Helping the Bees

Earlier this spring, the 2nd Cedar Park Guides in Quebec took an environmentally friendly action for the 3rd years to complete their Lady Baden-Powell Challenge and to help the bees. They also invited the 3rd Cedar Park Brownies to partake in their challenge and learn about Guides.

July20_Bees1

The meeting consisted of cleaning up garbage around the school yard where they meet, preparing the earth for a flower bed, planting the seeds for wild flowers and watering them. Some of the seeds were from “Bring Back the Bees” and we bought some more. Each Guide was accompanied by a Guide-in-Training (also known as Brownies). The experience was very educational for both groups, as the Guides learned leadership skills and the Brownies learned about the importance of bees for our world.

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In conclusion, both parties had fun, learned a lot and helped “save the bees” (who are endangered from pollution and loss of habitat!).

Guest post by the 3rd year Guides, 2nd Cedar Park unit, Pointe Claire District. Originally posted on the GuidesQuébecBlog

Do you love to write? We’re always on the lookout for great Guiding stories from our girl and adult members. Send your ideas to: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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Little Free Brownie Library

July13_FreeBrownieLibrary3The current National Service Project: Words in Action has been well-enjoyed by our unit! In its first year (2015), our unit held a book swap which resulted in a donation of 325 books to our city’s library. This year, we thought we’d do something a little bit different by building a Little Free (Children’s) Library.

Little Free Libraries are small cupboards stashed with books, housed on people’s lawns. They are free for people to visit, and they encourage people to take a book / leave a book. We thought this was a perfect fit for a literacy activity! To make the project more fun and more relatable for our Brownies, we went with a kid-focused theme.

We initially wanted to place our LFL in a city park, as we thought it would optimize the amount of traffic it could potentially receive. I contacted Guelph’s Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group (EPNG) to see if they had any tips on permits, and was met with a friendly suggestion that we not immerse ourselves in the wonderful world of city bylaws and permits, but that we instead plan to plant our LFL on the front lawn of one of the EPNG members. A few weeks later, we met up with our host and had a plan!

July13_FreeBrownieLibrary1Fast forward a few months, and we had the LFL built! The next step was to paint it. It took multiple coats of paint for the colour to come through strongly. We left the roof blank, and got each girl to leave her handprint on the library.

Our hosts were wonderful and built a reading platform into their tree. Each girl was asked to bring one or two books to donate and in the end, we filled our library with approximately 50 books, all for kids. We celebrated our library with bubbly juice then spent the rest of our evening playing at the park. We plan to return to our library once a year to restock the shelves of our LFL. We hope it will be a point of community for the neighbourhood, and well-used by kids of all ages!

July13_FreeBrownieLibrary2

By guest blogger Rachel Collins. Rachel is a Guider in Guelph, Ontario and Chair of the Canadian Guider Editorial Committee.

NSP 2016Don’t forget to log your actions for the current National Service Project: Words in Action! The more units that log their actions, the better we can track the impact girls and Guiders are having towards promoting literacy across Canada. There is also still time to participate in the NSP. Why not incorporate NSP initiatives into your summer activities?

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Opening the vaults: A camping we will go…

As girls are set to arrive at Guiding Mosaic 2016 (July 9 to July 17), our 13th national camp, we have combed through the archives and discovered some pictures from past national camps.

July6_1927camp
Our first national camp was held in 1927 in Victoria, B.C.  It had 316 attendees from eight provinces and Newfoundland (which was not a Canadian province at the time). Pictured here is Sarah Warren, our second Chief Commissioner, travelling in the scenic train car en route to camp. (APH 1843b photographer K. MacDougal)

 

 

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Our second national camp was held in Rothesay, New Brunswick with 250 attendees representing every province plus campers from Girl Scouts USA. (APH 1615)

 

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Pictured above is a march past the Connaught Ranges in Ottawa where the 1952 national camp was attended by 1,303 girls and women, including representatives from the USA, Bermuda, Dutch West Indies, Jamaica, and Great Britain. (APH 1625 photographer Donaldson)

July6-1967           

The National Heritage Camp in 1967, held on Morrison and Nairn Islands, St. Lawrence River, had 1,800+ attendees, coming from every province and territory, as well as guests from 11 countries. (APH 1164)

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Echo Valley ‘88 held in Echo Valley Provincial Park, Saskatchewan, welcomed 2,500 Canadians and 429 international guests from 41 countries. (APH 2735)

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Guiding Mosaic 2006 held at Guelph Lake having fun, no matter the weather.

No matter the location or how they have grown, our national camps have always provided opportunities for new experiences, making new friends and having fun.

Explore some of the previous posts in the Opening the Vaults series from our national archives: Creative camp gadgets 1920s and 1930s Campfires and Cookbooks;  The Maple Leaf Forever; Mountaineer, Explorer and Girl Guide Phyllis  Munday.

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Until September…

The Guiding year is coming to an end – insert sad face emoji here. For girls and Guiders alike, it’s a time to celebrate – the good times, the fun times, and all of their achievements together as a unit.

In today’s blog, we share the perspectives of a Guider and Pathfinder from the 3rd Halifax South Pathfinder Unit as they celebrated at their district’s advancement ceremony:

June30_KaylaBTonight was advancement night for my Pathfinders. One of my Pathfinders wrote a speech about Guiding. How much she loves it, wish she had joined sooner (this was her first year) and thanked both my co-Guider and me plus the third-years for making this year so special.

Another Pathfinder wrote a song and music to it on a ukulele. She taught it to everyone and the unit performed it tonight.

We awarded another Pathfinder a special award for completing all 66 interest badges.

And all of the third years earned their Canada Cord.

I’m not going to lie – in September this unit had a challenging start. It has tripled in size to 20 girls, 13 of them first-years. But with patience and time this unit has truly come so far and has done so many great things.

These girls – the whole unit – has truly blown me away this year with their leadership, dedication, creativity and so much more.

Needless to say, there were some tears tonight. And a lot of girls already wishing for September.

– Unit Guider Kayla Bernard


June30_MadeleineI’m new to the whole Guiding thing. This year has been a great experience for everyone. We’ve accomplished multiple things as a unit, which make me regret not joining earlier.

As a new Pathfinder I’ve learned many things. I’ve learned that we don’t just sell cookies, we do more. We help make a difference in the world. As an example: we helped girls in Africa and we’ve done lots of community services. It’s all thanks to our Guiders Kayla and Margaret.

It’s amazing to think that they do all that for Girl Guides of Canada and especially for our unit. They set such a good example for everyone. I’m looking forward to coming back next year. I’d like to congratulate Leah, Anna, Maddie and Gillian for advancing to Rangers with their Canada Cord. I’d like to also thank them for planning all the activities they did for the first- and second-year Pathfinders. They made all of the first-years feel so welcome as soon as we became Pathfinders. Thanks for being such a great unit!

            -Pathfinder Madeleine  

Kayla Bernard is a Guider with the multi-branch 3rd Halifax Pathfinders, as well as the Nova Scotia Arts Adviser and a Link member. She is currently studying Psychology at Mount Saint Vincent University, is a tutor for grade nine students and a member of a community choir. See her previous posts: What does it mean to be an Arts Adviser? and  Life of a twenty-something Guider.

 Madeleine McOnie is a Pathfinder from 3rd Halifax South Pathfinders. She participates in dance and swim competitions and enjoys life with her family and friends.

 

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2,000 pictures

June28_2000PicturesWhipCream2
I have a thing about taking pictures. A lot of pictures. It started the first year I joined our unit, the 12th Ottawa Guiding group. First, I used photos to make personalized enrollment certificates. And then, collages of the photos made really nice thank you cards. By the end of that year, I had so many great photos I just HAD to do a retrospective slideshow. Why keep them all to myself, and what better way to celebrate our year and the girls? Well, that year, it was pretty easy. We had about 25 members in three branches. Six years later, we are 80 youth and 20 leaders in all branches, and even though it’s not so easy, I am still doing the slideshow.

June28_2000PicturesGirlsThis year, I trolled through over 2,000 pictures. I’ve learned to sort and label them as they come in. And I’m diligent about image releases – we check before showing photos at our internal events and make sure that any member who is a “no” is not in an image that leaves our unit.

Quite aside from the technical and organization tricks I’ve picked up along the way, seeing that many photos of our members has taught me so much:

  1. June28_2000PicturesSnackWhen the girls take the pictures, they get the most candid (and goofy, so the best!) pictures. They are at their most natural with each other.
  2. Tracking who is in the photos, and who they are posing with has given us clues about who is being left out and how friendships are changing.
  3. Using the cameras and sorting photos has been an awesome way for me to get to know all the members in our big group by name.
  4. June28_2000PicturesSparksThere are definitely patterns in what the different branches like to do, and what we take photos of. Food. Dressing up. Being outside. Animals. Getting messy. Year over year, from Sparks to Rangers, these things seem to show the most delight in the girls’ and Guiders’ faces.
  5. I am mushy and nostalgic.Being a multi branch unit, I have the photo evidence of kids changing from small, shy seven-year olds, to bold, capable young women – it’s pretty amazing. I see the baby-tooth smiles, the missing tooth smiles and the braces-filled smiles.

 I feel like the sum total of those smiles and things we catch in the photos really is a window into the spirit of Guiding and the spirits of the girls. Maybe that’s why I will probably keep taking those pictures and making that slideshow – whether it’s 200 or 2,000 pictures.

 

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? 

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Proud of ‘My Girls’

June23_ProudMyGirlsLadyBP
This past weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of watching ‘my girls’ receive their Lady Baden-Powell awards. Were you there? Did you see that person hiding in the back with a box of Kleenex? That was me. Yup, I cried.

This year, the crying started the night before, as I was looking through eight years of Guiding photos for pictures of the Guides as Sparks and Brownies to share during the awards ceremony. (While my goal is not specifically to make the parents cry, too, it’s nice to have some company.) The pictures, of course, led to a trip down memory lane – baking a thousand cookies for seniors, countless campfires, cookie sales in April snowstorms, camping out at Citadel Hill, sleeping in a tent during a thunderstorm – all the funny and amazing moments that became their Guiding experience. Moments we shared, that became our Guiding experience. These memories get all wound up into that one little award pin.

June23_ProudAshlynFor many of these Guides, it’s their first time getting an award and being recognized like this. Nova Scotia does a Youth Recognition event for Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers, in an auditorium with a photographer, flowers, a formal program, biographies being read, scholarships given out  –  whole bit. It’s a big deal.

Credit: Girl Guides Nova Scotia

Credit: Girl Guides Nova Scotia

Our Provincial Commissioner takes a moment when giving the award to talk to each girl. She tells them she is proud of their hard work and dedication. They feel so special! And then I cry some more.

June23_ProudOneGirlTo help them earn their award, our district holds a Lady Baden-Powell Camp for third-year Guides. Going to camp with only the older Guides makes them feel very grown-up and they love seeing their friends from other units. At camp, the Guides make a lapbook to learn about the life of Lady Baden-Powell, and a “story box” – a set of props to tell the story of Guiding. They also complete a service project by making something for our Spark and Brownie units (our biggest hit was sets of bean bags and a booklet of games and activities). After camp, the Guides visit the Spark and Brownie units to run a meeting, where they play games and tell them the story of Guiding. These moments of growth and leadership show their potential, and make me so proud.

June23_ProudTwoGirlsOur district has created a certificate, which is signed by the girls in each Guide unit and presented at District Advancement. I also talk about the many things the Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers have done to earn their awards, and the beaming smiles on their faces tell me how much those words mean.

I know they go on and earn more awards, bigger awards… but it’s the Lady Baden-Powell that gets to me. I think it’s because they start Guides as girls, but they walk across that stage as young women. I guess, in the end, it’s about the journey. Not just where they have been, but also where they are going. Will this be the end of their Guiding journey? If it is, I hope we made enough memories so that Guides will have a special place in their hearts and, someday, they will be the mom signing up their little Spark. Or maybe today’s Guides will become tomorrow’s Pathfinders and Rangers, and they will go on to change their communities, change a life, or even change the world.

The rest of their journey is brimming with possibilities, and I can’t wait to see where Guiding takes them.

I’ll be watching, Kleenex in hand.

Guest post by Alana Coneen. Alana is a Pathfinder Guider and District Co-Commissioner in Bedford, Nova Scotia, who would like us to be sure to mention that she is also very proud of her Pathfinders.

 

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Opening the Vaults: Timeless summer fun

Exploring the outdoors through activities such as hiking, camping and rock climbing can have an extraordinary impact on a girl’s life. With the approach of summer, we’re showcasing some of the outdoor activity photos from our national archives. Although the uniforms and photographic methods have changed, many of these activities could have taken place yesterday or 100 years ago. The timelessness of these images and the experiences they depict are truly striking.

Canoeing, 1939. Photograph courtesy of Miss Harvey.

Canoeing, 1939. Photograph courtesy of Miss Harvey.

 

Hiking at Emily Park Guide Camp, 2012. Photographer Lisa Miles.

Hiking at Emily Park Guide Camp, 2012. Photographer Lisa Miles.

 

Spark hanging out down by the dock, Morin-Heights, 2008. Photographer Andrea Dubec.

Spark hanging out down by the dock, Morin-Heights, 2008. Photographer Andrea Dubec.

 

Lightweight camping, Manitoba, 1972 (APH 0537).

Lightweight camping, Manitoba, 1972 (APH 0537).

 

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Rafting the canoes at Camp Sizzle and Splash, Harvey Station, New Brunswick, 2010.  Photographer Inez Paul.

 

Outdoor Cooking at Kelso Beach, Owen Sound, 2010. Photographer Melody Vachon.

Outdoor Cooking at Kelso Beach, Owen Sound, 2010. Photographer Melody Vachon.

 

Sitting around the campfire, from Early Canadian Guiding Album, pre-1940

Sitting around the campfire, from Early Canadian Guiding Album, pre-1940.

Explore some of the previous posts in the Opening the Vaults series from our national archives: Creative camp gadgets 1920s and 1930s Campfires and Cookbooks;  The Maple Leaf Forever; Mountaineer, Explorer and Girl Guide Phyllis  Munday.

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The best seat at the campfire

Sit-upons, bum buckets or camp chairs: The great debate

June16_BestSeatatCampfire
One of the central parts of a camping trip is the campfire. It’s where we cook and eat, where we bond and strengthen our sisterhood, and where we sing and create memories that can last a lifetime.

But sometimes, the worst thing about a campfire can be an uncomfortable or ill-suited seat! There are so many options for you to choose from, and for new (and sometimes old!) Guiders, it can be hard to choose which to put on the kit list. Sit-upons, bum buckets and camp chairs are the most common seating around a campfire. But which one should you choose?

The first step in deciding is to know your campsite and to know your girls. If your campsite comes with benches, you may decide that you don’t need to bring seating of any kind. If this is the case, sit-upons are a great option. They can be packed up small, and they can be added to the bench for cushioning and insulation against the cold. They are also a great backup in case your benches aren’t where they are supposed to be!

Sit-upons are easy to make for Sparks and Brownies and can be a wonderful accessory for cold meeting halls, hiking trips or camping. (For the uninitiated, they’re a homemade insulated and waterproof pad – often made from duct tape and newspaper – that keep you from getting cold and damp while ‘sitting upon’ the cold ground.) The downside of sit-upons is that for older/taller girls, it really only provides protection for your bottom and not your legs.

If your campsite doesn’t have benches, the next option is a bum bucket. Contrary to some first impressions, this is not for going to the bathroom, but rather a bucket for you to sit on. Bum buckets are great – they can be used to store rain gear, sunscreen, extra shoes, etc. Years ago I knew many Pathfinders who had bum buckets made from old drywall buckets. They were bulky, but the perfect size for teenagers.

In our Guiding community, girls make bum buckets in Brownies. They use gallon ice cream containers a local business saves for us during the summer and donates. Guiders drill a hole in either side and the girls attach a bungee cord as a handle. They then decorate and personalize their bucket. These buckets last well into Guides.

The last option for sitting is camp chairs. As a girl I remember a ban on chairs for girls – we had sit-upons or benches at the campsite. I think our Guiders made the rule for two reasons: 1) because at the time camp chairs were an expensive investment and it brought visible attention to differences in income and 2) girls or parents would bring lawn chairs which were bulky and added too much weight to girls’ gear. Now, camp chairs are lighter and  more affordable.

We allow our Guides to bring either camp chairs or bum buckets. Our girls generally do around a 10-minute walk into camp – they are allowed one bag, one bedroll and a bum bucket. For many, they prefer a bum bucket to a chair because it allows them to fit more in their bag!

Sit-upon, bum bucket, or camp chair, there is no wrong choice! Whichever you choose, factor in your campsite/activity, the age of the girls and their experience, and include them in the choice! Most importantly, have fun, and don’t forget the marshmallows!

Guest post by Jane Taft, a Unit Guider with Sparks and Guides and Community Guider in Southern Ontario who is addicted to camping and collecting crests.

Have you come up with a great camping solution? Share your story! Email us: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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Behind the scenes: Girl Greatness Awards

Three  cheers for our new 2016 Girl Greatness Award recipients! These members reflect what girls in Guiding can achieve, no matter what their goals or what challenges they face. Find out what it’s like to be a part of this awards program from one of our volunteers.  Being part of the awards’ selection committee gives a unique look at just how widespread Girl Greatness really is.

Girl Greatness Award Pin

Girl Greatness Award Pin

Confidence. Resourcefulness. Courage. Making a difference. Reviewing applications for the Girl Greatness Awards reminds me that, every day, girls in Guiding are doing things that fit into these categories.

For the past two years, as a member of the Girl Greatness Awards selection committee, I’ve had the privilege of learning about how girls are overcoming challenges, accomplishing their goals and contributing to their communities. Girls and Guiders on the selection committee read through a set of applications nominating girls from one branch. I’ve read about learning a new language, welcoming new Brownies to a unit and courage in the face of health challenges. I’ve learned about girls who organize service opportunities on issues that matter to them, and who take action to ensure that we have more inclusive communities and healthier ecosystems.

Reading through these applications reminds me of how Guiding helps girl members grow up to be more confident, courageous and resourceful, with the drive to make a difference. Being part of the selection committee gives me a small taste of the great things that girls across Canada are doing and of the positive impact that Guiding has.

Participating in the Girl Greatness Awards selection committee is a unique volunteering opportunity within Guiding. It is a wonderful chance to connect with Guiding at the national level and a flexible way to get more involved, whether you’re a Unit Guider or not.

The Girl Greatness Awards encourage girls to recognize their peers and help us celebrate the accomplishment of our girl members. As a member of the selection committee, these awards help me learn about the amazing things girls in every branch are doing across Canada.

June14_MelissaMoorGuest post by Melissa Moor. Melissa is a law student at McGill University in Montreal and a member of the Canadian Guider editorial committee.

Had a unique volunteering experience in Guiding? Share your story! Email us: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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A Sparks outing to Fire Hall #6

This week, girls from the 1st Burnaby Mountain Sparks had a very exciting visit to Burnaby Fire Hall No. 6 — a little bit more exciting than they had hoped! Every time Guiders book this outing they are warned that it is an active on-duty fire hall and should there be an emergency the firefighters will need to respond. This time, that actually happened!

Firehall (2 of 5)
The girls had barely arrived when the first truck had to leave. It was exciting watching some of the firefighters quickly gather their things and take out the truck. The siren was really loud, too. Once that truck left, the remaining firefighters started a talk about fire safety and the importance of calling 911… but only in a real emergency!

 

Firehall (1 of 5)

A few minutes later the buzzer sounded and the remaining firefighters had to take the second truck and respond. The Sparks and their Guiders were left alone on the grass outside the station. After talking for a bit longer about fire safety, the group decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather to play some duck-duck-goose in the grass.

Firehall (5 of 5)

Luckily, before too long, one of the fire trucks came back. The firefighters had responded to a medical emergency, but the ambulance had arrived allowing the firetruck to go back to the station. The firefighters told the girls a little bit more about fire safety and they practiced “stop, drop, and roll.”

There was just enough time left for each girl to take a turn using the fire hose. The firefighters set up a cone to use as a target and each Spark got the chance to spray it with water. It was lots of fun using the equipment.

Firehall (4 of 5)   Firehall (3 of 5)

Finally, everyone got to have a popsicle, which was a great treat on such a hot day. Thank you to the firefighters of hall #6! The girls learned a lot and it was great to see the first responders in action. They do amazing life-saving work and it was a treat to get a taste of what it’s like to be a firefighter.

Guest post by Bethany Koepke. Bethany is a proud Guider of the 1st Burnaby Mountain Sparks as well as District Commissioner of Burnaby Mountain District. Thank you to Burnaby Mountain District in B.C. for sharing this post from their blog – check them out!

Does your unit do a unique spring activity? Share your story with us! Email: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.

 

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Going green and going global with Guiding

June8_CaitlinGreenGlobalThis past March, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Helen Storrow Seminar (HSS) at Our Chalet in Switzerland. HSS is a WAGGGS leadership development event that focuses on the environment. It’s all about young women leading for a greener future. I met 22 passionate and inspiring individuals from different Member Organizations around the world who reminded me why I love Guiding.

As a Link member attending university, I sometimes feel disconnected from the Guiding community. Attending HSS and seeing how young women who share a passion for the environment and Guiding can come together and develop close bonds by learning from, teaching and challenging each other, made me proud to call myself a Girl Guide.

June8_CaitlinZiplineGlobalGreenWhether learning about environmental issues facing each other’s countries and how climate change affects us all, sharing games we play in Guiding back home, or singing a campfire song in six different languages during Earth Hour, they reminded me just how powerful and meaningful Guiding is. One day as part of the seminar we went to the adventure park and were zip-lining and abseiling (rappelling) in the Swiss mountains. It was terrifying but I never once hesitated because I had my fellow Guides cheering me on. Attending the seminar and learning about leadership and advocacy made me challenge myself and realize that I shouldn’t hold myself back, that each small action collectively has a big impact, and that I am capable of so much more because of the support I have in this incredible global sisterhood.

June8_CaitlinGroupGreenGlobal
So whether it’s applying for a GGC trip or scholarship, or taking action on an issue in your community, my advice to you is simple – go for it! I am coming home from HSS with new skills, excitement, and a plan to take on an environmental project of my own: tackling water pollution and addressing how important the environment is to our health. If you want to make a difference, pick a cause you are passionate about and then connect with others to motivate and empower them. Together we can take action for a better world and make a difference in our communities.

Guest post by Caitlin Aldridge, a Link member studying biology and psychology at McMaster University. From Newmarket, Ontario, she has grown up in Guiding, from a Spark all the way to a Sparks Unit Guider. Caitlin is passionate about health and the environment and can’t wait to share that passion with other members!

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Reflecting on positivity

June2_PositivityMirrorsOur unit is just starting the Key to Me, and being the end of the year I really wanted to find something special for our girls to do. I knew it was recently Mental Health Week in Canada, and there were many related Instant Meeting activities we could incorporate into our meeting. I also remembered an idea I had had as a Spark Guider – positivity mirrors, where the girls take a simple mirror and decorate it with positive sayings.

So the night of our meeting arrived, and as the girls entered they were given a sheet with their name on it and told to come up with one positive word for each letter in their name. The girls definitely got creative – as they discovered, Y and X were not easy letters!

After our Brownie opening, I introduced the topic of self-esteem to the girls by asking them if they knew what it was. Most weren’t really sure as I don’t think the term had been mentioned before, but they seemed to have an idea of what it was. We talked about ways to improve your self-esteem and I then introduced the positivity mirrors. I had made a sample mirror beforehand (to work out some of the kinks and make sure everything worked), and I could tell the girls could not wait to get started.

June2_PositivityMirrors2The first step was to paint the canvases and right from the start the girls’ creativity and individuality shone through. I had assumed the girls would just choose one colour for their canvas, but most went with a rainbow of colours and patterns with some abstract painting thrown in as well.

After painting the canvases (and one set of purple footprints across the gym floor!), the girls set about to find the words and phrases that best described them and use them to decorate their paintings. With 16 Brownies meeting in a school gym, it can get pretty loud, so to hear almost complete silence during the activity was something really moving. You could tell the girls were really proud of their work and couldn’t wait to show off their work to their parents.

It was a fun activity that I will definitely do again, and I hope that the girls will use these mirrors if ever they need a little pick-me-up.

Guest post by Laura Litvack. Laura is a Guider with the 2nd Northwood Brownies in Pierrefonds, Quebec, and District Commissioner for Northshore District.

Coming soon! Our Be You Challenge (launches October) is designed to help girls become more self-confident while building their self-esteem.  And our new Mighty Minds Challenge (launches January 2017) focuses on the importance of building positive mental health in girls.

 

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Avoiding checking out too soon

If you’re like me, you may have noticed the girls in your unit have had a little more trouble sitting still lately. Maybe they’re just a little more chatty than normal. You may have even had to remind yourself to focus in meetings, or go that extra mile to plan something awesome for your next get-together. It’s quite possible you’re all just experiencing spring fever.

Yes, the weather is warmer, the flowers are out and the Guiding year is almost over. While you’re a dedicated Guider, you’re also only human and you’ve probably started to fantasize about your summer plans. I’ve found that in the last two months of the Guiding year I sometimes have to remind myself to get those extra craft supplies, to plan every detail of the meeting, to keep the finances organized. I will admit that a small part of me starts to ‘check out,’ to start thinking about next year and forget to be fully present in the last few meetings.

May31_CheckOutSTEM

Guest ‘Broadway’ Allye teaches the 115th Toronto Bilingual Brownie Unit about her job in coding and how to build websites.

I think this can be a totally normal reaction to the end of the year, but I suggest you use the momentum of the year to really make those last few meetings extraordinary. To help you with this, I’ve made a little list of ideas. I’d like to encourage all Guiders to add to this list through Facebook comments and blog comments. I love reading all the great ideas I find from other Guiders on the internet.

  • Get together with your co-Guiders if you can! Plan those last few meetings, decide what your goals are for the end of the year. How can you make each girl feel empowered when they leave that last meeting? How can you keep them excited for next year?
  • Invite someone in! It’s not too late to invite a guest for a meeting. Is there a parent with a cool job who could come in for a Q and A? Have you had a police officer or firefighter or other strong female role model come in for a chat? What about an MP or other leader in your community?
  • Do a meeting outside! Use that beautiful fresh air, get some sidewalk chalk, learn a new game. Go for a walk in your neighbourhood with a list of animals you could find. The days are longer which means you might be able to do a whole meeting in daylight now.
  • Do one last badge as a group. Find a badge you could complete together as a unit, such as a cycling badge or one that has the girls do just a little bit of research into the past.
  • Visit a local museum or community centre and learn about the resources in your area. Last fall I took my unit to a farmer’s market that meets in the area and we learned about sustainability. All the vendors were super nice and gave the girls samples.
  • Do a girls’ meeting where they plan the agenda. Have your unit sit down for some team building and decide what they want to do for a whole meeting. I did this with Sparks and we had a PJ party.
  • Get together with another unit. This can be great if you have girls moving to the next branch so they can see what’s in store for them next year. It may make the difference in a girl coming back in the fall, you never know.

Lastly, give yourself a pat on the back! You made it through an awesome year, changed the lives of the girls you lead and made an impact. I like to try and organize a dinner for my fellow Guiders after the year is done to say thank you and congratulate ourselves. Way to go ladies and have an awesome summer!

Guest post by Guider Chelsea Kennedy. Chelsea is in her fourth year as a Guider, currently in Toronto, and has a seriously nerdy passion for history and knitting. Check out her previous blog post, Our bilingual unit adventure.

Do you have a unique way to wrap-up your Guiding year? Share your story: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

 

 

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In Guiding, I know my daughter is accepted

May26_AcceptedEllaMost of the time, being a mother to Ella, who is six and has down syndrome, is just like being a mother to my son or younger daughter. That being said, every child is different. Every child progresses at their own pace and in their own time. Some children are better at music while others are more physically inclined.

When we lived in Vancouver, we enrolled Ella in soccer. She LOVED it but I knew that it wouldn’t be long before the gap between her peers and her would become too big for the soccer field and, even at five years old, there were instances of bullying from the other girls. I’m not saying that all physical activity is like this but for a child with a gross motor delay it makes it especially hard to find appropriate activities or groups. Ella is also in ballet and she continues to dance at a studio with peers her own age, where she is loved and accepted just like any other ballerina.

When we moved to Edmonton, however, I wasn’t sure if Ella would get into the dance studio I had in mind, as it filled up very quickly and she was placed on a waitlist. That being said, I wanted to make sure that she had at least one commitment outside of school at which she could make friends and grow her social skills. I also wanted an activity where the cognitive and gross motor spread would not be so glaring.

One of Ella’s classmates in Vancouver had been in Girl Guides so I asked her mom about it. The mother said that she loved it and it was a very positive experience for her daughter. I myself had never been in Girl Guides but loved the fact that the Mission of Girl Guides is “to enable girls to be confident, resourceful and courageous, and to make a difference in the world.” What more could one want for their daughter?

4th Edmonton Sparks Unit

4th Edmonton Sparks Unit

As with anything, I was nervous about how and if they would accept Ella. I emailed the Guider to ask about Ella’s involvement. She didn’t seem worried about it at all and it didn’t take Ella very long at all to see what a special place Girl Guides is. The Guiders are committed to making each girl feel welcomed and important while having a great time and lots of fun. The other girls were also accepting of Ella – some more than others, as more often than not it is a learning process for all involved. That being said, there is nothing that Ella cannot be involved in – she is 100% a part of the unit – no exceptions.

It’s hard to believe that the year is almost over. This week, we will attend Ella’s advancement ceremony where she will bid farewell to Sparks and be welcomed next year as a Brownie. I am so thankful for Girl Guides of Canada for being inclusive and helping Ella grow not only her confidence but also her sense of belonging. The decision to re-enroll her for next year wasn’t a difficult one because as a parent of a child with special needs, you don’t take these things for granted and we are looking forward to  many more years of Guiding to come.

Guest post by Krista Ewert, whose daughter Ella is in  the 4th Edmonton Sparks Unit. Krista is a graphic designer, blogger (www.kristaewert.com) and Girl Guide mom in Edmonton.  

Online registration is currently open for all returning girl members. Don’t miss your  window to secure your spot in Guiding for next year. Registration opens to new members on Monday, May 30 in Ontario and on Wednesday, June 1 in all other provinces.   

Check out Guiding’s inclusivity resources.

 

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Now my family understands why I’m a Guider

It’s almost the May long weekend – which means you might be camping in shorts and T-shirts, wearing flannel and a toque, or a combination of both on the same day. In this blog re-post, Guider Jodi shares how her Girl Guide skills saved the day on a rainy family camping trip. 


There we were…pouring rain, middle of May chill in the air (not quite spring, not quite winter), camping 100 km from anything –  running water, power and even cell phone service. What was I going to do with 14 cold and wet souls? Our fire area was covered and it was the gathering area for everyone, as it is in most camps, and we were all sitting there; cold, grumbling, and bored.

Inspiration hit.

I know you’re picturing 14 souls with trefoils on their T-shirts, but think again. This was a family camping trip in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta with a handful of cowboys (and cowgirls!) who were so disappointed not to be heading out on our planned trail ride.

I leaned over to my son, and whispered into his little ear “Poppa has a big cowboy hat, pass it on.” He looked at me like I was from Mars, and I nodded at his aunt sitting beside him, and his eyes lit up! He leaned over and whispered to his aunt…and our very first family telephone game had begun!

From protecting your feet on hikes and becoming a campfire pro to doing 'badge work', Guiding skills always come in handy!

From protecting your feet on hikes and becoming a campfire pro to doing ‘badge work’, Guiding skills always come in handy!

Unbeknownst to them, that cowboy family of mine, ages 2-66, essentially spent the day enjoying a ‘Girl Guide’ campfire, singing “Who Stole the Cookie” and playing “I Packed My Bag and In It I Put…” We also managed to coax Poppa to do some camping badge work with our Brownie…but he had to put the blowtorch away and teach her how to light a fire “old school,” that wise old Poppa Owl.

Doing what I do with girls…

On that rainy afternoon the light bulb finally went off in my husband’s head: “THIS is why she does what she does!” and I might have even heard “That was awesome” at some point from more than one brother Brownie or Spark spouse.

We had FUN! We had a perfectly wonderful rainy camp day, Girl Guides style.

By guest blogger Jodi Paulgaard, cowgirl extraordinaire, Guider with 3rd Airdrie Guides, PR contact and Co-Deputy Commissioner for Goldenfields District in Alberta. Check out her previous blog post, Sparks can Snowshoe!

 

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A Very Royal Correspondence

Spark Pax Lodge Sleep overEarlier this spring, Sparks in Regina packed their sleeping bags for a night at Regina’s Guide building. But this wasn’t just any sleepover – it was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Pax Lodge, one of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ World Centres.

The sleepover was a fun way for girls to learn how, as Girl Guides, they’re part of a unique network of girls and women that spans the world. The night included a tea party, complete with cucumber sandwiches and English trifle.

Envelope from Bukingham Palace1As a craft, the Sparks made birthday cards for Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, which Guiders mailed to the Queen. Imagine their surprise when the Queen cordially responded with a thank-you card:

 

 

royal collage

Guest post by Alice Gaveronski, a Spark Guider and Public Relations Adviser with Saskatchewan Council.

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Guides learn the nuts and bolts of auto mechanics

May12_tireUniformThis year, our programming has been focused on trying new things. Our unit brainstormed ideas of things that girls should know how to do but might not traditionally learn. Most of the girls had participated in a tool or building night in Sparks and Brownies, so that led us to the idea of car maintenance. Lucky for us, the automotive team at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) embraced our idea and developed an amazing hands-on evening. This dad-and-daughter programming night ended up as one of our favourite field trips of the year.

Girls and their Dads were split up into four groups and rotated through stations.  They learned how to change a tire, explored a working motor, learned about oil changes while working under the hood, and saw the underbelly of a car up on a hoist. They also worked as teams, racing to see who could loosen the bolts on a tire, take off the tire and then get it back on – we had some very competitive teams! When power tools and timers are involved, you see another side of Dad and daughter duos! It’s hard to know who had more fun on this night.

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A couple of weeks after the event, we received an email from a Mom advising us that her daughter and husband were out in the garage changing her winter tires. She thanked us for providing this experience for her daughter – and saving her money! For us, this programming is a fantastic example of Girl Greatness.

Guest post by Kathy House. A former girl member, Kathy has enjoyed being a Unit Guider in Sparks, Brownies and Guides with her daughters. She is also the District Commissioner of Emily Murphy District. It is her honour to give back to the organization that taught her so much as a child.

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What has Guiding taught me? Where do I begin!?

May10_LindsayRangerA few weeks ago, I was at a community breakfast for volunteers when a woman across the table spoke of how her organization had recently partnered with a local youth organization. I immediately mentioned my involvement in Girl Guiding and how I would love to pass on her organization’s information to local Guiding groups. This triggered other women at the table to talk about their years in Brownies as a girl or similar stories. One of the men at the table decided to say that Guiding is an organization that tries to keep women and girls in the home. This false statement made me think of all the experiences in my life I have had because of Guiding.

Guiding has taught me how to clean but not in the conventional way people expect – Guiding has taught me how to keep the environment clean and how to decrease my global footprint while camping. But Guiding has never taught me that my only purpose in life is to clean. I have learned so much through Guiding – how to organize events, work with groups of people and how to plan my future.

Guiding has also taught me how to cook. I have learned different cooking styles from a variety of cultures. I have learned how to cook a four-course meal over a campfire. I have learned how to plan healthy meals that meet the standards of the Canadian Food Guide. I have learned all of this because of my experience in Girl Guides.

Guiding has empowered girls for over 100 years by teaching us that we are more than any stereotype about girls and women. Guiding offers science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming that challenges girls to explore careers that are not typically pursued by women. Guiding has allowed me to connect with other young women through a girl-centered program that allows young women to succeed in a safe and welcoming space.

I thank the women behind the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), Girl Guides of Canada, Guiders and fellow girl members for allowing girls the opportunity to become the kinds of leaders that will make their mark. I hope that future generations of girls are able to have the experiences that I have had in Guiding.

Guest post by Lindsay, a second-year Ranger with the 1st Ridgevale Rangers, in Ancaster, Ontario. She is an avid camper and has traveled internationally with her unit.

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Girl Guide night in Qatar

It was important to me to enrol my daughter in Brownies to help her learn about all of the great things girls can do. I was pleased to see that participating in Brownies was one of my daughter’s favourite activities. Every week she would put on her uniform, excited to learn and play with her Brownie friends. When I picked her up she would excitedly tell me all about the new things she had learned.

This past fall, when my career brought our family to Doha, Qatar, I knew that I needed to find a Brownie unit and enroll her to help her adjust and to develop a sense of community. Unfortunately, it became clear that she would have to enroll in the British or American Brownies program. While I know they have great programs, I felt like she needed to keep in touch with what makes her Canadian; this was especially true now that we were living in the Middle East. I spoke with other mothers of Canadian girls in our community and we all agreed that it would be ideal if we could organize a Canadian Guiding unit.

May3_DohaShelter

1st Doha Girl Guides of Canada Unit visit a local animal shelter in Doha, Qatar.

I took the lead in working with Girl Guides of Canada in setting up the unit to ensure that there was one primary contact person. With a seven hour time difference and different working days, the messages could quickly get lost. The process of starting a unit, especially for a new Guider, could have been very confusing and daunting. For example, I had to register each girl (and Guider) as a member by emailing our key contact at national office. Thankfully she is a master at what she does and walked me through each step of the process. After a lot of coaching and guidance, and a few hiccups along the way, we officially became the 1st Doha Girl Guides of Canada Unit. Our enrollment consists of one Spark, four Brownies, and six Guides. We are about to enroll our third Guider and hope to increase enrollment next year.

May3_DohaGroupThe best part of setting up this unit was that the girls developed our whole program themselves with guidance from the volunteers. They decided that we would have multi-level unit meetings instead of separate ones, how we would begin and end our meetings, and what badges and activities they wanted to complete over their first year. They were sure to include a snack responsibility rotation, and quickly decided on their patrol leader, circle leader and circle second.

The Guides chose to be “Poppies” in honor of our soldiers and veterans, and the Brownies all became “Kelpies” so that no one had to feel different or left out. From their first democratic election of leaders to the inclusion of “O Canada” at each meeting and having an activity with the local animal shelter, the Girl Guides in Doha are learning and teaching each other about true Canadian values.

While it isn’t easy logistically, the smiles and sense of accomplishment that are evident on the faces of the girls each week make me proud to be their Unit Guider. I am thankful that each week I get to witness Girl Greatness first hand.

Guest post by Daphne Kennedy. Daphne Kennedy is a nurse educator living in Doha, Qatar, teaching maternal-newborn nursing at the University of Calgary in Qatar. She has lived on both coasts of Canada, and is proud to call New Brunswick her home. She has fond memories of being a Girl Guide in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, and enjoys creating and learning with (and from) the Canadian girls in Qatar.

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Words in Action: It’s more than just collecting book donations

When we started off the 2015-2016 Guiding year, we asked our Guides what they thought Guiding was about and what they wanted to focus on this year. To our surprise, the number one answer (tied with camping) was community service.

NSP 2016As a “literary agent” (a resource Guider who helps units participating in our National Service Project: Words in Action), I was excited to help the girls create a literacy-based event, and I knew I could count on them to be ready and willing for any service needed.

I contacted a local group who runs the women’s shelters in our region. It turns out they are always looking for book donations, so we got organized to start collecting!

April28_NSPLiteracySign
We also decided to create literacy packs to donate to a local back-to-school program. With the help of a couple of our Brownies, the Guides created nine literacy backpacks full of school supplies, and another 15 pencil cases which were fully loaded for the school year.

April28_NSPBooksCollectedAs successful as our literacy packs were, it was our book drive that had not only the biggest impact on our community, but on our girls as well. Our community is fairly large, and it is difficult to have events where all the girls can participate. To bridge the gap, Melody, another literary agent, collected books from other cities to bring to our book drive, collecting 229 books in the weeks ahead of the event.

Throughout the day, we had Sparks, Brownies, and Guides all bring in books and participate in some activities about literacy. They learned that literacy extends beyond reading words and into numbers, and of the challenges that some First Nations communities face with literacy.

The biggest part of the day was the workshop hosted by the women’s shelter. The girls learned about healthy and unhealthy relationships and earned their Say No To Violence Challenge crest.

While collecting book donations, the girls would count a box of books and add the number to a large list on the wall. They occasionally would stop and do a quick tally in their heads but they weren’t focused on how many books they had – they were focused on how amazing it was that people were donating books and the size of the individual donations.

After a write-up in the local paper, we had several non-Guiding members of the community bring books by, like a local teacher who donated more than 100 children’s books that their library was clearing out.

At the end of the day, the girls couldn’t believe it when we had collected 1,449 books. They were proud of what they had accomplished, and of the community for supporting them. Even though the numbers may  have been impressive, it wasn’t the numbers that the girls took away from the day – it was the sense of community and knowing that they’d helped to make a difference.

Guest post by Jane Taft, a Unit Guider with Sparks and Guides and Community Guider in Southern Ontario who is addicted to camping and collecting crests.

Words in Action has reached 50,000+ books donated and 10,000+ participating! It’s not too late to log your actions. If you’ve participated in the NSP over the past two years, you can still visit our website and showcase your impact.

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Rangers Take On Taxes

April26_RangersTAxesI’ve been working with teenage girls for over 20 years, the last four years with Rangers. In all that time, I thought I’d done it all, so I was not at all prepared when this year’s Ranger group started planning their year and asked me for a crash course in ‘Adulting 101.’ That alone wasn’t shocking, but when I asked for examples of what they wanted to learn in such a meeting, I was taken aback (and silently very proud of my girls). They listed everything from changing a tire on a car to how to find a doctor when you move out and find yourself in a new town. In fact their list was so long, we had to break up the items over multiple meetings throughout the year.

What I found most interesting was the top item on every girl’s list: how to do my taxes. This led to a discussion of what income taxes were and why they were important, and ended with us adding “tax night” to the schedule for March. Thankfully taxes aren’t something I’ve ever had difficulty with, so last week I picked up a pile of blank tax forms from the post office, printed a fake T4 off the internet, and calculated it ahead of time. I’m glad I did, since it’s been years since I’ve done it the old-fashioned way!

Just before the meeting I found a package of fun erasers at a dollar store, and I used those as incentives. As we worked through the mock tax return, I challenged the girls to find things (such as box 14 on the T4 or the answer to a particular calculation). The first to answer correctly got to pick an eraser. It may have been a simple prize, but it made it more fun.

They had lots of questions as we went along, and we actually ran out of time. I had to give them the numbers to fill in the final steps, just so that they could see the refund our fake girl was getting. It was amazing to watch as their eyes suddenly went huge when they “got it” at the end, and clearly understood why the refund was what it was.

Sure, computers can do it all now, and I know that none of these girls are likely to ever file paper forms (lucky them), but there’s something to be said for working through the process at least once, and seeing how the computer spits out the final numbers. It may not have been the most traditional ‘fun’ night we’ve ever had, but there was something very rewarding about it. I’m glad they asked!

Guest post by Clare Douglas. Clare is a Guider with Pathfinder and Ranger units in Guelph, Ontario, and is looking forward to attending Guiding Mosaic 2016 camp.

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Girl Guide cookies + green activities = a sweet combo!

Girl Guides Classic Cookies

It’s that time of year! Yes, our chocolate and vanilla Girl Guide cookie season is underway… and with it comes the cardboard boxes and cases taking over meeting spaces, basements, and garages.

As we approach Earth Day (April 22), many units are focusing on green activities. Guiding has always been about teaching girls to use our resources wisely and protect our common environment, and cookie season is a great time to focus on those key Guiding principles by reducing, reusing, and recycling!

Creative Girl Guides members have found many ways to re-purpose materials leftover from cookie campaigns. I’ve rounded up some of my favourite ideas from my own area council and beyond – what are yours?

Giving back
Local non-profit organizations are often eager recipients of your cookie cases – even if there aren’t any cookies in them.😉

In B.C., the Wildlife Rescue Association uses cookie cases to release small animals back into the wild. Contact a local rescue group to see if they wish to accept your donation of flattened boxes.

April21_GreenCookie Cases

Use cases to pack up non-perishable donations to your local food bank, or to create a special gift like the Alberta Girl Guides’ awesome birthday party in a box.

Grabbing attention
Don’t forget about the cookie sales themselves! Re-purpose your empty boxes and cases for a fun promo to boost your fundraising. Borrow an idea from Girl Scouts down south: turn a case inside out to make a small display box, where you can place information about cookies or about joining Guiding.

Take your cue from Guides in Vancouver’s West Point Grey District who wear cases as costumes. Open up the bottom of the box, add easy suspenders made of ribbons or straps, and become a walking-talking-dancing cookie case! This is eye-catching and – bonus! – girls think it’s totally hilarious.

April21_CookieCaseCostumes

Getting crafty
Guiding wouldn’t be complete without some creative fun! Once you snack on the cookies inside, take the box, grab your scissors, and cut out the trefoils and clip art, before gluing small magnets on the back.

Or turn the whole box into a special notebook, an ideal size for girls to keep records of cookie sales or collect autographs at the end of a camp.

Go big with a giant scrapbook made from an entire cookie case! Use the book to chronicle a special adventure or just your year of unit activities.

Gathering gear
Cookie cases are a perfect carry-all! Toting supplies to and from your unit meetings? Looking for storage for files and forms? Cases are just the right size.

Those are just a few fun ideas! What are your best suggestions? Share them in the comments below or on on our Facebook page!

Guest post by Diamond Isinger. Diamond is a new arrival to Ottawa, serving as a Guider and as a Pathfinder patrol leader with the 1st Ottawa Mosaic Group – say ‘hi’ at Guiding Mosaic this summer! She previously volunteered as Area Commissioner and Public Relations Adviser for the 3,300 members of West Coast Area Council in B.C., leading programs and growing Guiding in Vancouver-and-area.

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Opening the Vaults: Mountaineer, explorer and Girl Guide Phyllis Munday

Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada was thrilled to hear that former member, and famous mountaineer, Phyllis Munday has been nominated as one of the iconic Canadian woman to be featured by the Bank of Canada on a new bank note.

Phyllis Munday, born in 1894, was enrolled as a Guide in Vancouver in 1910 and became a Guider in 1915. She organized the first Lones unit in 1924. Munday was an active member of Guiding throughout her life as a member of the British Columbia Training Committee and as Wood Craft Consultant and Nature Adviser.  As a mountaineer, Munday was the first woman to climb British Columbia’s highest peak, Mount Waddington. She continued to be an active member of Guiding until her death in 1990.

Some of our earliest photographs are contained in an album titled, “Canadian Guiding 1924-1935.” These photos are from that album.

April19_PMundaysnowshoes1

1925 Christmas greeting card with the inscription, “Taken just at my front door.”

April19_PMundayVancouverScene2

Munday took many of her own photos. She notes on the back of this postcard, “Part of Vancouver by night from our door. This is an exceptionally beautiful sight on a clear night. They are all our own photographs. Don and I do all our own work from developing to enlarging and making our own lantern slides.”

April19_PMundayGrouseLake3

“Grouse Lake. Edith my little girl and I are in the foreground. You can see the tent where we used to live before our cabin was built. We lived there up to 10 days before Christmas last year.”

April19_PMundayPack4

The inscription on this photo (c. 1923) reads, “Backpacking. When the pack train (horses I mean) are off the run. This is how all our provisions etc. come up. Don took this last winter just as I arrived home. This pack weighed 54lbs – I  never come with less than 25 or 30 and have brought 60.”

See some of the previous posts in our Opening the Vaults series from our national archives: Creative camp gadgets;  1920s and 1930s Campfires and CookbooksWarning! Cute Animal Alert!Our Chief Commissioners; The Maple Leaf Forever.

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A Proud Mama Hen

April14_ProudMamaSherylQuimpoI’ve been a parent volunteer for the last three years, since my daughter joined Guiding as a Spark.

I can tell you that Girl Guides has been a great experience for me personally. Watching the girls learning, laughing and growing is fulfilling. There are some moments when the girls really make me feel like a proud mama hen. Here are a couple of examples:

It’s not easy working with 14 little girls — sometimes trying to get them to listen as a group has its challenges. Forest Owl and I worked with them on manners and being a good audience for weeks it seems. One day, the Pathfinders came by and presented a skit to our girls. Every single one of them listened attentively and didn’t talk during the presentation. That night, I told Forest Owl that the girls had truly earned their “Listen to This” badge.

Another example is when the girls learned the song, “Land of the Silver Birch.” At our sleepover, we showed them a video of the lyrics and how the song should be sung. The girls practiced singing it and using the drums they had made. At winter camp, the song came up during campfire and the girls sang it so beautifully. I was beaming with pride when one of the Guiders said she had never heard that song sung so well.
There are so many moments, I can’t really narrow it down, but it does the heart good when you see a girl who is usually painfully shy start opening up or when a girl decides that she wants to take up skating after going to our skating party, or even just having a girl come up to you at the end of a meeting and simply say “thank you.”

All these moments wouldn’t be possible without the great bunch of Guiders in the Milles-Iles District. From the Spark Guiders to the Pathfinder Guiders, each one of them works really hard to make sure every Girl Guide in our district reaches her Girl Greatness.

P.S. Here’s a joke one of our Brownies told us towards  her “Tell It” badge: What do you call a cow that eats grass? — A lawn mooer.

Still cracks me up…

Guest post by Sheryl Quimpo, of St-Eustache, Quebec. Sheryl volunteers with the 1st Two Mountain Brownies in Milles-Iles District. Shared with permission from an original post on Guides Québec BLOG.

Thank you to our volunteers for giving girls the chance to make new friends, challenge themselves and put their ideas into action through an amazing range of activities. Happy National Volunteer Week!

#NVW2016
#girlguidescanada

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Thank you x 74,340

Volunteer-Week-2016-WordsWeek in and week out, we know just how much our volunteers give to girls in Guiding. You contribute on so many levels – as Unit Guiders, Trainers and Advisers, Commissioners and Treasurers, and Trefoil Guild and Link members. Thank you for sharing your skills, your passion and your time as a member of Girl Guides–Guides du Canada (GGC).

There are truly no limits to what our 74,340 girl members  can achieve with the support of our volunteers. As our Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers tell us, they love being part of something bigger, and you make that happen.

Volunteer-Week-2016-CrestThank you – for allowing the voices of Canadian girls to be heard loud and clear, and for your incredible contributions and commitment to Girl Greatness. Thank you for all that you do for Canadian Guiding.

Happy National Volunteer Week!
#NVW2016
#girlguidescanada

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A Silent Meeting

We loved this post by guest blogger and Guider Melissa and wanted to share it again as a great anytime, anywhere activity to try with girls.
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April7_clipartgirlscircleOne meeting a year in our Brownie Unit, there is no singing. There is no chatting, no talking about the challenge we are working on, no asking each other to pass the markers or the glue.

It looks like a Brownie meeting, but it doesn’t sound like one. It doesn’t really sound like much at all.

This is our silent meeting. There is no talking, but there is a lot of learning. At this meeting, we help girls develop teamwork, problem solving and communication skills through silent activities.

Silent meetings are about building cooperation and collaboration, but they are also about diversity. By trying to express themselves without talking, girls learn that oral language is not the only way to communicate.

We want our girls to grow up as strong communicators. But we also want them to grow up as strong listeners, listeners who engage with those who don’t communicate in the ways that are most familiar to us. Silent meetings can help girls learn that it doesn’t matter if someone signs, or talks or uses a speech production device – that person is worth listening to.

Helping girls understand that what they have to say is valuable no matter how they say it is what Guiding is all about. Maybe one meeting spent in silence is the best way to communicate that.

Here are some of the silent meeting activities we’ve done:

  • Without talking, have the girls put themselves in alphabetical order, or in order by birth date or height.
  • Play charades.
  • Perform and rehearse silent skits.
  • Put the girls in pairs. One partner has a series of instructions. She needs to communicate those instructions to her partner without talking or writing.
  • Have a puzzle treasure hunt. Before the meeting, write down a series of words, each on a different colour of paper. Cut out each letter and hide it in your meeting place. Make sure there is one letter per girl. Each girl finds one letter, finds the other girls with the same colour paper and determines the word their letters spell, all without talking.
  • Learn the promise in American Sign Language (ASL).
  • Communicate messages through communication boards that use symbols or letters.

Guest blogger Melissa Moor

By guest blogger Melissa Moor. Melissa a law student at McGill University in Montreal and a member of the Canadian Guider magazine editorial committee. Check out some of her previous blog posts: How Guiding Prepared me for Law School; Bringing the Sangam Spirit to your Unit: Ideas for a Sangam-themed Meeting; Girl-Centred Planning

 

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Guiders like to play, too

April5_GuidersPlayLegoGuiding encourages girls to try new things, learn through playing, and to challenge themselves, all while earning badges along the way. You can tell a unit meeting is going well by the sound of fun, the sound of laughter and chatter. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can be an exciting part of our activities if Guiders are comfortable preparing a meeting based on this theme. But sometimes, we need a little help to spark our imagination.

The leaders in Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon gather annually to ignite that spark at Multi-faceted. This March, about 200 women attended the weekend training in Red Deer, Alberta, to gather skills and ideas they can bring back to their volunteer work with girls.

It has been a few years since I attended a Multi-faceted weekend, but the robotic session drew me to the training this year. When I walked in, old friends immediately greeted me. Janet Melnyk and Marion Rex, both trainers from Edmonton, trekked us through a discussion of the differences between machines and robots. Our first exercise involved guiding our partner through a set of logical sequential instructions to pick up a pen and put it in a pocket, or to pick up a piece of paper and put it in the garbage. Giggles abounded as we realized the instructions we missed, and the assumptions we made.

April5_GuidersPlayRobotOur second task was forming a mechanical hand from cardboard, straws, elastics, and string. In addition to following the instructions, we had to figure out how to make the fingers bend while keeping the elastics in place after repeated use. Our third challenge was building our Lego robot and driving it through a circuit. We analysed and corrected the direction of the wheels and added balance and stability. Marion regularly guides her grade 5 and 6 classes through this same robotic challenge. We certainly sounded like her classes as we laughed and chatted and tried to maneuver our Lego robots around the pop cans.

The chance to try something new, play, create, and solve problems brings us back to the heart of what Guiding is all about. Inspired Unit Guiders provide creative programming for the girls, and encourage them to lead the way and demonstrate things they are doing in school if the Guiders are less familiar with the topics. Each spring Multi-faceted training weekend is OUR time to have fun and learn through play. I wonder if they will have video games next year?

Guest post by Sheila Morrison. A former girl member, Sheila is involved with a Trefoil Guild and the Calgary Area Camping Committee. Sheila is currently studying at Royal Roads University for an MA in Professional Communications. She is excitedly counting down the days to Guiding Mosaic 2016 and welcoming campers to Alberta as part of the Core Crew.

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When Guiders amp up their camp skills

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There’s nothing quite like March in Canada – cold enough to qualify as winter camping, but often with no snow on the ground. That didn’t stop the group of Ontario Guiders I guided on an overnight trek into the woods as part of a winter camp adventure training. We all came together united by our love of the outdoors and a desire to share with girls the same enthusiasm and confidence for adventure.

March31_GuiderCamping2While learning about camp theory is great, this weekend was all about getting immersed in a true winter camping experience. We met at Camp Ademac near Port Perry, Ontario, Friday evening. Although we had a heated building for a base and emergencies, we were set up outdoors until Sunday morning. Friday night was learning about each other and the gear. In true Guiding fashion we all became great friends and a fantastic team very quickly! As one of the trainers, my job was to help the Guiders learn skills in a safe environment. This became very easy as everyone set about immediately helping and looking out for each other.

march31_GuiderCamping3We went for a short walk to warm-up and continue to get to know one another. Many lessons were learned Friday night: ways to keep warm; how much more difficult camp skills were in the cold and while wearing bulky gear; how much better warm drinks such as friendship tea taste when you only have a small stove and limited water. It was cold Friday night, -10 C °,  and gear was adjusted Saturday morning in preparation for our trek and second overnight.

Heavy gear was tied to sleds – a new skill to many and it drove home the importance of knowing your knots. Fortunately we had long grass for most of the short trek to our wilderness site nestled in a lovely red pine forest grove. Setting up tents in the bush required some clever engineering, more critical knots and some patience as we had neither snow nor soft ground to peg the tents. (That’s where the trees in the grove came in handy!) Our focus turned to keeping warm and cooking dinner – camp  stew two ways, from dehydrated on a camp stove and in a Dutch oven in the fire. Keeping warm also consisted of singing lots of action songs, taking short hikes, and gathering and sawing firewood.

Sunday dawned an hour early with the time change and we were off back to base. The camaraderie and Guiding spirit made this a rich weekend for all –  for learning, for gaining the confidence to share new skills with girls, and the excitement to get out there and do this again soon.  What makes leading these adventure training weekends so rewarding is knowing that for every participating Guider, there is now a group of girls who will have more camping adventures.

Guest post by Carol Law, a lifelong GGC member in Newmarket, Ontario. A trainer and Safe Guide assessor, Carol has surpassed her personal milestone of 400 camping nights in 10 years.    

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Opening the Vaults: Vintage Girl Guide cookie boxes

Our spring cookie season is ramping up, a tasty tradition that started in 1927 when girls in Regina sold cookies to raise money for their uniforms and camping equipment. Many visitors to our archives are drawn to the vintage cookie boxes that remind them of their time as girl members. The most powerful of these images seem to be uniforms, program books and cookie boxes. We hope you enjoy seeing these historical cookie boxes from our collection.

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A cookie box from 1960 when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Guiding in Canada.

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Cookie box from 1967.

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A 1968 box, when the hat was still a part of the uniform and prior to Canada
switching to metric in 1970.

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Our 1985 75th anniversary box. This image was also used for
a special-edition 75th anniversary cookie tin.

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A box from 1991 showing some of experiences a girl could have in Guiding.

March29_1998CookiesBox

From 1998, one of the earliest boxes for chocolaty mint cookies.

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The classic cookie box from our 100th anniversary in 2010.


See some of the previous posts in our Opening the Vaults series from our national archives: Cookie selling;
 1920s and 1930s Campfires and Cookbooks; Warning! Cute Animal Alert!; Our Chief Commissioners; The Maple Leaf Forever.

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The un-meeting or…. what to do when your plans don’t go the way you planned

March24_UnmeetingOne of my favourite meetings unfolded in a most unlikely way. It was a bridging evening for our multi-branch unit in early spring. The third-year Guides were with the Pathfinders, and the Sparks, Brownies and remaining Guides were going to go cookie selling in the neighbourhood. The girls would be in groups according to their next branch. I think we were all looking forward to an ‘easy’ meeting – few supplies and little advance planning required. Maybe we all thought someone else would think to check the weather. Or have a back-up meeting idea ready to go. No one did. We had no plan B. It was cookie selling or bust.

And wouldn’t you know it, it rained that evening. Not just a sprinkle. An epic, can’t-see-five-feet-in-front-of-you downpour, with no sign of letting up. The Sparks, Brownies and Guides started to tramp into the meeting room as all the Guiders clustered in a semi-panicked knot in a corner. Play games? Pull out craft supplies? One really, really long sing-along? None of us was sold on any of those ideas. And then I remembered something I had read as a tip for a rainy camp day, something that made perfect sense in Guiding: let the girls do it all!

We called it our un-meeting, and this is how it unfolded. First off, we called everyone together for opening circle, and then we came clean. We told them that we had all been so sure of our cookie selling plan that we had not thought to have a back-up plan. Some of the older girls were quite amused by this – it was as though they had caught us being less than leader-ly. I thought it was really important to tell them the truth, to let them all see that Guiders are human, too! Then, we told them that since we didn’t have a plan that they would have the chance to do it. We broke the group up into four groups, each with a mix of Sparks, Brownies and Guides. We gave them 15 minutes to plan an activity. Their activity could be anything, so long as it fit all the ages, would last about 10 minutes, and would only use supplies we had on hand.

Guiders checked in on the groups, mostly to answer questions about available supplies, and to start planning the sequence of the activities. Only one group struggled to find an idea. The oldest Guide said all she wanted to do was throw paint. With a little facilitation from our part, we came up with an alternative that honored the spirit of the idea, but made it achievable: tossing water-soaked paper towel balls in a relay. After the planning stage, the groups each lead their activity. There were a couple of games, a facilitated drawing craft, and we ended with the paper towel toss – outside – as the rain had finally let up a bit.

I don’t think we could have planned a better meeting. Without the older girls there, the younger Guides had a real chance to take the lead. All the girls had a say in what we would do, and everyone had the chance to see what planning and running a meeting is like. Each activity was pretty simple, but that’s not what mattered. It was seeing every one of the Sparks, Brownies and Guides take over from us.

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? 

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Because it’s 2016… Girls’ and women’s rights

Mar21_KrystaCoyleUNI was recently a delegate with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) to the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in NYC. I’ve been trying to sum up my experiences to share with you, but I’m not entirely sure it’s possible. I met so many amazing delegates, experienced so many powerful moments, and was able to speak with a global community about so many issues affecting girls and women today.

Every word mattered as I heard from my fellow WAGGGS delegates and the other amazing young women at the CSW. We all became frustrated at various points, whether it was seeing others from our countries uninterested in fighting for girls’ and women’s rights, or hearing government officials talk about the involvement of boys and men more than acknowledging the unique situation of girls around the world, or even feeling like we weren’t getting our point across at all on some days. The other delegates reminded me at every turn that it was OK to be frustrated, but that it was important to take those feelings and turn them into action.

Whenever possible, I asked speakers and officials to remember the girls that don’t get the opportunity to share their stories. It is important to ask girls to participate in making decisions and policies that affect and can shape their lives, but we need to appreciate that not every girl feels confident enough or is courageous enough to sit at the table.

I thought of some of the girls and young women I have worked with in Guiding, and drew on my own experiences: organizations like Girl Guides of Canada play a vital and important role in giving girls and young women the skills they need to make a difference. Before we can talk about more women in government, or more girls in community leadership positions, we need to make sure that girls feel empowered, feel safe, and feel valued.

I really see the need for our Guiding programs when I think about some of the girls and young women I work with. I wonder if their experiences are captured when we measure things like rates of violence, enrollment in education, or even national economic prosperity. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are. I think we need to talk with girls in spaces they feel safe in, in order to reflect their unique experiences.

I’m excited to feel like part of a truly global movement that values all girls and recognizes that every girl has a right to be heard. I can’t wait to bring back everything I have learned from my fellow delegates and CSW to Canada.

 Guest post by Krysta Coyle. Krysta is a co-District Commissioner for Halifax South District,  National Link Liaison and a Ph.D. student in Pathology at Dalhousie University. Check out her previous posts – Women are scientists, too; What girls are saying about Girl Greatness; This is what Link looks like. Follow her on Twitter @microbialkrysta.

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Guiding isn’t just for girls

Around this time last year, I decided to apply for a Girl Guides of Canada scholarship. (This year’s application deadline is April 1.) I did not know if I had any chance but I decided that it was worth a shot. I ended up being selected as one of the recipients of a national scholarship. It was an amazing experience and I started to realize that all my hard work was starting to pay off.

Mar17_ScholarshipThis is now my 14th year in Guiding and I am currently a first-year student studying at Simon Fraser University. I have gone through every branch of Guiding and I am now a transitioning member. As a transitioning member (a member who has not yet reached the age of majority in their province), I help out a Sparks unit in my district with their regular meetings and with their special events. I also participate in planning meetings for the unit to help plan out wonderful activities for the girls.

Mar17_Scholarship2Sometimes, I find it challenging to balance university life and Guiding but I always manage to leave some time for Guiding. Even though I am so busy with school, I decided to continue my membership with this wonderful organization because of the many positive experiences it has given to me. I want to be able to pass on these experiences to the next generation of girls so that they have the same opportunities as I did. Guiding has allowed me to expand my leadership skills which will definitely help me in pursuing my goal of becoming a teacher.

I encourage everyone that is eligible for a scholarship to apply. The Girl Guides of Canada scholarship program is amazing and it really helps you pay for tuition. I also encourage all graduating Rangers to continue on with Guiding as it will definitely expand your leadership skills which will help in any future career goals.

scholarship cap and gownGuest post by Eliesse Harpaz, a transitioning member with the 1st Burnaby Mountain Sparks in B.C. Eliesse has been in Guiding since she was 5 years old and is now completing a degree in French and in Education at Simon Fraser University. She was the recipient of the West Coast Area Bursary, the BC Council Bursary and the CIBC National GGC Scholarship.

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The gift of school supplies

Last week, we shared the story of how a Quebec unit was Taking Action for Refugees. Today, we’re showcasing the 3rd Victoria Guides, who supported newly arrived refugees with a school supply drive as part of their participation in our National Service Project.

NSP 2016Just before Christmas our unit sat down to talk about our Going Global service project. The girls had a lot of suggestions, from international pen pals to collecting items to send overseas. We talked about the Syrian refugees that were arriving in Canada and realized we could “think global and act local” by doing something to support these newcomer families. The girls were familiar with the many community fundraising efforts underway in Victoria to sponsor refugee families, but we knew we’d have to do something a bit different as a Guiding project. After some investigation, we decided on a school supply drive, knowing that many of the Syrians would be children, eager to attend school after many months or years of interrupted education. It would be a useful welcoming gift for any family, and fun to collect, too!

We decided to take advantage of the project to explore the theme of communication and public relations. We also realized that the project fits in nicely with the National Service Project: Words in Action. So in preparation for our project, the girls created video public service announcements to advertise the project. The girls wrote, rehearsed and performed in the videos, while we Guiders filmed (on a phone) and edited the ads. In the end, we decided not to make the videos public, but we enjoyed watching our productions, and I learned quite a bit about video editing!

We also generated some local media interest in our project, another great learning opportunity for our girls. We had a TV cameraman join us for a meeting to film us and check in on the donations collected so far. Some of the older girls were interviewed by both TV and newspaper, and the girls were excited to see their friends’ faces and words in the local media. We also started a simple blog to refer people for more information.

Our girls have been creative in their donation gathering, involving their own schools and extra-curricular clubs, friends and family. We have also had support from other Guiding members and districts in the city, who have joined us in collecting donations. We are in the midst of collecting and hope to have a session in a few weeks to sort and package the supplies. We are also going to include personal welcome cards with perhaps a few phrases in Arabic, and we will be including an invitation to join Guiding for any girls or women that may receive our gifts. We will be working with some of the community agencies and groups that are helping settle the new refugees in Victoria to distribute the packages.

At the beginning of February we learned that Victoria will be welcoming a much larger number of Syrian refugees than previously thought. About 300 more refugees will be arriving this month and we are glad to be able to welcome them to their new home with this small gesture of friendship.

Guest post by Guider Dee. Be sure to check out our resource Lending a hand: Supporting refugees. And share your unit’s story with us! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.

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Taking action for refugees… and a better world

In recent months, Canadians have proudly opened their arms to welcome newly arrived refugees – and Girl Guides are no exception. Today’s post shares how one Quebec unit learned about the lives of Syrian girls while collecting clothing and other items to help families settle into their new communities. 

With the plight of Syrian (and other) refugees so prominent in the news, the 1st Greenfield Park Guides took special notice when a Québec Council email “Take Action Now” arrived in our in-boxes. The email mentioned that Québec Council would be tracking the efforts of units across Québec to collect warm clothing for families fleeing from war and upheaval.

This was just the catalyst we leaders needed. At our last meeting before the holidays, the four of us talked to our unit about what it meant to be a refugee. Would the girls be interested in doing something to help displaced families settle into a new life in Canada? Our Guides were enthusiastic. Within 10 minutes, they had come up with a long list of items they could collect. From winter coats, blankets and school supplies to toys and toothpaste, their ideas were impressive.

Mar10_GuidesClothingDonations

To build momentum, we started off our January programming with a round robin of activities based on a “Syria” theme. The girls learned some simple Arabic words such as “welcome” and “family.” They located Syria on a world map and worked together to answer a quiz about that country. They discovered that girls in Syria could belong to Girl Guides and that their Promise was not unlike our own. “I think this made them realize that the refugees were real human beings just like them,” noted our newest leader, Marie-Lissa.

Mar10_ArabicSyriaQuizCollage

After that, the girls started collecting many of the articles they had brainstormed back in December. After two weeks, when all the donations had arrived, we made a game of sorting, counting and folding them. In the end, there was a mound of 15 large green garbage bags, each filled to the brim. Seeing the piles of sweaters, mitts, hats, coats and other items helped the girls better comprehend the reality of being a refugee. You could see the mental wheels turning when they asked, “You mean they really arrive with nothing?”

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This initiative gave our unit a common purpose that girls, Guiders and parents all shared. And we saw how even small actions on our part can, and do, contribute to a better world.

Thank you to Quebec Council for allowing us to share this post from GuidesQuébecBlog, where it was originally posted. Submitted by by Laurene (Laurie) Bennett, one of four Guiders  with the Greenfield Park Guides, on Montreal’s South Shore. They would like to thank  provincial Guiders and Greenfield Park Brownie Guider Cindy for giving them the information they needed to get started.

Be sure to check out our resource Lending a hand: Supporting refugees. And share your unit’s story with us! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.

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Women are scientists, too

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Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada is bursting with pride to mark International Women’s Day today. It’s a powerful opportunity to to celebrate the trailblazing difference girls and women around the world are making.

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Krysta Coyle

Most of my friends will tell you I’m proud to be a Girl Guide. Girl Guides has given me tangible survival skills – I can put up a tent, light a fire, cook on a camp stove, and survive at a winter tent camp. More importantly, though, Girl Guides has given me the skills I need to navigate and survive a career in science. You see, when I’m not a Unit Guider (or Link member, or co-District Commissioner), I’m a Ph.D. student studying breast cancer biology.

Girl Guides helped me develop a love for science and a passion for research. As a Pathfinder and as a Ranger, I participated in a fantastic opportunity offered by the Alberta GGC Council and the Barrier Lake Field Stations (University of Calgary) to spend a week learning about the environment and careers in science, and wading through bogs and climbing over trees to collect data with graduate researchers. While I don’t do field work for my research, I’ve learned some important lessons in my Girl Guide journey:

  1. There are women working in science. Having female mentors for these all-encompassing experiences, and even for the science badges I completed at unit meetings or smaller outings, left a huge impact on me. Although my field of work has reached gender parity, it still feels like a male-dominated field. I don’t see a lot of women sitting on research panels at big conferences, or in tenured faculty positions – but I know they’re out there.
  2. There’s a lot to be gained from taking risks. I was a quiet, shy Spark and Brownie who would rather be reading a book than spending a week (really, even a day) with total strangers. Girl Guides gives me a safe place to try something new – whether it was hiking through the night at Calgary’s Nite Trek, going back to the Barrier Lake Field Stations as a Guider, or planning a new experience for my unit today. I can be a better scientist because my fear doesn’t stop me from trying.
  3. There is a scientist in everyone! I was lucky to have strong female scientists in my life (including my mom!) who encouraged my interest in science even when it was tough. It makes me sad to hear girls say, “I can’t do that,” because it’s not true! Science is everywhere – and if I can show the girls I work with enough different ways to be involved, I think they’ll all find something that they enjoy. Maybe as a hobby, maybe as a career, but who knows?

While I know the biggest obstacles for me, as a female scientist, are yet to come, I know that Girl Guides has prepared me well!

There's science in everything - even candy! Our unit held a candy and STEM sleepover.

There’s science in everything – even candy! Our unit held a candy and STEM sleepover.

Do you know girls interested in STEM? Encourage them to:

  • connect with a mentor working in STEM
  • participate in STEM activities offered by GGC
  • ask their Guiders for resources and activities to use at home
  • try new things – even if they’re scared.

Guest post by Krysta Coyle. Krysta is a co-District Commissioner for Halifax South District and (the new!) National Link Liaison. When not busy with GGC, Krysta is a Ph.D. student in Pathology at Dalhousie University.

Krysta will be a WAGGGS delegate at the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women (March 20-25) – follow her on Twitter @microbialkrysta.

Check out our International Women’s Day instant meeting, and inspire the girls in your unit to write their own history. Post photos of your International Women’s Day activities on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with hashtag #IWD2016.

 

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Kayaking. Indoors. In the winter.

kayak graphicKayaking lessons may not seem like the most obvious kind of activity to do in the grips of a Canadian winter. But for a group of eager Girl Guides and some anxious parents, it was the perfect way to learn outdoorsy skills… indoors.

Kayaking for the first time can be daunting – trying it in the safety of a pool gave it that a little bit of extra comfort. Dwain Forrest from Timber Outfitters was gracious enough to spend several hours in the pool showing the 1st Wingham Brownies, Guides and Pathfinders how to safely enjoy kayaking.

Our unit’s goal is to explore new experiences to broaden our horizons and help us to accept others and new experiences with an open mind. Many of the girls in our unit come from surrounding towns and have never seen a kayak, let alone had the chance to try it and see if they like it.

It was not as easy as the girls thought it would be to enter a kayak from the side of the pool. But with practice, they could all eventually manoeuver in and out gracefully. No one found themselves doing the splits trying to keep the kayak close to the pool’s edge before falling in.

For many, the scary part of the lesson was how to get safely out of the kayak if it rolled upside down. The girls were instructed by Dwain to tuck and somersault from the seat, surfacing away from the kayak. This was easier said than done!

The next step the girls had to learn was how to upright the kayak, drain the water and get back into the kayak safely. Tipping and draining required strength but little technique. The same could not be said for the re-entry from the water. There was much laughter during these attempts, as the girls stretched to grab something secure and then scramble onto the back end of the kayak, sliding down to the seat and getting their legs in without tipping over.

By the end of the session, the girls did laps around the pool to perfect their abilities. It’ll be great to bring these skills outdoors.

Guest post by Char Bretmaier, a Guider with the 1st Wingham Brownies, Guiders and Pathfinders in North Huron County, Ontario.

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Sparks CAN Snowshoe!

SnowshoesThis re-post is a great reminder of what girls – and Guiders! – can achieve on a moonlit winter’s night. 

Three years ago at my first monthly District Guider meeting, one of our (amazing!) 50+ year Guiders advised our group that the district had a huge cache of snowshoes at our disposal. It was my first year as a Guider and I was seriously intimidated at the thought of organizing snowshoeing for my Sparks – it was never going to happen.

Fast forward to two weeks ago…  Alberta has been hammered with snow this year and out of the clear blue (okay snowy and overcast) sky it hit me – I’M TAKING MY GIRLS SNOWSHOEING! I finally felt confident enough in my Guiding skills to take my 21 girls out for some winter fun. And hot chocolate. Sparks MUST have hot chocolate.

It came together very quickly. We were at the beginning of a huge Chinook and I only had a few days to plan. I live on an acreage near our city so location was a no-brainer: my garage and yard. I advised all my parents via email on the Sunday before our Wednesday meeting with a map and a “what to wear” list attached. I had a huge positive response from my parents and had a full compliment of volunteers to help us that night.

Wednesday afternoon I cleaned out the garage, put together some makeshift benches, picked up some hot chocolate, and gathered the snowshoes from storage. I spent an hour with my own two kids making a track for my Sparks to follow through the yard, weaving through trees and over hedges. The drifts were up to five feet tall!

The girls arrived and after a quick rundown of rules and instruction, we were into our shoes and off! It was a full moon that night, the wind was calm and the temperature was only about 0°C. We had 24 kids (including Girl Assistants) in a train, wearing glow stick rings, snowshoeing through my yard by the light of the moon.

It was by far my best Guiding moment. I’d accomplished something that I had considered out of the question just three years ago, and it’s given me the inspiration to strive for another awesome Guiding experience. I just need to consider what I think is “too hard” right now and plan on doing it in another year or two! (The Brownie Guiders are trying to convince me that a sleepover is a great decision…)

By guest blogger Jodi Paulgaard, a Guider in Airdrie, Alberta. 

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When compliments are contagious

Like most great things, it happened as an accident. The craft group wasn’t quite done and the Guides I was working with couldn’t handle another running game. So we sat in a circle and caught our breath.

“I have an idea,” I said. “Everyone write your name on one of these pieces of paper and throw them in the middle.”

Once done, I said, “Grab a name and say what you most like about that person.”

We went around the circle, each girl pulling a name and coming up with something simple or profound or absolutely wonderful. Answers ran the gamut from “She’s really nice,” to “I like how she always takes time for me,” to “She’s a great patrol leader.”Feb25_Compliments

Some of my favourites included “She’s really quiet but I know I can always count on her,” and “She welcomed me when I was new.” Our two Girl Assistants, both Rangers, said, “She’s the Sam to my Dean,” referencing their favourite TV show. When it was my turn, I happened to pick the name of a quiet girl and I had the opportunity to compliment her on her amazing courage for always trying everything and not giving up.

The best thing happened when a girl couldn’t think of something to say. She floundered and paused and then the rest of the group exploded with suggestions: “She’s a great singer!” “She’s my best friend!” and then the free-for-all began. Compliments were being lobbed faster than we could hear. It was contagious and the girls were enjoying the complimenting as much as the compliments.

“Sunset!” the girls exclaimed, as they pointed to my fellow Guider. “We have to go get her!” We pulled the Guider from the craft table so she could hear what we all thought about her. We pulled everyone into the compliment circle.

It ended as naturally as it began, but I know many of the girls came away feeling recognized and maybe even encouraged by the honest sharing of appreciation. I know I feel amazing after hearing that I am “inspirational.”

When I was a Girl Guide growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan, I have a memory of a Guider complimenting me (thanks, Jo, wherever you are). This became one of the key memories in my life and a building block for who I became as an adult. I am now honoured to be in a position to look for opportunities to start building blocks in the lives of these amazing girls. Just imagine where they can grow with one building block to start from.

Guest post by Kathleen Dueck, a Unit Guider in Mississauga, Ontario.

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Opening the Vaults: World Thinking Day and the World Flag

World Thinking Day reminds us of our connections to global Guiding. Last year, we opened the vaults to look at the many ways that we have celebrated World Thinking Day in the past. This year, we’re showcasing the origins of the World Flag.

While the Trefoil itself was used as a symbol of Guiding right from its beginnings in 1909, it wasn’t until the Sixth World Conference held at Foxlease in the United Kingdom in July 1930 that the World Flag was adopted.

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Delegates to the World Conference in 1930. Lord and Lady Baden-Powell at centre; our Chief Commissioner Sarah Warren in second row, 3rd from right (APH 678).

WAGGGS Second Biennial Report from 1932 notes that, “it was decided that the World Flag could be used by any country as an international flag, or as company or troop colours, or in any other way desired.” The report also provides a description of the symbols of the World Flag.

  1. The stars in the two leaves of the Trefoil mean the leading stars which we will always keep before us – The Promise and the Girl Guide and Girl Scout Law.
  2. The vein or line is the compass needle which will always give us the right course or way in Guiding.
  3. The base of the stalk is the flame of the love of mankind. It will always burn high, brightly and intensively in the heart of all Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

Feb22_WTDWorldFlag

The design was prepared by Miss Kari Aas of Norway and sent out in December 1930.  The letter accompanying this sketch noted that, “When making the flag the proportion of the Trefoil to the background might have to be modified.”

Here are a few images of the World Flag in use in Canada:

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Circa 1980s (APH 341).

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1978 photo by Dave Freedman (APH 922).

Feb22_WTDVictoria

Guides raise the World Flag in Victoria, B.C., circa 1970s (APH 104).

See some of the previous posts in our Opening the Vaults series: 1920s and 1930s Campfires and Cookbooks; Warning! Cute Animal Alert!; Our Chief Commissioners; The Maple Leaf Forever.

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What does it mean to be an Arts Adviser?

As Guiders, we get a lot of emails about volunteer opportunities within Guiding. We often scan them and look at the deadline but that’s about it. Last spring, one position in Nova Scotia caught my eye – Arts Adviser. So I flagged that email.

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For a couple of weeks, the idea of that position was sitting on the back burner in my mind. I wanted to be more involved, as this was my first year out of Rangers, and something about that position spoke to me. So I submitted an application. I truly never thought I would get a response other than a ‘thank you for applying’ email. But not this time. I had a phone interview, then a week later I was granted the position.

For those of you who don’t know, the Arts Adviser generally sits on a program team, along with a STEM and Active Living Adviser in my province. We all work together with the Program Adviser to help make programming even stronger in our province.

Under my Arts Adviser umbrella, I provide resources to Guiders for the visual arts (like crafts), music, dance and drama. Which means sometimes I write pieces for Coast Lines, our monthly  provincial newsletter, respond to Guiders via email, visit units, help plan provincial events, and one of my favorites, work on provincial Challenges.

One of my best moments so far was visiting a brand new Brownie unit and helping the girls earn their Share Your Talent for Dance badge. For most, it was their first ever Guiding badge.

My Arts Adviser position has helped me connect with Guiding in a whole new way. I’ve also made some new friends I would not have met without this position. But, most importantly, it’s allowed me to share something I love, which is all things art.

The great thing about all the Girl Guide volunteer opportunities is that there is such a variety – there’s truly something for everyone. They not only allow you to follow your passion but also to step outside of your comfort zone and grow as a leader. Which, for me, is what Girl Guides is all about.

My tip for everyone is to apply. Start flagging those emails and really think about all the amazing skills you can offer Guiding in your area.

Guest post by Kayla Nicole. Kayla is a Guider with the multi-branch 25th Halifax Pathfinders, as well as the Nova Scotia Arts Adviser and a Link member. She is currently studying Psychology at Mount Saint Vincent University, is a tutor for grade nine students and a member of a community choir. See her previous post: Life of a twenty-something Guider.

 

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What girls are saying about Girl Greatness

GGA-Slider-2016When I was part of the Girl Greatness Awards selection committee in 2015, I was blown away by all the positive words girls have about each other and about themselves. In our Guide unit, we decided to talk about girl greatness using activities inspired by the awards’ meeting guide.

We started by talking about why girls choose Guides – they make friends, participate in group activities, give back to the community, and have fun! Then I shared why Girl Guides of Canada wants every girl to be a member.  After all, it’s in our Mission: Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada enables girls to be confident, resourceful and courageous, and to make a difference in the world.

We asked the girls what each of these key words means to them… and you can read their words below! I took the words of these girls to social media because I want everyone to know that GGC is a valuable experience for all girls.

Our girls learn that confident is “believing in myself… being bold!”

That resourceful is “using my abilities and things I have”…

That courageous is their “head held high”…

…and that making a difference is “using your voice to help.”

In a world that holds women accountable for the actions of others, that jokes female scientists should work separately because they’re ‪#‎distractinglysexy, and that shames girls and women for speaking out about their personal experiences with violence (just open a newspaper)… these qualities are so important!

We finished the activity by practicing positive acknowledgement. Each girl said something positive, specific, sincere and honest about the person sitting to her left. We reminded them to try and find words other than ‘nice’ or ‘cool.’ We heard:

“You are always open to talk to other people.”

“You always make me laugh, no matter how I feel.”

“You are always eager to participate in whatever we do.”

It’s easy to be bogged down in the minutia of planning this meeting, or that camp, or another badge… but this exercise was an amazing reminder that I am always learning from these girls – and they are always learning from me.

In the words of some incredible 9-12 year old girls… “believe in yourself” and “be brave”…

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Guest post by Krysta Coyle. Krysta has ‘Guided’ across the country as a girl in Alberta, a Guider in B.C. and Manitoba, and now as a Guide and Ranger Guider in Halifax. She is a co-District Commissioner for Halifax South District and (the new!) National Link Liaison. When not busy with GGC, Krysta is a Ph.D. student in Pathology at Dalhousie University.

Girl Greatness Award pin
Girl Greatness Awards
nominations are now open! Help spread the word to girls in Guiding.

 

 

 

 

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Big ‘mistakes’ make good memories

Feb11_MistakesShortcutRainyCampEver notice that when people start telling stories about their Guiding memories that there are a lot of tales of that time when something went wrong? Mine’s the time when I was at Guide camp and it rained so hard we were flooded out from our tents and had to sleep in the picnic shelter. For a Spark I know, it’s the time that the Guides made cookies for a party and got the recipe terribly wrong, resulting in very salty cookies. Oh, and several of my Brownies won’t let me forget that time we told them we were serving apple juice for lunch but got the container wrong and had half of them drink unsweetened sumac juice.

The time the Guides went on a hike and got “lost,” showing up 45 minutes late for lunch. The time it didn’t stop raining all weekend. The leaky tents. And just a couple of weeks ago, the mug cakes that we tested at home with great results but that still came out rock hard at our meeting. I bet I will be hearing about those for a while. I can’t say I hear as many stories about the camps when the weather was perfect (it happened…once.). Or the crafts that turn out perfectly.

To be clear, in these cases, no one was hurt. And even though in every case something went wrong, these aren’t bad memories. They are stories that we laugh about now, and that even bring us a little closer together. I think these “fail” moments are so memorable because they challenge us. They are the times when we have had to be resilient. Resourceful. Maybe a little more brave than we thought we could be.

A challenge from the outside brings a group together. And those mistakes might show a younger girl that just because you’re older it doesn’t mean you know how to do everything. And besides, those bad moments—in hindsight, of course—really ARE funny. Like the time the squirrel got into the lodge. Or that time when a couple of Brownies kept onions in their pockets for an entire weekend. Ah, good memories from “bad” times!

What do you remember most? Why do you think those bad moments are such fond memories later on?

Guest post by Kathryn Lyons, with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Group, Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Check out her previous posts: Small actions for inclusion; Managing Friend DramaSustainable crafting: Or, what can we do with all of that leftover fleece?;  How do you organize all your Guiding stuff? A Billion Brownies; Watching Girl Greatness

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Saturday morning Guiding

Girls handsAs busy Guiders, we all spend occasional weekends doing Guiding activities, sleepovers, camps, cookie sales and outings. But what about having your weekly unit meeting on a Saturday? Could this be a way to engage girls and families who aren’t available on weekday evenings? Guiding encourages flexibility, and units meetings are one place to start.

So why did I choose to have my unit meeting on a Saturday morning? It was really to meet the needs of our girls. I began volunteering with a multi-branch unit a few years ago in East Toronto. The goal of the unit was to grow Guiding among newcomers to Canada, and provide a ‘Canadian experience’ to the children and youth of this community. The first year, we started like any other unit with a weeknight meeting. It worked pretty well in the fall, but as winter came, we noticed that our numbers started to dwindle. The few families that did come, talked to us about the cold, dark nights in Toronto and how it was a new experience for some of them to feel safe walking out at night.

Attendance picked up again in the spring with a recruitment event and we really wanted to keep the new families coming back for the following year….how could we make this happen? Luckily, we had planned an Intro to Guiding event for women to see if they would be interested in becoming Guiders and that is when we came up with the idea of a Saturday meeting! Many of the women wanted to volunteer or have their girls attend Guides but told us that weekday evenings would be challenging for them. They had other children at home, who they could not leave unattended to bring their girls to Guides. They also had to get dinner organized in the evenings, help with children with homework and were also juggling evening work and class schedules with their spouse. The early nights in the fall and winter was definitely an issue –many families did not feel safe walking at night with their young daughters. We agreed that Saturday would be the best day for the girls and women to participate in Guiding – so that’s what we did!

Our unit now runs on Saturday mornings. We have recruited new Guiders from the community and we have many girls from ages 5 to 14 years attending as Sparks, Brownies, Guides and Girl Assistants. Our girls mostly come in sibling pairs, which makes the activities a lot of fun for them – little sisters always want to do what their big sisters are doing, so our activities are done jointly across branches with different levels of skills and depth to meet the developmental needs of the girls. We also plan our outings, cookie sales and service projects for Saturdays so there is consistency with the timing of our activities, making it simpler for families to plan for Guiding activities and special events.

We have had a few girls that had other activities on Saturday mornings, such as language classes, and have needed to step back from Guiding for months at a time. But they are happy to re-join during the year and we welcome them back as their time permits. Some of the families have settled and moved to the suburbs where the girls have joined other units. Their first exposure to Guiding helped make that transition easier. The timing also works well for our Guiders, who may work late or need to commute from work on weekday evenings. One great perk of picking up last minute supplies for meetings is no line-up at the dollar store at 9 a.m. on Saturday!

Guiding needs to be flexible to meet the needs of our diverse and changing Canadian society. Offering unit meetings on a weekend may be a way to bring in new members and expose them to our vibrant organization – it’s just another way to grow Guiding!

April14_Volunteer_SunitaGuest post by Sunita Mathur, a Guider with 1st Toronto Spark/Brownie/Guide unit and a member of the Board of Directors of GGC. Check out her previous post: What’s next on your volunteering bucket list?

You might also like: Friday night Guiding

 What makes your unit unique? Share your story with us! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.

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Our bilingual unit adventure

Feb4_craftingWhen I moved two years ago from Mississauga to Barrie, Ontario to do a year of post-graduate studies at Georgian College, I wanted to continue my volunteer work in Guiding so I joined a French language unit near campus. This was an amazing experience and I really loved the practice time I got for my French. When I moved back to Toronto, I missed my unit and wanted to continue with the French. So, I signed up to be the Guider of a bilingual unit at a French school near my house last April and waited patiently for girls to join it.
By the end of September my unit was all set up – I can’t tell you how exciting it was to check the roster and see it grow through September. We have 11 Brownies; some go to the French school we meet at and some are from other schools. I asked one of the moms to help me as a Guider because it was just me in the beginning. Jes joined our unit and became the perfect down-to-earth co-Guider I needed. We didn’t really have a plan for how this bilingual thing would work but we knew we could figure it out as we went.

Feb4_girlsinfieldWe started out by alternating between French and English. The first thing I noticed was that not all the girls had the same level of French. Out of 11, only about three spoke French at home. Most of the girls are still learning basic verbs and need to keep building their confidence with the language. I thought to myself, this is great, we will take it easy and they can all help each other.

After about three weeks we had one girl who was sitting out on some games and activities. One time, Jes went to sit with her. They chatted easily for a few minutes and then they came back to the group and it wasn’t a big deal. At the end of the meeting Jes turned to me and said, “She doesn’t speak French, that’s why she’s been sitting out.” I was so stunned, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realized that she was sitting out when I spoke French. I felt like such a bad leader and that I had really let this girl down.

Jes will tell you I had a bit of a panic at the end of that meeting because I felt like the vision I’d had for our unit was slipping through my fingers. How could we have a bilingual unit when not all the girls spoke French? She could feel left out which was the very last thing I wanted to her feel at Brownies. Jes told me not to worry about it just then, we would figure out a way incorporate French without losing inclusivity. We left it for that night and resolved to come back to it later.

That was back in October and it’s now February. At the beginning of a recent meeting we had a discussion about how we are all different, we all know different French words and we need to be respectful of everyone. The Brownies agreed that when they say something in French they will follow it by the English translation. We have also found small ways the girls can incorporate French on their own terms and in personal ways. When we do any kind of writing they always have the option of either language. The same goes for badges, which can be presented however they like. In December we made holiday cards for a girl who was in the hospital and I knew she was bilingual so some of the cards were in French.

I wrote this post because I learn so many things from my sisters in Guiding and I would like to share my experience, which I’m certain is not unique. I’ve learned that you might have a beautiful vision for your unit or even how your year is going to go, but Guiding is about being adaptable and facing challenges as they come. Do the girls realize that anything is not as I planned it? No, they enjoy the time we have together and that is what’s important. I have learned a lot about being flexible with plans and to adapt to new circumstances. After all isn’t Guiding about Being Prepared?

Guest post by Guider Chelsea Kennedy. Chelsea is in her fourth year as  Guider and lives in Toronto.  She has a seriously nerdy passion for history and knitting, and can’t wait for spring. You can find her on Instagram at aperture_exposure.

What’s your Guiding story? Did you have a Guiding idea that didn’t go as planned – but ended up being it’s own kind of amazing? Share your story: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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What Girl Greatness means to me

Girl_Greatness_Awards-pg-banner-700x192-ACNominations for our Girl Greatness Awards are now open! Find out what Girl Greatness means to member Maryna, and why she nominated one of her Sparks.  

Before the Girl Greatness Awards, the term ‘Girl Greatness’ wasn’t really something I thought about.  Of course, this was before I truly understood how important Guiding was – because now, to me, Girl Greatness is everything.

Feb 2 Maryna

Maryna

So what is Girl Greatness? “What we do” is a bit too broad of an answer. Sure, Guiding teaches girls to be great. We teach them confidence, courage, resourcefulness and we teach them how to make a difference. But we also teach them to love themselves and others, to share, to be friends, to try new things, to venture to new places, to live life how they want. Girl Greatness is so much more than Guiding – it is every individual girl and women this organization has ever touched or changed or meant something to. Girl Greatness is in all of us, and all of us ARE Girl Greatness.

The Girl Greatness Awards are so much more than an award – they are a representation of everything we teach and learn and do. Naturally, when I found out that as a girl member I could nominate another girl for these awards, I leapt at the opportunity. If any of my Sparks – with whom I’ve been a Girl Assistant for close to five years – could be recognized nationally for the amazing girls that they are, I didn’t want to miss that chance.

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Seayena

Enter Seayena. First-year Spark. A little shy, pretty quiet, pretty nervous – and understandably so, as she is anaphylactic to peanuts and tree nuts and has to carry an epi-pen. This new environment filled with new people was a lot for her, and for the first few months I could see that on her face. And yet, as soon as I met her I knew that Guiding would do amazing things for her.

For the first few weeks of Sparks – which, keep in mind, was also the first few weeks of school for most of these girls – our First Aider held on to Seayena’s epi-pens for her. But after those first few weeks Seayena started carrying them herself and didn’t mind doing demonstrations (with a practice pen) and answering questions about her allergy. And even though she was shy, she was never too shy to make sure that everything was safe for her to use – including the hand soap! While as Guiders  we made sure everything was safe for her, it was inspiring to see her take it upon herself to make sure.

The first time I really noticed Seayena’s incredible confidence: glue gun night. She wanted nothing to do with them and was so scared she was nearly in tears. But, after some reassurance, she decided she would try using the glue gun (which she did brilliantly). That’s when I knew what a confident little Spark we had.

I nominated Seayena for a Girl Greatness Award in the Confidence category because every week I saw her grow into herself. There were weeks when she didn’t want to come in without her mum, but the next week she would parade right in like she owned the place. There were weeks she would hardly talk, and the next week she would be talking up a storm and showing the other girls how it’s done; especially since this year she was our only second-year Spark. Because we knew she could do it, we asked Seayena to be a leader and a mentor for the younger girls, and she absolutely was.

The biggest boost in confidence I saw in Seayena was the week she found out she had won the award. She couldn’t articulate how she felt about winning, but I could see that it had made a change in her. Her confidence was a hundred times what it had been before, and during that meeting I realized how important recognition is.

I can’t describe how much she had changed since that first meeting. This shy, quiet, and nervous Spark was now a leader, a mentor, an outgoing friend and an inspiringly confident young lady. This girl, who wouldn’t talk to me unless she absolutely had to, now starts group conversations, asks all the questions she has, tells stories like you wouldn’t believe and contributes something important to every meeting. She, who whispered her name to me that first week because she didn’t want to say it out loud, stood in front of all the Sparks and all their parents at our year-end meeting and told them all what she had liked most about Sparks that year.

Seayena and all my Sparks, and every member of Guiding that I have met, have inspired me. They have inspired me to be confident, courageous, resourceful, and to make a difference. They have inspired me to see the Girl Greatness in myself and in everyone around me. They have inspired me to see what drives us as an organization.

Girl Greatness Awards are more than just a pin and a certificate. (Which are both pretty cool, let’s be honest). Girl Greatness Awards are a representation of who we are – girls and women who are confident, courageous, resourceful, making a difference; girls and women who are GREAT.

Guest post by Maryna, who volunteers with the 2nd Sooke Sparks in B.C. She recently achieved her Chief Commissioner’s Gold Award, received a 2015 Girl Greatness Award and spoke at the 2015 National Conference. Maryna started her first year of post-secondary education this year and was ecstatic to receive scholarships from both her province and area.

Be sure to encourage the girls in Guiding you know to submit a nomination for the 2016 Girl Greatness Awards!

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The Perks of Being a Sparks Guider

There are times that being a grown up can be kind of hard. In my case, I’ve been hobbling around my normal life with increased difficulty due to the big awkward cast on my left leg. It has compounded my regular level of mobility difficulty which is due to nerve damage in my legs and feet and has made me a little bit grumpy. Walking is hard, and it makes me tired and sore after just a short time. Meanwhile, I’m busy with work commitments, Girl Guide volunteering, and finishing my final (and most stressful) semester of a Master’s degree.

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So when I was arriving at Sparks last night, part of me was just eager for it to be over so I could go home and relax after a long day. Before long my spirits were lifted as I chatted with a dad who was so proud that his daughter would be doing her very first show and tell that evening – even though she was nervous and not sure she wanted to bring anything from home, at the very last minute she decided to bring a special doll and was excited to show it to her friends. He was thrilled by how much Sparks was helping her to try new things and develop her confidence.

At the show and tell circle, I started things off by showing the girls my cast. They expressed lots of concern and were very interested to hear lots of details about what it was made of and how it was put on. They even asked lots of really great questions – “are you able to wiggle your toes in there?” one asked, with big curious eyes. Yes, as a matter of fact, I can… but you can’t tell by looking at me. Several wanted to know if I was allowed to draw on it, and I told them that I was.

After show and tell finished and we completed another activity, I took out a pile of coloured Sharpies and invited the girls to help me decorate the cast.

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At first there was a little bit of chaos as they swarmed around me – they were so excited to do this! – but we quickly agreed that they could take turns and once someone finished a design they would move aside to let someone else have a turn. Not all 16 Sparks could colour one cast at the same time, after all.

Watching them attentively draw and write messages, I was quickly overcome with emotion. It was so clear how much they all cared. The cast was soon covered in hearts, flowers, and rainbows, along with carefully penned messages like “I love you” and “I hope you feel better.”

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Prior to going to Sparks I was grumpy and tired. I had also spent the last several days embarrassed of the cast, trying to hide it behind baggy pants and feeling awkward when people asked me about it. Today I love the cast and it makes me smile when I see it. I wore a skirt to work today and have been showing it off to my coworkers.

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Sure, being a grown up can be kind of hard – and being a volunteer Sparks Guider is a lot of work sometimes, too. But this week, I was reminded of why it is so worth it, and why I love what I do. Thank you, 1st Burnaby Mountain Sparks, for sharing your cheer, your caring, and your confidence. I am proud to be your leader, and so proud to wear the cast you decorated for me.

Guest post by Bethany Koepke, Burnaby Mountain District Commissioner and 1st Sparks Guider. Bethany has been in Guiding since she was six-years-old (which makes a total of 23 years!). The cast in the post is related to the emergency spinal surgery she had this past spring, her recovery from which earned her a Guiding Fortitude Award. Outside of Guiding, Bethany works at a local college, she’s a graduate student with degrees in English and, in a few months, Education. Thank you to Burnaby Mountain District in B.C. for sharing this post from their blog – check them out!

Do you have inspiring story as a Guider? Share it with us! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.

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The ABCs of making a difference

Today is Family Literacy Day! Find out how one Ranger is getting the word out about the importance of literacy.

NSP 2016If you’re like me, you’re probably constantly looking for a way to make a difference. After learning statistics on poverty in Canada, like how 1 in 10 people live in poverty, I could never help feeling that I wasn’t doing enough. When I heard about the National Service Project: Words in Action, which promotes access to literacy, I immediately jumped on board.

I decided to run a meeting with my Brownie Unit about what literacy is and why it’s important, and to empower the girls to take action. It started with some fun bookmark making and story reading, but ended with some really important discussions. By the end of the night, all of the girls were on the same page that if there was a way to help, we should. This was where our literacy backpack drive was born.

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I got in contact with a teacher of a grade 3/4 class at a nearby school, who said that his class could greatly benefit from backpacks filled with school supplies and books. With  some drawstring backpacks donated by a local store, we began our drive. The Brownies, along with a Pathfinder and my Ranger Unit, all worked together to gather school supplies (such as pencil cases, crayons, and gently used books). It was SO inspiring to have my Brownies going above and beyond and proudly showing me all the school supplies they had handpicked to donate. In the end, we filled 22 backpacks. After weeks of work, they were ready to donate!

The energy was amazing when I went to the class to drop off our donation and I can barely put the experience into words. The excitement in the room was sky-high, as I heard things like “Woah, this is awesome!” and “I got pencils!” As I walked around the class, I had kids pulling me over to say ‘thank you,’ and this was the moment I realized what an amazing thing we had done as Girl Guides.

I went back to the school a few weeks later to find that the class was still using the school supplies we had donated. I felt so honoured to have been able to have Girl Guide units help these kids out. This service project taught me not only that you are never too young to make a difference, but that girls LOVE to help out when they have the information and the opportunity. I definitely recommend getting involved in Words in Action. Odds are it will change your life as it did mine.

Have you participated in Words in Action? Share your story! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca. And don’t forget to log your actions. Check out our other literacy-related programming as well!

Guest post by Alissa Sallans. Alissa is a Ranger and Grade 12 student from Whitby, Ontario. She has been passionate about making a difference in her community and in the lives of others since a young age. See her previous blog post: Small things really do make a difference.

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This is what Link looks like

What happens when Link members get together for the Young Guiders’ Retreat in  Nova Scotia? See for yourself!

We didn’t all know each other when we arrived…

… but we made sure we got silly with each other fairly quickly! We did some chocolate tasting and puzzles, then Heads-Up and Charades were a big hit!

We had a relaxing morning of yoga, and started brainstorming for International Women’s Day. A simple lunch was followed by some snowshoeing around the Lewis Lake site!

We came inside for some more games – Anomia and Scattergories (the card game).

Then our Provincial Arts Adviser led us in a Twinning 2020 discussion and activity – such a great way to learn about WAGGGS and our global Guiding sisters!

We were joined by the Provincial Commissioner, Kathy McKay!

Even dinner was chocolate-y.

Our dessert and evening craft was finger-painting with chocolate pudding. Can you imagine the mess we might make when we take this to our units?

We even made a small gallery of our creations.

Then we had a chance to reflect on why it’s so cool to be a #ggclink member. We can’t wait to see more people join us next time!

Thanks to Krysta Coyle for sharing these stories with us.

 

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Small actions for inclusion

One of the things I really try to do as a Guider is foster a sense of safety and inclusion for all the members of our multi-branch unit. I think it’s a constant process and to be truly successful, needs pretty much everyone to be onboard. But I also believe that it isn’t just about big picture statements and policies (which are essential, though!). I’d like to believe it’s about the small words I use and the little choices I make.

A Ranger who was volunteering with our unit showed great courage in speaking to the unit’s Guiders about how we could make our unit more inclusive and safer for members of a wider range of gender identities and expressions. She was concrete and positive and personal. I owe her my thanks for helping me become more aware of my own conceptions and experiences, and the power of my own words and actions.

Having recently read GGC’s Guidelines for the Inclusion of Transgender Members (so glad we have this) got me really thinking about two things in particular we can do to be truly welcoming to all girls and women.

  1. Think about language and labelling. I don’t always use the word “girls” to call over or describe our members. In fact, more often I use their branch (like “Brownies”) or their first names. I might say we have children and youth members as often as I say we have girl members. Why do I do this? It’s because it can act as a subtle cue that gender or gender expression isn’t the main or most important way – which I “see” or label the people I interact with. It could signal that it’s okay to be questioning, or identifying in more than one way. I do still use “girl” and “woman,” and I do that for specific reasons, too. I want those words to have positive associations – they are not insults or ways to put people down, the way saying that to do something “like a girl” often means “not well.” And as an organization for anyone who identifies as a girl or woman, I think it’s absolutely appropriate to use both “girl” and inclusive language.
  2. Try not to impose fixed ideas of gender expression on our members. What does that mean? Here’s an example. Our Brownies really like to dress-up. One of their favourite camps had a Hollywood theme, complete with a red carpet soirée. They requested a “fancy” party recently. In discussing how to prepare with the Brownies, and in reminder emails to families, I was deliberate about how I described what to wear. I could have said, “Wear a fancy/pretty dress,” but there’s more than one way to dress “fancy,” isn’t there?  So I said dress in whatever makes you feel fancy. I went further in the family email, and included the option to dress comfortably.

At camp, I wore a gold dress. Jan19_Kathryn FancyFor the party, I wore dress pants and a black tie. I wanted to make sure that if there was a Brownie who wasn’t comfortable in a dress, or who didn’t know how to be fancy without a dress, that there was another example to consider.

I don’t think most Brownies and other members notice how I mix my language, but they DID notice the tie. It started many great conversations about dress, gender and choices. Some of them were funny and in the “fancy” spirit, “Are you our butler?” and “I am going to call you Monsieur!” (right down to the great, exaggerated French accent) while a couple were complimentary, “You look really different. And good!”  Mostly, after I or someone else explained that the pants and tie were my way of being “fancy,” the Brownies shrugged and went back to dancing. Or twirling. Or running. Or jumping up and down. It was nice.

Guest post by Kathryn Lyons, with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Group, Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Check out her previous posts: Managing Friend Drama; Sustainable crafting: Or, what can we do with all of that leftover fleece?;  How do you organize all your Guiding stuff? A Billion Brownies; Watching Girl Greatness

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Dream. Dare. Do.

Jan14_AlisonDareDreamDoWhen I attended the Juliette Low Seminar at the Sangam World Centre in India, I went  with the expectation of learning  about India, leadership in Guiding, and finding out more about the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). What came out of my experience in India was so much more.

The theme of the seminar was ‘Dream. Dare. Do.’ – and the dare component was by far the most influential part of the week for me. The first day, we were given a list of activities that we had to rate on a scale of “easy for me to do” to “no way will I ever do this.” The goal was to start to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. We were not forced to complete anything we did not want to do. It was up to each of us to determine how far we wanted to push ourselves.

Jan14_GirlsSnakesDareDreamDoA few examples of the challenges that some participants faced: holding a snake, learning to swim, speaking in front of a crowd, telling people what you like about yourself, and rappelling down the Sangam water tower. During these few hours, I learned a lot about my willingness to open up to others as well as the comfort that I feel when I am among my sisters in Guiding. I don’t think I could have pushed myself as far as I did if I didn’t have the support of each of the participants.

Jan14_DareDreamDoIndianClassroomAs part of the seminar, we also visited a local school, where we got the chance to sing and dance with the students, as well as hear about their most recent projects and see what they were studying that day. In India, Scouting is part of the school curriculum for students in year 4, 5 and 9. The students in each of the classrooms were all really excited to see us and so proud to show off their knowledge and abilities. Visiting the school was an amazing experience, where I learned a lot about patience and taking the time to understand others. I also learned about being a leader in a situation with language barriers.

Overall, I learned more in my one week at the Juliette Low Seminar than I ever thought possible. I learned about myself, my fears, my dreams and my motivation as well as the qualities that I admire in others  and leaders. I found new drive, passion and motivation in Girl Guiding which rekindled a fire within me to want to do more back in Canada. I learned about the challenges that other cultures face every day, things that we in Canada often take for granted, but I also saw examples of cultures that have flourished in areas where we still struggle. I learned a lot about the theory behind being a good leader, and being able to accomplish what needs to be done while making sure that everyone is satisfied. Most of all, I gained a greater appreciation for WAGGGS and started to realize how impactful this organization is on a global scale. Having only ever been a girl member and Unit Guider,  I never really realized how large WAGGGS really is, and how much they are accomplishing on a global scale to change the lives of young men and women around the world.

Over the course of my travels with Guiding, I have gained a greater appreciation for everything that WAGGGS does, and I have had the opportunity to experience things that girls my age don’t usually get to experience. Guiding has given me the chance the challenge myself and I would not have been anywhere near as willing to do so if it wasn’t in an environment in which I felt safe and comfortable.

Guest post by Alison Van der Wee. Alison is a 24-year-old Pathfinder Guider in Community 29  in Ottawa, who has been a member of GGC for 15 years. It had been a seven-year dream of hers to visit Sangam. 

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