, Girl Guides are proud to be in a strong girl gang – girls who stick together no matter what.

Super heroes always have super powers – it’s what makes them, well, super. Girls in Guiding are daring, brave, courageous and stand up for what they think is right. They inspire and empower each other. They reach for extraordinary heights as they tackle new challenges.  And of course, they save the world, too – through small acts of kindness and helping in their community. Because when girls stand together, they can achieve extraordinary things.

Every super hero needs a super hero outfit, and Girl Guides are no exception. Every week, girls from Sparks through Rangers wear their own super hero uniform – minus the cape of course.

Back at the 1st Valley East Sparks, girls proudly unleashed their super powers of kindness and leadership as they took their dads and other guests through craft and activity stations. Along the way, they got to show just how much they’ve achieved in Guiding this year.

Spark colouring

“This meeting at the end of the year always shows how far our little Spark superheroes have come. Those who would barely say ‘hello’ in September proudly introduced their guests to all their friends,” says their Guider, Sophie Boissonneault. “We like to make sure all the girls know how super they are every week, but it’s at times like these we’re reminded of the reasons we do what we do as volunteers and Guiders.”

Unleash your daughter’s super powers! Register now for Girl Guides.

Want to share your superhero Girl Guide story? Email us: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.

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Who’s listening to what girls have to say? Girl Guides is.

National Council – your chance to be heard

National Youth Council group
“Girl Guides really gets it! They care about our voices and they’re ready to listen.” That’s what I was thinking last year when applications opened for Girl Guides of Canada’s first National Youth Council.

Now, five months into my term, I can honestly tell you that GGC’s promise to hear us was completely authentic and true. Not only are we being taken seriously, our ideas and experiences are truly being valued and taken into account when decisions are made about Guiding.

These are all fancy words that are nice to say, but how is this relevant to you? Why should you be supportive of the Youth Council and ultimately apply to join? Because this is not just for show – Girl Guides is putting girls front and centre, where they should be.

I originally applied to the council on a whim. It looked like fun and I like to be involved. And then I submitted my application and I was accepted. I was actually on the National Youth Council and I was going to have to speak up for girls across Canada.

Sophie McCafferty
Hooray!? This is what I wanted, no? That’s when my internal Debbie Downer started playing in my head. It’ll be lame. They won’t listen. They won’t like you.

So you can imagine I came into our first meeting a bit unsure. We awkwardly said “hello” over Google Hangouts and told each other what kind of weather we would like to be in an icebreaker. Then Madeleine, our amazing chair, started telling us the goals of our term and the tangible actions we would take. As she revealed the council’s future, my confidence was boosted. This was going to be great! We are going to be doing important stuff and this was not all just for show.

When the council first met for a face-to-face orientation meeting, it was magical. As we bonded over playing spoons on the floor of the airport, you could really feel that something great was coming together. After meetings and team-building activities the group dynamic was strong.

So far throughout my term, we’ve participated in conference calls to discuss what matters to girls in Guiding and had the chance to give our opinions on lots of new projects Guiding has on the go. They are searching for OUR youthful opinions on things that will affect  Girl Guides as a whole! We were truly representing girls – that definitely makes you feel like you’re actually making an impact.

So, what are you waiting for – get started on your National Youth Council application. If you become a member, know that your open-minded, inclusive, inspired co-members will encourage you to your full potential and help inspire ideas you have never even considered before.

Guest post by Sophie McCafferty, a member of GGC’s National Youth Council. Sophie is a 17-year-old from town Saint-Lazarex, Quebec, who’s passionate about the environment and its link with happiness and creativity. She proudly defines herself as ‘different,’ an activist and beekeeper. 

National Youth Council applications are now open for Rangers and third-year Pathfinders. Deadline: Monday, June 5.

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10 Reasons why being a Guider in your 20s and 30s is the BEST

We all know that being a Girl Guide when we were little was lots of fun and the memories will stay with us forever. But being a Guider (those awesome women who inspired us each week) in your 20s and 30s (and beyond) can be even more rewarding. Here are 10 reasons why.

  1. You get a ‘code name.’
    It can get a bit awkward when you bump into a parent on the street and they only know your Guider name: “This is… Sparkles.”

smudged-nametag

2. Kids say some funny and adorable stuff.
“Does it taste like rainbows? But what if I don’t like the taste of rainbows?”

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3. You gain some pretty lit skills and experience for your resume.
Teamwork. Check. Leadership. Check. Responsibility for budgets. Check. Communications skills. Check, check and check.

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    4. You know some serious life hacks.
    When the apocalypse hits, you won’t be fazed with all of those life hacks you’ve developed. “Let me just build a shelter in the snow, start a fire and cook a delicious meal from nothing but the contents of my small backpack and the forest.”

  2. Girl with camp burner cooking

5. You’ll always have a reason to pull out your passport.
Whether you’re travelling to an international Girl Guide camp or taking a group of girls on a trip to Europe or South America.

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6. And you’ll always have a place to crash, at home and abroad.
Guiding can be found all over the world, and with all that travelling you’re bound to have made a few friends around Canada and the globe.

  1. Christina_Farewell Presentation

7. Energy is way more contagious than germs.
Running a unit meeting may sound like exhausting work at the end of a long, hard day, but the girls bring so much joy and enthusiasm it’s often the perfect antidote to a bad day. And when they start laughing, just try not to join in.

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8. It’s like a pair of hot, new glasses.
Guiding will have you seeing the world in new ways. From self-esteem and self-acceptance to world hunger, programming stretches your own thinking just as much as the girls’.

  1. Girls with sunglasses

9. You’re always in the cookie know.

  1. They are going fast

10. Best of all – ultimate squad goals.
Nothing beats the friendships and support network you build at Guiding. Your fellow Guiders will always have your back and the fun and mischief you get up to together is priceless.Two leaders

  1. Are you interested in volunteering with Girl Guides? Get started on our website.
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How girls created the MOST Canadian welcome for newcomers

Sometimes, the best ideas come to you early in the morning. You know, when there’s a crisp quietness in the air and the sun is just starting to warmly say ‘hello’ for the day. This particular idea – knitting a warm red-and-white welcome for new Canadians – began before dawn at camp.

I got up very early and saw my Guider, Leah, knitting. I asked her to teach me and we sat quietly chatting and knitting together. We started to make these tiny little mini-sweaters with Canadian flags on them. Soon, more girls joined in and we had quite the early-morning knitting party going.


And then we had our light bulb moment – attaching these tiny maple leaf sweaters onto cards, along with the message “A Warm Welcome to Canada.” Inside the cards, we’re sharing messages of acceptance and basic kindness. Our plan is to give these cards to local organizations that work with new immigrants in our community.

Making these cards stirred up all kinds of thoughts and feelings for me. First, I felt gratitude – that I live in a country that loves ‘me for me’ no matter my gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or what hockey team I cheer for. With all of the hatred in the world it’s important to remember all people are equal and that there is still some good and hope for our future. I am grateful to have a roof over my head, food on my plate and friends and family who are healthy and happy. (I am most definitely guilty of taking things like this for granted, just as we all do.)

The message we want to send with these cards is simple but hopefully powerful – that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you are welcome here.

Join our Warm Welcome project – challenge girls you know in Guiding to collectively knit 150 for Canada’s 150th! Check out the pattern for our mini-Canadian sweaters, watch our YouTube tutorial or email us for more details. And for more fun ways to celebrate Canada’s 150th, check out Girl Guides’ Canada’s 150th Anniversary programming.

Hanna is a Grade 10 student and member of the 30th Calgary Rangers. Hanna will be travelling to Europe with Rangers this summer and hopes to become a yoga instructor and chemist after high school.

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Getting real and giving hope when everyone is watching 13 Reasons Why

Character Hannah Baker from Netflix series 13 Reasons Why

(Beth Dubber/Netflix)

For National Mental Health Week, we reached out to Kids Help Phone to develop some recommendations on how to talk about some of the serious subjects covered on the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why if they’re brought up in a unit meeting or other times. Lots of teens and adults are watching and talking about the series – which dives into serious but very real subjects such as suicide, bullying and sexual assault. Plenty of concern has been raised by mental health experts about the show’s graphic portrayals and for failing to show the very real supports that exist for teens who are struggling.

Young people watching the show may be left with many questions or concerns. When it comes to mental health, we believe there should always be a message of hope and optimism. Here’s what Kids Help Phone had to say:

Talk about suicide with openness and honesty.

  • Talking about suicide doesn’t increase the risk of someone harming themselves.
  • Let them know they aren’t alone.
  • Don’t judge or make promises you can’t keep. Try to listen to what they have to say.
  • If you’re worried that a young person will take imminent action to harm themselves, it’s an emergency. Call 9-1-1 and stay with the young person.

Clarify misinformation.

  • The series is a fictional drama with many unrealistic elements.
  • Suicide is complicated and most people who attempt suicide don’t actually want to die.
  • Most people reach out or accept help offered to them when faced with issues such as bullying, sexual assault or the death of someone close to them.

Encourage healthy strategies.

  • Reassure them that we all have different levels of mental health at different periods of time. They are not alone.
  • Encourage them to talk with those they trust when they are struggling – and to be available to listen and support those they care about in return.
  • Model and talk about healthy coping strategies for stress, anxiety and worry such as those contained in our Mighty Minds Challenge.
  • Remind them of the resources available when some extra help or support is needed:

Related Girl Guide programming that’s available year round for all ages:

 

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Three reasons why volunteering with Girl Guides is awesome

By Katie Dersch

  1. There is something for everyone
    Growing up in Guiding, I was able to try so many different things. From camping to robotics, I got to see for myself what I was interested in. Girl Guides helps you grow an appetite for adventure, and if that isn’t your thing, Guiding is completely supportive of what is. In the Ranger unit I volunteer with, most of the girls have gone through Guiding and realized that camping isn’t their cup of tea. Instead of forcing them to camp, we formed an event planning unit and we run programs for each level of Guiding.katie blog pic.jpg
  2. You have the opportunity to travel
    I have traveled with Girl Guides on many occasions. In my last year of Rangers, we ran a campaign called “New York or Bust” where we collected bras, fundraised to go to New York City, then donated half the bras to the YWCA there and half to our local YWCA. This year, I went to a leadership development seminar at Our Chalet World Centre in Switzerland. It is something very special to represent Girl Guides while exploring new places.
  3. You get to experience the sisterhood of Guiding
    I think the most awesome thing about volunteering with Girl Guides is the fact that you get to meet amazing girls and women from all around the world. The sisterhood of Guiding creates such a unique bond. Recently, while traveling to Our Chalet, I left my bags with one of the other seminar participants. As I was walking back, I thought “Oh my gosh! I left my bags with someone I literally just met.” Funnily enough, she did the same thing. Guiding creates a bond of trust and friendship that is hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it first-hand.

Katie Dersch is a Guider with the 48th Sparks and 3rd Rangers in Saskatoon and has been a member of the organization since she was a Spark. Interested in volunteering with Girl Guides or know someone who is? Visit our website.

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Why I Volunteer with Girl Guides

By Christina Roberts

I love volunteering with Girl Guides because providing girls with enriching experiences and learning opportunities is tremendously rewarding. For the past two years, I have led a Brownie unit. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting intelligent and driven girls who love learning and trying new things. I have watched their confidence and their independence grow.

This year during our “Getting Ready for Camp” meeting, I witnessed this transformation. The girls were required to bring the items on their kit list and prepare their bedrolls. Amidst the mess of tarps, bungee cords, blankets and mattress pads, they experienced the trials and errors of learning how to roll up a bedroll. I saw the second-year girls race to share their experience, in a confident manner, with the first-year Brownies, who took a task that was unfamiliar to them and succeeded in accomplishing it. I was so proud and excited as the first-year girls, with much enthusiasm, showed their parents their bedroll creations.

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At the end of each Guiding year, the girls put together a scrapbook with pictures of various outings, camps and meetings they have done throughout the year. I hear them reflect on the friendships they made, the meetings they learned something new, the feeling of accomplishment when they earned a certain badge, and the experiences they had participating in service projects, camps, district events, cookie blitzes and various outings. Their reflections and positive energy remind me of why I dedicate my time week after week. The positive impact I can create in the girls’ lives is meaningful and that is why I volunteer.

Christina Roberts is a Unit Guider with 2nd Brookhouse Brownies in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and also works full-time as a substitute teacher. Interested in volunteering with Girl Guides or know someone who is? Visit our website.

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Thank you, volunteers!

As National Volunteer Week begins, girls in Guiding are sending a huge shoutout to our amazing volunteers.

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Remembering Beyond Remembrance Day


On April 9, Canadians will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. Guider Michelle writes how inviting a woman from the Canadian Forces helped her Guides explore their own leadership skills and the achievements of those who ensure the freedoms we enjoy today.  


While we often reserve Remembrance Day as the time to consider the contributions of the Canadian military, reflecting on the horror of war and embracing peace doesn’t have to be saved for a single day on the calendar. Earlier this year, our unit invited a volunteer from the Memory Project, which connects schools and other groups with local veterans and members of the Canadian Forces to share their stories. Our guest was Lieutenant Rebecca Garnham. She’s stationed here in Calgary and helps train new recruits in the Navy before they head off for their first assignments.

Lt(N) Garnham is a former Girl Guide herself. She talked about how members in Guiding and the military both make a promise to make the world a better place. She also shared how the sisterhood of Guiding is a lot like the sisterhood she shares with her fellow women in the military.

We heard about how women started in the military as nurses, and we learned the names of female trailblazers who’ve made it possible for women today to hold any position in the Canadian military. It was a great opportunity for girls to discover the opportunities there are in the military – ranging from leadership roles and peacekeeping duties to positions that focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

After her presentation, Lt(N) Garnham led us through a little activity. She placed various leadership quotes on the floor and asked girls to stand by the one that spoke most strongly to them. We then got to share with each other the quote we had chosen and why we felt that quote described an important part or trait of leadership. The girls did a great job sharing their thoughts and then set to work on their Peace badge.

Connecting our girls with a woman in the Canadian military was an eye-opening experience for them. They not only met a female role model in their community, but they also discovered the role we can all play in bringing a little more peace to the world.

Michelle Head is the District Commissioner for 12 Mile Coulee District and a Guider with the 34th Guides in Calgary, Alberta.

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Lost and found in translation


I recently went on a two-week long B.C. Girl Guide trip to Peru. We toured over a dozen towns in Southern Peru as well coastal cities such as Lima and Paracas. We hiked Machu Picchu, explored the floating islands on Lake Titicaca and went sandboarding in the desert. It was  everything a perfect trip should be – educational, engaging and exciting.  

And as the only Spanish speaker on our trip, I had a slightly different experience than the rest of the group. Right from the start it became clear I was the unofficial group translator. A daunting role for even the most experienced.

Putting myself – and my language skills – to the test
The most challenging part of the trip was ordering food. Now, food was never my strong suit in Spanish class, so I would often guess a word’s meaning from the waiter’s hints. (And while my amazing Spanish teacher had taught me an extensive food vocabulary, as a vegetarian I didn’t bother learning any words for meat products. To anyone wanting to learn a language – I would not recommend doing this!)

It took us forever to order because I had to work my way through each item on the menu, translating it word for word.

Here’s how it kind of went: “So our first option is chicken with some sort of vegetable and a side of rice. Our next option, I think is a type of fish – not sure what type – with another local vegetable. Finally, our third option is some sort of animal. It could be steak, or pork or even alpaca. But the waiter says it’s good.”

It was a painstakingly long process but every meal was a delicious surprise. 

For future jet-setters, I have a few pieces of advice:

  1. Create and keep a list of keywords written phonetically
    It would also be helpful to print out a list of common foods in the country you’re visiting as well as phrases such as “only with,” “without,” “what’s in this,” etc.
  2. Download a translating app
    The apps often work without WiFi, but you should check in advance. If no one in your group speaks the language, there’s always Google translate! You can even use it to take a picture of a sign, and it will translate the words on it for you.
  3. Go low-tech and carry a notebook and pencil
    You can not only write down the new vocabulary you’re learning, but you can also use it to draw pictures or write numbers. This can simplify communication and help overcome language barriers.
  4. Speak up!
    This may seem obvious but one of the best ways to learn a language is to speak it! Before turning to your group translator, consult your handy phrasebook or dictionary and start talking. You’ll probably make a few mistakes or mispronounce a word or two but chances are, you’ll get your message across.

I was so proud of my fellow Guiding travelers who immersed themselves in the language and seized every opportunity to learn a new Spanish word. This trip was an incredible experience; it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and put my Spanish skills to the test. At times, it was challenging, especially given my Lima-ted vocabulary, but I always had the support of my fellow Guiders.

Guest post by Taylor Ball. Taylor is a lifelong Girl Guide originally from Vancouver and currently studying Commerce at Queen’s University. Taylor is a member of the Canadian Guider editorial committee.

What’s your Girl Guide story? Share it on the blog. Send your blog pitch to ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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In Guiding, I’m not alone

When I was growing up we didn’t talk about mental health and mental illness.

It wasn’t something we talked about at home.

It wasn’t something we learned about at school.

And it certainly wasn’t something we discussed at Girl Guides. Now there’s Mighty Minds, Girl Guides of Canada’s new mental health program.

My mental health story
I developed a mental illness at the age of 12. I live with a few body-focused repetitive behaviours. I hid my illness for over a decade. My family knew, and a few close friends – but that was all. Hiding my mental illness was something I’d always done and the concept of talking about it was terrifying.

March22_AnastasiaIn April 2016, I began to blog and write about my experiences with mental illness. Since then I’ve been talking to just about anyone who will listen about my experiences, about body-focused repetitive behaviours and taking care of ourselves.

I was compelled to talk, to open up because of one person. One person who made me feel like someone else out there understood. Someone who made me feel not alone, but part of something. It was in that moment of acknowledging I wasn’t alone that I knew I had to give someone else that feeling, too. I knew I had to speak about my experiences so that even one girl knows she is not alone.

In Guiding, we’re part of so many somethings
Girl Guides has made me feel like I’m not alone, and it does the same for thousands of girls across the country. It makes us feel part of something. Part of the change, part of the caring and part of a movement.

Talking about mental health and mental illness with girls will ensure they don’t feel alone, and ensure they know they have people to go to, but most importantly it opens up discussion. Mighty Minds allows girls of all ages the opportunity to talk – and to learn to talk about – mental health and mental illness. And that’s something I can’t help but think would have helped 12-year old me immensely.

I’m taking part in Mighty Minds so that girls know that mental health is something we need to talk about – and that they are never alone.

Guest post by Anastasia Smallwood. Anastasia is a third-year Bachelor of Public Relations student at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, NS. A Brownie Unit Guider and strategic communications coordinator for her provincial council, she loves to spend her time volunteering and planning events. 

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When the pieces click together

At university, they say the first semester is the hardest. To say I was nervous was a bit of an understatement: on top of delving into my specialization degree in Immunology and Infection at the distinguished (and somewhat menacing) University of Alberta, I was attempting to score stellar grades worthy of competing for a future spot in medical school. I was well aware that volunteering and extracurriculars are an asset to applying for this program, and this fit perfectly with my love for Girl Guides.

Time management was definitely a tricky task. The jigsaw puzzle of my life required fitting together the complicated pieces of my studies, going to the gym, family life, social life, and of course, Guiding. Hoping to alleviate the need to squeeze in a part-time job on top of it all, I applied for Girl Guide scholarships. (This year’s national application deadline is April 3.) To my amazement, I received both a provincial and national Girl Guide scholarships. Such news inspired feelings of relief and gratitude that I could never fully express in words.March16_KimJumpPuzzlePieces2

Consequently, I didn’t have to make sacrifices for other important pieces of my life, including that for Guiding. Volunteering with Brownies and Guides on a weekly basis offers a break – a welcome distraction. I deeply appreciate working with my experienced co-Guiders, who have marveled me with the world of programming, planning, and communicating. They have been patient and understanding of my limited hours during exam time, and they even encouraged me to be the Responsible Guider for our residential camp!

Of course, my top reason for volunteering with Girl Guides is the joy I get from working with the girls. The girls’ cheerfulness is contagious; a definite source, I believe, of mental health for me during that first semester. For all that the girls have given me, I hope I’m giving back to them in return as a young adult role model. I hope to embody what it means to stay with Girl Guides from girl member to Guider, as well as what it means to be a woman in science. As all my co-Guiders have pursued careers in sciences and engineering, we plan wicked STEM-themed meetings, inspiring the next generation of confident female scientists. And this is what makes everything worth it.

To Girl Guides of Canada, and to everyone who has helped me get to where I am, I wanted to thank you for your support— my life’s puzzle seems to fit together quite nicely.

Guest post by Kim Papp, a first-year student specializing in Immunology and Infection at the University of Alberta, who volunteers with Brownies and Guides in Edmonton. 

Hurry! Girl Guides of Canada national scholarship applications close April 3 at 11:59 pm EST. There are scholarships for full- and part-time studies and a variety of fields.

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Pamela Rice: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word

Cory Seamer / Shutterstock.com

Nesta Ashworth is the kind of hero that girls today would have no problem relating to. In the early 1900s, she saved her pocket money to buy an axe and build a fort in the woods with her friends. When she wanted to sleep in a tent, she was told to “Forget it!” and to focus on womanly skills such as nursing and cooking. But Nesta pushed back. In 1909, she gate-crashed a Boy Scout rally at London’s Crystal Palace and demanded a similar program for girls. Nesta wanted equal opportunities for girls – nothing more, nothing less.

From the very beginning, Guiding has been led by girls who were feminists. Yes, I said it, the F-word. It’s not a dirty word – it’s a word and premise I stand behind 100 per cent, and am proud to say shapes Guiding. It’s at the core of how the Guiding story began. It’s girls like Nesta who weren’t held back by society’s view that women were subservient to men – “only” homemakers. They pushed boundaries to be all they could and should be, and embodied feminism in the face of limiting ideologies about women. They were brave and courageous – and they were Girl Guides.

Fast forward to International Women’s Day 2017 which arrives on the heels of the Women’s March, a historical moment in time that saw millions of women worldwide come together in support of women’s rights.  This was an incredible display of just how vibrant and alive feminism is today. And it is a good reminder that it is more important than ever for the Nestas of today – and the women who support them – to  keep pushing these ideals whether it’s about equality, leadership or human rights.

The girls and young women I know in Guiding reflect all the powerful things that feminism is and can be. They believe in equality for all. They are self-reliant. They explore new challenges. They support one another. No judgment, no competition, no put downs – that’s what Guiding is all about.

Jillian Ashick-Stinson is one of these young women. As a member of Girl Guides, she will be representing the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts at next week’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in New York and speaking up about the rights of girls around the world.

“One of the most important lessons Guiding has taught me is the importance of empowering other women through positive female friendships,” she explains. “From being a shy Pathfinder trying to figure myself out to an active independent young woman, Guiding has let me be an active participant in my life and my future.”

The bridge between girls and young women like Nesta and Jillian is solid. Sure feminism may look different today than it did 50 or 100 years ago – but the underlying principle is the same. Feminism = equality for everyone – in absolutely every area of our lives. Girls’ lives are changing, but they won’t be held back and they won’t sit still for anything less. I am honoured to be a part of their world and so excited to see where girls and young women in Guiding will take us next.

By Pamela Rice, Chief Commissioner, Girl Guides of Canada.

Ready to empower your daughter? Registration for the 2017-18 Guiding year opens soon. Check the dates for your province/territory and mark your calendar to secure a spot in your preferred unit.

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The courage to start

Every day across Canada, girls in Guiding are accomplishing great and amazing things: overcoming obstacles, realizing their goals, and contributing in positive ways to their communities. I know this personally because I have seen it first-hand over the 13 years I have been privileged to be a member of the Girl Guide community – first as a Spark, then Brownie, Guide, Pathfinder, and now as a Ranger.

march2_candacecourage

Guiding teaches us valuable life skills that will stay with us forever. Confidence. Resourcefulness. Courage. And that each of us, regardless of our age or gender, has the power and potential to Make a Difference in our world.  These are important things for girls to learn because society still bombards us from an early age with subtle messages about who we are, what we are capable of, and what we should aspire to. Without Girl Guides, we might grow up believing in these limitations.

Through Girl Guides, we learn that we can succeed in any endeavor we choose to work towards – whether or not we also like to wear makeup, bake for fun, or obsess about boy bands. All we need is the confidence to believe that we can make a difference, the courage to start, and the persistence and the resourcefulness to overcome any obstacle we encounter. This is an empowering lesson to learn.

My goal was combating climate change. When I learned that aviation-generated emissions from hydrocarbon fuel combustion account for approximately 3.5% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, I decided to see if I could come up with a solution. As an aspiring pilot I didn’t want to be a part of the problem; I wanted to be a part of the solution!

After a year of work, I created a new type of morphing multi-winglet for airplanes that is 257.2% more efficient than a standard airplane winglet in reducing the trailing vortices that negatively impact fuel consumption and increase greenhouse gas emission. My design was chosen to represent Canada at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair where it was awarded the NASA Grand Award. I hope that by sharing my design and research with the world it will help in our fight to combat climate change in the near future.

Girl Guides gave me the confidence to believe in my ability to make a difference. It fills me with immense pride to know that across Canada girls similar to me are equally determined to make our world a better place.

Guest post by Candace Brooks-Da Silva, a Ranger in Windsor, Ont., and recipient of a 2016 Girl Greatness Award for Making a Difference.

Girl Greatness Award pinNominations are now open for the 2017 Girl Greatness Awards! Help celebrate the amazing girls in Guiding and all the amazing things they do. Girls can self-nominate or nominate another girl in Guiding.

Nomination deadline: Wednesday, March 15.

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We are #STEMinists

As the world celebrates the best in cinematic achievement this weekend, all eyes will be on Hidden Figures, the Oscar-nominated film about female African-American mathematicians who played a vital role at NASA in the 1960s. This film has inspired many for its portrayal of a group that rarely gets meaningful screen time – women of colour working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Hidden Figures celebrates women who persisted – women who literally reached for the stars and knocked down countless obstacles to achieve their goals and make astronomical contributions to the fields of math and science.

stemWhen it comes to STEM, we still have a long way to to go to balance the equation on the levels of participation of women and girls. Gender barriers persist and many of our most brilliant physicists, engineers and mathematicians will tell you that women have to work harder than their male counterparts to be taken seriously.

What does this have to do with Guiding? A lot. Guiding is all about girls challenging themselves, putting their ideas into action, taking risks and gaining the skills to confidently take on every opportunity that comes their way. Girls need meaningful opportunities to reach their potential and to be who they want to be. They need role models who will support them as they explore STEM and not hold them back. They need the chance to create, design, test, calculate and conquer.

April9_EngineeringCollage

I truly believe that when girls in Guiding  have the chance to experiment and connect with STEM , it gets them thinking about and exploring the world around them. Whether it’s Sparks getting messy and creative with bubble experiments, Guides designing their own marble runs or Pathfinders creating stop-motion animation on their smart phones, these kinds of hands-on experiences with STEM can help inspire the new generation of innovators.

Of course, you can’t be what you can’t see. One of the biggest benefits of Guiding is the opportunity for girls to connect with women mentors from all backgrounds. Our volunteers come from all walks of life, from every imaginable career field. Every week , they help girls discover they can achieve more than they ever imagined and realize that girls can and SHOULD make a difference in the world. When we invest in girls with connections to female mentors and exposure to STEM, we are investing in the next generation of innovators and imagineers – ultimately we’re investing in the future of our planet.

pamela_0561Guest post by Pamela Rice, Chief Commissioner, Girl Guides of Canada. Want to explore opportunities in STEM with your girls? Check out our Close the Gap programming.

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Opening the Vaults – World Thinking Day and the Intangible Spirit of Guiding

feb22_wtdlogoWhen we look through the collection in our national archives, we’re often inspired by the intangible spirit of Guiding that shines so bright in many of the images. For this World Thinking Day, we have pulled together a selection of quotes from past issues of  Canadian Guider magazine and photos that capture their sentiment.

Now more than ever, it’s so clear that there is so  much more that connects us than divides us. Guiding truly brings us together.

feb22_wtdcamp“Thinking Day has been set apart to carry Guide thoughts to Guide friends around the world. It is the day on which the Guide world emphasizes the peace and friendliness and the glory of our world-wide Movement as the Guides of each country join in thoughts of love, sympathy, friendliness and goodwill with their Guide sisters around the world.” – Canadian Guider, January 1936

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“We of the new world in Canada with our background of pioneering and adventure should contribute not only friendliness but also spontaneity, adaptability and vision.”  – Canadian Guider, January 1939

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“It does not matter to what nationality a girl belongs or what language she speaks; if she has the Guide outlook on life there you will find a common link with her.” –  Canadian Guider January 1940

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“To think of our war guests – how far from home they are and how we can help to make life a little happier for them. To think also of the refugees within our borders who are faced with the task of beginning life anew among strangers – how can we help lighten their burdens?

To think about our own community and ways in which we can make life kinder and more pleasant for our neighbours.

To ask ourselves whether we do not often demand too much of our families and our friends and whether we are giving as much as we expect to receive.

It does not hurt to think – and by thinking things through in each case we can avoid inconveniencing and often hurting others.

On Guide Thinking Day, therefore, let us think not only of the Guide family itself, but of its part in Canadian life as a whole” – Canadian Guider, 1941

Explore some of the previous posts in the Opening the Vaults series from our national archives: World Thinking Day and the World FlagCreative camp gadgets 1920s and 1930s Campfires and Cookbooks;  The Maple Leaf Forever; 

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A positive egg-sperience in responsibility

Warning: Some eggs may have been cuddled in the making of this post

feb16_eggs
The theme for one of our recent unit meetings was understanding responsibility. The girls brainstormed ways to be responsible in Guides, create kit lists and set goals for our unit. The top goals that everyone agreed on:

  • Go on a hike
  • Keep earning lots of badges and crests
  • Earn a badge with “sparkly thread” like they saw in Canadian Guider
  • Make dog treats as a service project
  • Go to Nunavut

All obtainable goals we could work on as a unit. Ok, so the Nunavut trip may have to be tweaked a little and take some imagination but it was something we could still discover together.

Then came the end of our meeting. The part I was most nervous about and the part the girls were most excited for. The eggs.

As part of my weekly email, I told their parents: A project is coming home for the girls to work on. Have them embrace it and make sure they have fun.

No further instructions on what was coming home. Just a little warning: what was coming home was a raw egg. Nothing I think anyone was expecting.

At the unit meeting, each girl was given an egg and a sheet of care instructions. They had to do their best for a week to care for their egg and bring the egg back the next week.

The girls would have some daily tasks to keep their egg healthy:

  • Give it a bath each morning by gently cleaning it with damp paper towel
  • Make it a cozy bed to sleep in each night and when the girls are at school. As everyone knows, eggs are too young for school.
  • Take your egg outside each day for at least 10 minutes for some fresh air.
  • Read it a bedtime story each night so your egg can fall asleep.
  • And the egg has to go everywhere with you, with the exception of school.

But like all people, the eggs had some wants, too:

  • It wanted a new outfit to wear to the next Guides meeting.
  • It also wanted a toy.

As an added surprise, the girls discovered their eggs knew how to email. Because half-way through the week, the girls’ eggs emailed them some new requests:

  • The eggs were cold from going outside each day. So they requested some winter wear. No one wants their egg to become sick, after all.
  • The eggs wanted to build snow-eggs!  With a lot of snow falling in Halifax, we had a few snow days so the eggs wanted to play outside.

feb16_eggsgridWhen our next unit meeting rolled around, all of the girls’ eggs made their way back to Guides. Some with more Band-Aids and hot glue-filled scars than others. But to all of the Guiders’ surprise, additional eggs came to our meeting, too. Amazingly, the eggs had multiplied. Why you may ask? Because the girls made their eggs a friend. Just like in Guiding, friends are important to eggs, too.

This project was such a positive experience for all of the girls. It gave each of them such a unique way to shine. It was also parent-approved!

At the end of the evening, with the girls sitting in a circle with all their eggs, one first year Guide chimed in:
“We did good with our eggs. Now can we buy some hamsters and test our responsibility skills further? Plus earn our Pet Lover badge at the same time?”

Uhm….

Guest post by Kayla Bernard. Kayla is a Guide and Pathfinder Guider in Halifax and a Link member. She is currently studying Psychology at Mount Saint Vincent University. See her previous posts:  What does it mean to be an Arts Adviser? and Life of a twenty-something Guider.

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Sparks sparkle – and so do new Guiders!

feb9_sparkssparkle
A few months ago, an email arrived announcing that the national office would be hosting our own Girl Guide units. It read: “Are you looking for a little more glitter in your life? Looking to connect with nature and possibly even camp out under the stars? Well, we have just the thing for you!”

Immediately, I knew I wanted in. Although I was brand new to GGC as part of the Programming staff team, the opportunity to work with girls directly and be part of the Guiding tradition was immensely appealing. And of course there was the promise of glitter.

Within two weeks, I was Safe Guide ready, and with several training sessions under my belt, I was officially a Spark Guider. Right away the world of Guiding began opening itself up to me in new and exciting ways. I quickly learned the Promise and the opening and closing songs, as well as how to tie a reef knot. I reviewed the program book and wrapped my head around all the swag – badges and keepers and crests, oh my! Fortunately, my colleague and fellow Guider Chickadee (or as we call her in the office, Ashley) had experience with Sparks and has been incredibly supportive and helpful in showing me the ropes.

Finally, we were ready. We had all our supplies and a general plan for our first meeting. But it wasn’t until the girls arrived that I really understood what I had signed up for. That’s when the ‘spark’ was ignited in me.

feb9_sparkssparkle2Every week our Sparks come in smiling, ready and excited for what’s in store. They light up with each new challenge, and are delighted to learn more about what it means to be in Guiding. They have truly begun to demonstrate the Spark Promise and show excitement and imagination in all they do. We play games, craft, learn invaluable life skills and, most importantly, we have FUN!

The time spent with the girls is undoubtedly the highlight of every week. They make me laugh and smile, and they remind me to enjoy the moment. But perhaps the most rewarding part of being a Guider is watching girls discover the endless possibilities of who they are and what they are capable of. I see it in our Sparks every meeting, and it reminds me of what’s possible in my own life. I am proud to be their Guider and to be on this journey with them.

In December we celebrated the girls’ enrolment. On the day of the ceremony, the girls were all sashes, smiles and giggles. They made us proud as they recited the Spark Promise, and we sprinkled glitter over top of them as they received their enrolment pins. Being new to Guiding myself, I was also enrolled that night. I stood before our guests, three fingers to the sky, and recited the Promise just as millions of girls and women have before me. In that moment, with our Sparks smiling up at me, I felt myself become part of the sisterhood of Guiding. Perhaps it was the glitter in my hair, but I really could feel myself sparkle.

Guest post by Brittany Cohen, Coordinator, Global & Community Programming at Girl Guides of Canada and Guider (a.k.a. Emerald) with 73rd Toronto Sparks. Interested in volunteering with a Girl Guides unit in your area? Call 1-800-565-8111.

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Lost: One camp blanket

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My camp blanket is gone. I’d feel better if I’d left it behind at camp, or accidentally swapped it with another Guide, or if it had been the victim of a flooded tent (kidding! I don’t actually wish that).

The truth is this: I left Guiding when I moved across the country by myself nearly a decade ago. I always had the intention of returning (both home and to Girl Guides) but as the years have passed I’ve found new career goals and it looks like this move might be more permanent. My dad is selling my childhood home in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans. I went home to move a final dozen boxes of my belongings out of my old bedroom… and my camp blanket wasn’t there. My dad had accidentally included it in boxes he sent out for donation.

I was beyond upset. That was my 18 years of my Guiding life right there. My dad still has his entire Scout uniform from the 1960s. I sent sad messages out to friends, checked area thrift stores (who thought I was nuts), posted ads through online buy and sell sites: “Lost, one camp blanket. Grey fleece, poncho style. Has all three 90s Brownie, Guide and Pathfinder sashes sewn to it, a series of Camp Woolsey log crests (1991-1998) and pennant, my Canada Cord, various other patches.” What kind of Girl Guide loses this irreplaceable piece of personal history?

feb7_lostcampblanketMy best friend, Beth, also a former Girl Guide, was a bit more hopeful. “It’s not about the blanket, it’s about what you learned in Guiding. Think of that.” So I did. Fortunately she lives in the same province as me, a mere two-hour hour ferry trip and 90-minute bus ride (or two days by bicycle, or 40 minutes by float plane if you’re feeling adventurous). We spent some time together over New Year’s and brainstormed…

Things learned and reflected on my (lost!) camp blanket:

  1. Specific skills: camp craft, skating, collecting, orienteering, citizenship, environmental stewardship, skiing, crafting, sewing… So much sewing, especially after our moms refused to sew on any more badges!
  1. Goal setting: whether it was the goal of obtaining more badges or conquering other daily challenges at Guides or in our community.
  1. The importance of hard work: yeah, it was hard work to obtain all those badges and crests. It takes hard work to achieve your goals in the real world, too.
  1. Organizational skills: I remember this being particularly hard, especially organizing our joint Pathfinder Gold level camp, which we both had to repeat!
  1. Confidence (and confidants): I’d never have had the bravery to try new things without Guides. I found role models, and confidants to share some parts of my personality (I’m looking at you Radar and KJ) before trying them in the real world.
  1. Friendship: Guiding helped cement the friendship between Beth and me, and we both made friends through Guiding and camps that we’re still in contact with today.

Ok, I did learn some pretty great life skills through Guiding, and those are things that I’ll never lose…

But if you do happen to find my camp blanket at a local thrift shop or elsewhere, please hold on to it for me!

Guest post by Adrienne Quane, who now lives in North Vancouver, B.C. She stays connected to Guiding by helping Guiding friends at the Burnaby area Girl Guide cabin on nearby Hollyburn Mountain and always buys Girl Guide cookies each spring and fall.  

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It’s more than OK to be myself

feb2_tessI like being a Pathfinder. I’ve made so many new friends and they’re really inclusive and accepting. They make sure I always know that it’s ok to be myself. Through Pathfinders, I also get to do a lot of things that I don’t usually do such as geocaching, playing some really weird, different games and camping.

Because I am an above the knee amputee, I have to find different solutions every day to situations that most people wouldn’t even realize were a problem. Guiding is about being confident and resilient and resourceful. For example, when I’m not wearing my prosthetic, I use crutches. I love my crutches because I can go really fast and they are easier for me to use than my heavy prosthetic, which causes me to fall more easily. But when I use my crutches, my hands are kind of already occupied. So carrying my books and technology at school is tricky, let alone hauling camping gear out into the woods. And camping is fun! My Pathfinder group never says I can’t go on a campout, and they never question whether I will be able to do something. Recently we went on a night trek, where we hiked for about five hours (from 9 pm to 2 am!). In the dark. Uphill. In the mud. Thank goodness for back packs and head lamps!

Recently, I was introduced to a girl at another school who needs to use arm crutches just like mine. Only she was too shy and embarrassed to use them. Her doctors and her parents and her teachers all tried to get her to use them but she was afraid. Her principal asked me if I would be willing to meet her and help her overcome her fears. If she didn’t start using her crutches, she was going to cause injury to her spine and to her good leg. I understood.

I wanted to help her have a better life and enjoy doing the sports and activities she loves. I wanted to make her feel like it’s ok to be who she is. Suddenly, she had a friend who could relate to her. And she found out that even with crutches, she still had lots of friends – they were right there cheering her on and supporting her, and she had nothing to fear. I told her about Pathfinders and now she’s going to join too, so she can discover what she can achieve in her own life.

Guest post by Tess Beasant, a member of the 48th Calgary Pathfinders and recipient of a 2016 Girl Greatness Awards for Resourcefulness.

Girl Greatness Award pinNominations are now open for the 2017 Girl Greatness Awards! Help celebrate the amazing girls in Guiding and all the amazing things they do. Girls can self-nominate or nominate another girl in Guiding.

Nomination deadline: Wednesday, March 15.

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Shining a Light on Mental Health on Parliament Hill

picmonkey-collageGirl Guides in Ottawa came to Parliament Hill to celebrate the launch of Mighty Minds, our new mental health program. Girls had the chance to try some of the activities from the program, while meeting Members of Parliament, Senators and the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Status of Women (top right).

sophie_g_9723Sophie Grégoire Trudeau – a gender equality activist, public speaker, devoted mother of three and wife of the Prime Minister – lent her support to Guiding and the Mighty Minds program by sharing this letter with girls at the event:

It is with great happiness  that I welcome the beautiful and courageous Girl Guides to tonight’s launch of Mighty Minds. I wish I could be there with you to share stories and learn together.

I believe that mental  health is the pulse of our society. Our  mental wellbeing affects us all, and by addressing  the stigma and engaging with each other, we can ensure that no one feels like they are without support.  For me, the key to a healthier mind is rooted  in balance, based on self-care and self-love. We have to celebrate our differences  and surround  ourselves  with compassionate  and positive friends who help us thrive. We are truly at our best when our personalities shine through.

I am always deeply inspired by women and girls like yourselves who want to grow and work together,  as well learn from one another.  Your inspirational actions are all the more powerful in a world that craves unity and harmony.

You girls are already your own  guides. Your inner compass  is developing  through  this wonderful  organization,  a group  based  on  the values of strength  from  compassion,  empathy,  knowledge, and  courage. The  leadership  you display every day makes me proud and it makes Canadians proud.

I am raising my daughter, Ella-Grace,  to have a deep sense of who she is and what she stands for. I am teaching and inspiring her to love and care for herself, and I already see that she has a strong sense of self. My hope is that she surrounds herself with other  girls who love themselves and speak kindly about each other, girls like yourselves who support and see the good in others.

Remember  that we carry you in our  hearts and  that we trust that you will lead a generation  of girls to guide and build bridges between  us that soar over  our differences. As you continue  along this journey, may you laugh, cry, discover, and live fully. The reality is that we do not always have it all together, but if we stick together, we have it all.

With all my love and friendship, I welcome you to tonight’s launch of Mighty Minds.

  • Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
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What girls have to say about mental health

“I think mental health is  more normal than people think. If more people talked about it, it would become normal.” – 10-year old Guide 

Girls have a lot to say about mental health, and we’re giving them the space to start talking. This month, girls across the country are taking part in Mighty Minds, our comprehensive new mental health program. Girls in the 3rd Halifax South Pathfinders and the 4th Bedford Guides and Pathfinders were among the first to try the program and shared their thoughts on mental health with us:

jan18_mminds_girlstable2“Would you be ashamed if you broke your leg. No. So why be ashamed of a mental illness?” – 14-year old Pathfinder

“Lots of people have mental health issues. It’s society that makes it seem like a big deal.” – 12-year old Pathfinder

“I wish grown-ups would let us talk about our feelings more. If we can talk and use emojis every day, then why not real things.” – 10-year old Guide

jan18_mminds_guide“Talking to people is a good thing. People love you and want to help. It’s what people do.” – 9 year-old Guide

“Stigma is just cruel and unnecessary. Your illness cannot bring you down. You can do so much.” – 13-year old Pathfinder

Thanks to Kayla Bernard, Unit Guider with the 3rd Halifax South Pathfinders and the 4th Bedford Guides and Pathfinders for her assistance with this post.

candle2Our Shine a Light events across the country are celebrating the launch of our Mighty Minds mental health programming. Kayla will be the host of our event in Sackville, NS on Saturday, January 21, 6-7 pm. There’ll also be an event at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square on Saturday, January 21, 5:30 pm, with Chief Commissioner Pamela Rice and two-time Olympic gold-medalist Cheryl Pounder. All events are open to members, their families and the public. 

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When Girl Greatness spreads to the office

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Inspired by our girl members, Girl Guides of Canada national staff participate in Action on Poverty.

“It is better to do good than be good.” – Lord Baden-Powell

Every day we challenge girls to go out and make a difference, to go over-and-above to make their communities a better place to live. And every time, they do this with enthusiasm and ingenuity. Over the course of this year, girls in Guiding have built little free libraries, filled purses with feminine hygiene products for women’s shelters, cleaned up shorelines, finger-knit scarves, and basically just made the world a little better through their generosity.

Throughout my own life, I have been encouraged to lead by example, but it was by the example of the girls that I decided to spearhead a National Service Project: Action on Poverty initiative at Girl Guides of Canada’s national office this month. Every year we try to give back a little during the holidays, but this year we were inspired by the girls and took our giving up a notch.

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With the help of Guider and awesome NSP agent Jane, we were put in touch with the Shoebox Project, a continent-wide initiative connecting those who want to do good deeds with women’s shelters. The staff came together to donate 30 kilograms of self-care supplies to make approximately eight “Make A Difference Boxes” for women living in shelters throughout the Toronto area. Our office elves also helped to wrap, assemble and deliver these overflowing boxes. It was such a wonderful kick-off to the holiday season, and feeling a little bit of Girl Greatness rub off on our office team didn’t hurt either!

Guest post by Ashley Pamenter, a Coordinator, Programming at Girl Guides of Canada and a Guider (a.k.a. Chickadee) with 73rd Toronto Sparks.

nsp-graphicFor more information about the NSP: Action on Poverty check out nps.girlguides.ca  or email programs@girlguides.ca to reach out to your own amazing NSP agent like Jane.

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Full STEM ahead

The overwhelming theme for our unit’s activities this fall has been science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). With Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada programming like Girls Count, and instant meetings like International Day of the Girl 2016, it’s been fun and easy to emphasize STEM as a key part of our programming.

Girls Count
A chorus of “But I don’t liiiiiiiiiike math” echoed out when we first introduced the topic and theme for the evening. But the girls quickly dove right into the activities of the Girls Count financial literacy program, reminding us why programming like this is important for helping girls to build not only important life skills, but to remind them that math isn’t scary.

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International Day of the Girl 2016
As busy Unit Guiders, we love the variety of instant meetings for Make a Difference Days that GGC has been developing lately. The 2016 International Day of the Girl instant meeting offered lots of great activities for the girls to further explore STEM. One of the most popular was the creation of stop motion videos. The girls truly showed their creativity in planning out their video, making elaborate sets, and filming.

draftingCareer Awareness Badge
Plumber. Furniture maker. Computer coder. Architectural drafter. We were fortunate to have four exceptional women who work in non-traditional careers visit our meeting and give girls the inside scoop on these careers. The girls were very engaged throughout the meeting, which included activities like drafting your bedroom in 3D, cutting plumbing tubing and playing video games.

Physics Badge
Here in Nova Scotia, we are so fortunate to have access to an exciting program called SuperNOVA at Dalhousie University. SuperNOVA has developed hands-on workshops that align directly with six GGC STEM badges (Chemistry, Astronomy, Science, Physics, Engineering, Body Works). This year, we took advantage of the Physics workshop. Girls completed a variety of activities that explored the laws of motion, friction, gravity and light and colour. They were totally into it.

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We’ve definitely had a busy fall, incorporating lots of STEM-related programming. Don’t let STEM programming be overwhelming! For new Guiders or Guiders who may feel they aren’t  STEM experts (we certainly aren’t!), there are so many GGC resources to choose from, it makes it easy to incorporate STEM into unit programming.

Guest post by Lashauna Smith. Lashauna is a Guide Guider with the 1st Timberlea Guides, in Timberlea, Nova Scotia. She and her co-Guiders appreciate the range of instant meetings provided by Girl Guides of Canada!

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All in the family – sisters and role models

Viola Desmond

Viola Desmond portrait, ca. 1940. Communications Nova Scotia (via Bank of Canada)

Daring. Courageous. Risk-taker. These are all words that can be used to describe Viola Desmond, who’ll be featured on the new Canadian $10 bank note. In 1946, the Nova Scotia business woman refused to leave a whites-only area of a movie theater. Desmond’s court case was the first known legal challenge against racial segregation brought forth by a black woman in Canada.

When it would have been easier to sit down and stay quiet, Desmond stood up and spoke out for equality – facing arrest and conviction as a result. Her act of courage and defiance continues to resonate with girls and women across Canada.

A trailblazer in her time, Desmond is an icon today – and her sister Wanda Robson, who’s mentored countless girls as a longtime member of Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada, is proudly keeping her legacy alive. Robson became a member when her daughter came home from school asking to be a Brownie. Robson enrolled her daughter in Brownies, thinking that meant she would have a few hours a week to spend alone at the library. After about three weeks, her daughter’s Guider asked if she could help out with the unit. She didn’t get the alone time, but still refers to the day she was asked to join Girl Guides as “my lucky day.” Guiding became such a part of her life that her family refers to it as “one of her other homes.”

Viola Desmond and Wanda Robson

Wanda and Viola at the Hi-Hat Club, Boston, ca. 1950. (via Bank of Canada)

When asked what drew her to join and remain in Guiding, Wanda talks about finding a place that she felt comfortable and accepted. She loves the interaction with the girls, watching them come out of their shells and their sense of achievement when they accomplish something. Reminiscing about her time in Guiding she talks about the way girls throw their arms around each other when they complete a challenge and how the older girls are such role models for younger girls.

“Once you are a member, you are always a member,” Wanda says of her unwavering commitment to Guiding. The value of Guiding to today’s girls is very real, she emphasizes. “The Guiding Movement makes young girls realize who they are, their potential, that they aren’t just in the background. It gives them a foundation of knowing who they are and that ‘I can do that’… I marvel at what Guiding has to offer girls. It gives them such confidence.”

At the unveiling of the new $10 bank note, Wanda Robson spoke about her sister Viola Desmond. Pictured (from left to right) Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, Stephen S. Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada, Patty Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women and Wanda Robson. (Courtesy Bank of Canada)

Guest post by Catherine Miller-Mort, who works in the archives at Girl Guides of Canada’s national office.   

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Ending violence: The power of girls

 

Geneviève Bergeron, 21
Nathalie Croteau, 23
Anne-Marie Edward, 21
Maryse Laganière, 25
Anne-Marie Lemay, 22
Michèle Richard, 21
Annie Turcotte, 20
Hélène Colgan, 23
Barbara Daigneault, 22
Maud Haviernick, 29
Maryse Leclair, 23
Sonia Pelletier, 28
Annie St-Arneault, 23
Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, 31

These are the 14 young women who, on December 6, 1989, were killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal in what became known as the Montreal Massacre. Young women, pursuing their goals. Young women, hated simply for being women in engineering. Young women, killed for who they were, and who they wanted to be.

I was living in Montreal on that horrific day. It was a heart wrenching moment in time for me. That anyone would be murdered is awful, but especially a woman targeted just because she’s a woman.  And yet, the murder of these women was not an isolated act of violence.

Violence against girls and women is an all too common problem in Canada and around the world. It happens everywhere – in homes, in schools, in workplaces and in the community. Violence happens to our members, our colleagues, our family and friends. And we all have a responsibility to these girls and women, and to ourselves, to make it stop.

Because girls are key to the solution. While they’re not solely responsible for ending the violence, Guiding ensures that girls are well placed to shape their own futures and as the leaders of change within their communities and globally. I believe in the power of girls and am proud to be a member of Girl Guides of Canada where together, we celebrate the power of girls.

pamela_0561By Pamela Rice, Chair of the Board, Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada (GGC). GGC’s 16 Days of Action campaign and Say No to Violence Challenge empower all girls and women in Guiding to speak out and take action

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Feeling Safe

kathrynlyonsnov2016-v1I’ve been thinking a lot more about safety and inclusivity lately. Just the other day, at work, in a room full of peers, superiors, and contractors, I was forced to justify some very personal choices and reveal a part of my identity that I didn’t want to. As I looked around the room, growing more uncomfortable and feeling more judged by the second, I realized I didn’t know who my allies were, if indeed I had any. I have never had this experience in my Guiding Life – quite the opposite is true. I feel safe, supported and valued for who I am and how I choose to present myself.

There are a whole bunch of reasons why I am involved in Guiding. It’s the fun. It’s the outlet for my crafty side. It’s the connection to my mother and my daughter and my sisters-in-Guiding. But the one I care about most deeply is Guiding’s values of safety, inclusion and empowerment for girls and women.

I try, in my words and in my actions, to embody those values – especially at Brownies – but also in all parts of my life. I choose to say ‘parent’ instead of ‘mom and dad’ to include all types of families. I tell people that Guiding is open to anyone who identifies as a girl or woman. We choose not to celebrate the dominant holidays at Brownies – but we most definitely party and celebrate!

I plan meals and snacks so that we offer something that everyone can eat. We allow for multiple ways to participate in activities and forms of expression. I gently challenge Brownies when I think I’ve heard something unkind, or I think there might be a more positive way to resolve a conflict. I try to be conscious of my own limitations, blind spots and assumptions. I listen. I am sure I miss the mark sometimes. When I do, if you have the capacity to let me know, please tell me and help me grow.

I sincerely hope that my words and actions in Guiding and the rest of my life project that I am a safe person who values inclusion. Having been on the other side recently – feeling unsafe – has made me all the more committed to keep trying.

Guest post by Kathryn Lyons, with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Group, Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Check out her previous posts: Big ‘mistakes’ make good memories;  Small actions for inclusionManaging Friend DramaSustainable crafting: Or, what can we do with all of that leftover fleece?;  How do you organize all your Guiding stuff? 

promise_webGGC’s ReACTion: Stand Up programming encourages girls to raise their voices, stand together and act for the changes they wish to see. Recent events in the news, both at home and in the United States, have left many feeling confused, excluded and even fearful. Stand Up encourages girls to recognize their strengths, share their values and to feel empowered to speak out about the issues that are important to them.

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Say No to Violence – end of discussion

16 Days of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women started on Friday, Nov. 25. We’re highlighting girls’ voices on social media throughout the 16 Days. Check out what Rishi has to say:   

nov25_rishisaynoLiving in Canada, we often believe ourselves to be above sexism. But are we really? As girls and young women, we’re told that “maybe engineering isn’t the right place for you to be, with all those smart boys. Do you really think you can compete with them?” We tell girls that they should be careful walking alone at night. We tell girls that they shouldn’t dress or behave in a certain way for fear of attracting the wrong type of attention.

But why?

Why do girls and women have to be the ones to be careful? Why do girls and women have to think twice about what they wear? Shouldn’t it be everyone’s responsibility to make women and girls – and all individuals – feel safe in their communities? We shouldn’t have to think twice about where we walk at night. We shouldn’t have to second guess what we choose to wear.

Why do we keep our girls from pursuing the careers they want? Yes, the glass ceiling does exist, and yes, there are many boys in engineering who believe they dominate in the field. All the more reason to prove that girls are just as strong and capable. We can show the world that we as girls and young women are just as good. We have every right to be there – in the science labs, in the corporate office, on Parliament Hill. End of discussion.

How can we change this?

We as a community of Girl Guides are doing so much to promote equal opportunities for females everywhere, whether it’s encouraging girls to explore STEM careers or strong leadership roles. The support we provide and receive in Guiding is invaluable. But we need to spread this positive message throughout society. We can do this by challenging gender roles in our everyday lives and not being afraid to stand up for what we believe in, and for our rights. That’s what I’ll be doing during the 16 Days of Action and every other day going forward – standing up for my rights as a young woman in Canada.

Guest post by Rishi Ilangomaran, who recently completed Rangers and is now  studying to be an engineer at the University of Waterloo. She started as a Pathfinder in 2012 and in four short years, traveled to British Columbia and Mexico with Girl Guides, has been an active member of the Ontario Girl Forum, and has sold a significant number of cookies. She str16-daysongly prefers chocolatey mint to the classic flavour (especially when frozen :P).

Share your answers on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in a visual way. Ideas: Hold up a speech bubble or write your answers on a whiteboard and post a photo. Or make a short video! Be sure to use hashtag #16days and tag us so we can share.

Unit Guiders: Check out our Say No to Violence Challenge, and the core programming connections for incorporating 16 Days into your unit’s activities.

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Work hard. Be kind. That is all.

be-you“You’re not good enough.”

“You don’t try hard enough.”

“You don’t fit in.”

These are messages that girls hear not only from society, but often from each other and themselves as well. I volunteer with a Guide and Pathfinder unit and when I saw the new Be You challenge, I knew that it was exactly what our tweens needed.

When we were out in the community a few weeks ago, we thought it was the perfect time to do one of the Be You activities and a service project that would hopefully have an impact on the girls, too.

nov22_beyougirlsworkingWe started by trying to define a “perfect girl.” One of my co-Guiders, Lindsay, and I each took a piece of paper and prepared to write down their suggestions. Unbeknownst to the girls, we’d agreed that Lindsay would write down anything superficial and I would keep track of the elements that had more to do with a girl’s personality. I’m proud to say that they saw through our ruse and Lindsay’s paper stayed blank for the first 10 minutes or so of the discussion.

At that point, we refocused and emphasized that we were also looking for what they felt society says the perfect girl should be. They had no trouble filling up Lindsay’s page then. There’s no doubt that they’re flooded with conflicting messages.

The goal of the service project that we then completed was to make people in the community smile and to remind them that the voices around them and in their heads aren’t always true — they are good enough!

We handed out pieces of paper that had some basic information about Girl Guides and the Be You challenge as well as tear-off strips at the bottom. The girls wrote happy thoughts and sayings on the strips that people could read and take with them to brighten their days.

nov22_beyoucutoutsSome of their favourites were:

  • Love yourself as much as you love Girl Guide cookies!
  • Work hard. Be kind. That is all.
  • Be somebody who makes everyone feel like a somebody.
  • Do something wonderful. People may imitate it.
  • You can’t make everybody happy. You’re not a jar of Nutella.

We stuck the papers up inside bathroom stalls in a university building and have already heard stories of people finding and loving them! It was the perfect mix of program, Guiding PR and service!

Lizzie is a Guider with the 1st Milton Park Guiding Unit in Montreal. She has also been a Guider in Guelph and Sudbury, Ontario and is currently the Communications and PR Coordinator for Guides Québec. Some of her previous blog posts include Guiding the Way to STEM, The Hair Petition, The More We Get Together and What Jeans Are Good For.

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