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!

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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.

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

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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.”

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“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.”

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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

March31_GuiderCamping4
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.

March29_2010CookiesBox

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. Look for upcoming posts on how Girl Guides are lending a hand.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

Feb2_Girl Greatness Award recipient Seayena

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.

Jan28_castclose-up

 

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.

Jan28_GirlsColouringCast

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.”

Jan28_girlscolourcast2

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.

Jan28_closeupdecoratedcast

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!

Arts and Twinning Mashup! #twinning2020 #girlguidesofcanada #girlguides #madcraftskills

A photo posted by Kayla (@ka_hali) on

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.

Finger painting with chocolate pudding, creative and delicious! 🎨🍫 #chocolatechallenge #girlguidesofcanada #ggclink #girlguides

A photo posted by L•E•I•J•S•A 🌺 (@lsquires90) on

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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Touching Hearts – Valentines for Vets

Break out the markers and the red and pink construction paper! Valentine’s Day is just over a month away and it’s a great time to plan a Valentines for Vets activity with your unit. This Veterans Affairs Canada program distributes personal notes of thanks in valentines to veterans in long-term care facilities.  Here’s a re-post of how the 1st Niagara-on-the-Lake Sparks made this activity their own. 

Valentine_collageCanadian Guider promoted it in the Winter 2014 edition, our Guiders implemented it but the 1st  Niagara-on-the-Lake Sparks made it the heart-warming and popular project that it became. I’m talking about Valentines for Vets. It started when Remembrance Day fell on our meeting day this year. Our newest Guider, Jan McFarland, led the girls in discussions and crafts related to:

  • Making a poppy
  • The significance of the poppy
  • Ways in which we can make the world a better place
  • What peace means
  • The song “Peace Peace”
  • Decorating a peace dove
  • Completing the written sentence – “I will make the world better by….”  and putting it in their Sparks memory books

The girls earned the Remembrance Day crest for their participation in this meeting.

This background prepared the girls to make valentines for vets and understand the significance of thanking them. (Although they needed a quick reminder that this was for “soldiers” and not animal doctors.) The first week, we used every bit of crafting material we could lay our hands on and we still had the occasional request for that special piece of ribbon or sought-after sticker. As requested by Veterans Affairs, we avoided glitter. I can only imagine the distress of long-term care workers who would have been sweeping glitter from beds and chairs. Our Sparks do love their bling! We were asked NOT to put on too many things that might come off but really, asking a six-year-old girl not to use decorations is like asking a new puppy not to bark. Sparks love to accessorize! The girls enjoyed the project so much that when asked, they decided to do more the following week so we brought out the paint and brushes.

I hope the vets can read phonetically as one Spark wrote (all on her own) “Thank you for prutectshon” (protection). My other favourites: “To Vet Be Mine” and “You Can Keep This.”

1st Niagara-on-the-Lake Sparks_Valentines for VetsEach of the beautifully decorated cards touched our hearts so I know they will touch the hearts of our much valued veterans. This has been a terrific project that the girls really enjoyed. I thank Veterans Affairs for affording us this opportunity and Canadian Guider for bringing it to my attention. This is truly a cross-generational project of very deserving recipients and loving, spontaneous Sparks. I hope it becomes a tradition for our unit.

 

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Blanketed in memories….Or, what do you do with 85 Girl Guide T-shirts?

Like many Guiders, I have accumulated an incredible number of crests and patches throughout the years and the culmination of this epic crest collecting has resulted in the completion of two camp blankets. But along with all of those patches and crests, I’ve also collected many Guiding T-shirts over the years. So many that they had an entire chest of drawers dedicated to them! My mother cautiously suggested that I give her all the shirts and she would have them made into a quilt for me. She was surprised at how quickly I agreed to this plan (little did she know I was also thinking about having them made into a quilt). So, when I flew home for Thanksgiving in 2013, I had two bags with me – filled with 85 Girl Guide shirts!

We got them home and sorted through what I wanted kept from each one – design on the back only, or front and back and sleeves for some. And I waited… Neither one of us really knew anyone who quilted and we figured it would be a bit expensive to get done. But, patience does have its rewards – later that year, my aunt coincidentally took up quilting. She’d made a few quilts for herself and family members, so my mother broached the subject with her. And she of course said yes!

Jan7_GuideQuilt2

 

Jan7_GuideQuilt1

Jan7_GuideQuiltPillowShe did not really know what she was getting into until she saw the piles of shirts! But my aunt and my mother cut out all the logos and did a rough layout for them. My aunt took all the pieces home and quilted them together – she even had enough left to make a pillow. And I couldn’t be happier with the end result! I cannot thank my mother and aunt enough for this wonderful keepsake from the camps, events, conferences, travel and dragon boat racing I have taken part in. And now I have space to collect more shirts for a second quilt!

Guest post by Tanya Watts. Tanya was a girl member in Regina and a Brownie Guider and Trainer in Saskatoon and currently volunteers as a Trainer and Guide Guider in Edmonton. 

Do you have a one-of-a-kind Guide collection? Or a unique way of showcasing your Guiding pride? Share your story with us! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.

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Managing Friend Drama

Jan5_ManagingFriendBrownieDramaSome years are better than others, but for every year I’ve been involved with our Brownies, it happens. There are inseparable friends who stubbornly cling to one another, in spite of our efforts to mix up groups and facilitate new connections. We are a downtown unit, and our Brownies come from several neighbourhoods and attend many different schools. Sometimes the inseparable ones are old friends who now attend different schools and only see one another at Brownies. Other times, it’s the Brownies who live on the same street, go to the same school, the same after-school program and play on the same soccer team that HAVE to be together – ALL. THE. TIME. Often it’s just a twosome, but we’ve had the same challenge with little “cliques” of Brownies, too.

We’ve found this friend dynamic challenging because it can make others feel left out, it can make it harder for newer Brownies to integrate, and occasionally, provoke drama when there’s been a falling out. It’s not always the case, but we have also noticed it can be at its most intense with our second-year Brownies.

I will be honest. Sometimes we choose the path of least resistance and allow the inseparable ones to stay together.  But we also have a couple of strategies that have worked year after year:

  1. ‘It’ sticks. Every Brownie’s name is written on a popsicle stick. We keep them in a can and pull them out whenever we need to pick a leader, or to make groups. The ‘It’ sticks are completely impartial. The Brownies recognize that there is no way to get around the randomness of the sticks.
  2. Free-flow meetings. Often when we have a range of small activity stations planned for the meeting, we let the girls move from one station to another at their own pace. We have found that the girls mix more naturally this way, as it’s their interest in a particular activity that becomes more important than who they are with.
  3. Make our own groups as a privilege. We usually only use this in the second half of the year. We give the Brownies advance notice that there will be groups for part of the meeting, and if they are able to make the groups themselves, we will allow them. That means if we say they need to make groups of four or five, we don’t end up with one group of eight and a couple of stragglers! By the second half of the year, they are usually able to problem solve together to get the groups right.
  4. Flexible and varied dynamics. We try to mix things up. Sometimes we will do things as a whole group, other times it’s individual activities, or in pairs, or in medium-sized groups.
  5. Compromise. At camp, we split up friends and cliques in tents or bunk rooms, but keep them together for patrols.

We sometimes wonder what’s best – avoid the drama altogether by letting friends stick together all the time, or breaking them up. I think managing the Brownie friend drama is for the best for the group as a whole, but it was really nice to get some feedback from someone closer to it. I recently asked a now much older Pathfinder – and former Brownie clique member – if she thought it was better to keep Brownie friends together or split them apart. Without a second’s hesitation, she said, “You have to split them apart. I remember how silly and difficult we could be when we were together. There’s always lots of chances to be together. And we are all still friends now.”

Do you have friend drama? Difficulty managing groups and pairs? What else works?

KathrynLyons2Guest post by Kathryn Lyons, with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Group, Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Kathryn has been a Guider with 12th Ottawa for five years, and with Brownies for the past three (check out her owl-shaped eye mask, right!). The accomplishments, support, encouragement and teamwork of each of her co-Guiders also make it more than worth it every year. Check out her previous posts: 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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Gone winter camping!

Hollyburn Chalet on beautiful Hollyburn Mountain, B.C.

Hollyburn Chalet on beautiful Hollyburn Mountain, B.C.

GirlGuidesCANBlog will be taking a bit of a break over the holidays. See you again in the New Year, with more great Guiding stories!

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Hats’ off!

Girl Guides definitely love to show-off their Guiding style. When we asked members to post photos of their Trefoil toques on our Facebook page, we were blown away  by their yarn-tastic enthusiasm. Here’s a sample of our members’ knitting awesomeness:

Dec17_SheilaDonaisSparksCousins, friends and Sparks! Submitted by Sheila Donais.

Dec17_KatieNeale_PathfinderMountain

Here’s me and a mountain of Pathfinder Trefoil toques that my mom, Dawn Tesarowski, and I knit for West Point Grey girls! Submitted by Katie Neale.

Dec17_TanisLachanceSparkCollageMy Spark-in-training Ryan, Aubrey my Spark in pink, and Tessa my Brownie in brown! Thanks to our handy Grama! Submitted by Tanis LaChance.

Dec17_CarlaBlueGuiders
This photo was taken at our district holiday party in B.C. Our amazing Commissioner made a toque for all of the Guiders. Submitted by Carla.

Dec17_RitaRichterThree

Our grandmother/mother-in-law made them! Submitted by Rita Richter.

Dec17_StaceyAdelyPathfindersStJohns

The 34th St. John’s Pathfinders in their new hats that one of our Guiders’ mom made for us. Submitted by Stacey Adey.

Want to knit your own GGC hat? Check out the pattern in the Fall 2015 issue of Canadian Guider. Be sure to showcase Guiding by using our official branch colours! And check out our Brand Standards (pg. 52) on the Brand Centre for more tips on ensuring you are properly using the Trefoil and GGC logo.

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I Am Super Guider !

Dec16_CobiSuperGuiderWhen you envision a super hero, you don’t think about their alter ego’s responsibilities. You think about the super hero costume, the cape, the super powers, and the glory of saving the world. You don’t think about how these heroes launder their costumes, what they eat for dinner, and their day jobs. On the flip side, most Guiders I know only think about their alter ego responsibilities. We focus on the fact that we are moms and partners, we have careers or are furthering our education, we have grocery shopping and laundry to do. Very rarely are Guiders able to sit back and enjoy their success as a Guider, mainly because we’re so busy. But also because sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit.

But every once in a while, in the midst of ignoring all of those mundane alter ego tasks, Guiding lets me become Super Guider. I am armed with camping equipment and glue guns, I have an arsenal of badges and craft supplies at the ready, I am prepared to lead my unit into amazing adventures, and make sure they all go home safe at the end of the meeting. My super powers include creativity and micro managing, filling out forms, and giving 100% to performing silly camp songs. When I have a successful meeting—one of those meetings where the girls all rush over to their parents at the end and say “Guess what we did tonight?!”—I know I’ve done my Super Guider job right.

Most nights it’s great to go home at the end of the meeting and take off that uniform. It’s usually been a long day at work, followed by scrambling to gather the materials you want for the meeting you wished you’d had time to plan and hopefully gulping down some dinner, followed by a very high energy two-hour meeting and a half hour of vacuuming glitter out of a church basement carpet. I’m sure the super heroes do the same thing after a whole day of keeping up that alter ego pretence and then a whole night of saving the world. But sometimes I like to keep that uniform on, and give myself the credit I deserve. I may not have actually saved the world, but in my mind, I’ve done my part.

Guest post by Cori Kulbaba. Cori is the Contact Guider for the 214th Guides, and District Commissioner for University District in Winnipeg, MB. She has nine years in Guiding as both a girl and an adult, and her favourite thing about Guiding is camping.

Do you know a Super Guider? Do you have a Super Guiding Story to share? We want to hear from you! Email us your blog idea: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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Finding my courage

Dec2_MorganBoyer2As Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada marks 16 Days of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women, we’re giving voice to our members’ perspective on gender-based violence. Today, we’re sharing Morgan’s personal story of how she found the confidence and courage to break free from a relationship. We know you’ll be moved by her words.

Once upon a time there was a young girl who grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. As a child she was always quiet and outspoken. She enrolled in Sparks to increase her confidence.

I was always pegged as a little strange, shy, nothing to be worried about. I went to a French Catholic school and the most common thing people said about me was “Elle est gênée,” she’s shy. My poor social skills became easy to hide when I started watching shows about girls in school and reading books on how to survive middle school. It wasn’t until high school my classmates noticed my rigid thinking, fidgets, and strange obsession with My Little Pony and princesses. I landed in hospital for two weeks to observe my mental health and autism was brought to light. It’s my greatest vulnerability.

Middle school bullies forced me out of my school and into the largest high school in the province; there I made friends with my cousin and her friends but I still felt like an outsider among them. I met a boy in my French class who was struggling with his school work. I started helping him and he started helping me socially; we quickly became close friends. As the New Year rolled around we became closer and I found solace in his company, the vibrations from my cell phone stopping my heart with each message from him. After a few weeks he started asking for pictures of me; I became his phone wallpaper.

He let insults slip every now and then with his frustration towards me and my poor social skills but he stood by me. Slowly he convinced me my parents were abusing me and the friends I had made were only using me for my kindness. I began to isolate myself from everyone who loved me and my world revolved around him. He told me what to wear, what to say, where to go, who to meet, what to think, and even in the safety of my home I could still feel his presence looming over me. He demanded I trade sexual favours to him for money, he threw me against walls and tables, he hit me, convinced me he was showing me social skills because I was vulnerable. His text messages still stopped my heart but this time out of fear. His hands were outlined on my body when I looked at my reflection.

One day he left me. I had ruined the relationships I started the year before and found peace in a crowd that would accept anyone. I turned to drugs and alcohol, trespassing and theft; “Sorry officer, it won’t happen again” was my new motto. I started hanging around boys who saw me as an object. My self-respect at an all-time low, I was admitted to hospital. When I left I focused all my energy on recovery from him. I made new, healthy friends, started writing poems and stories, I even went to the United Nations to help stop violence against women for International Day of the Girl.

He reappeared in my life a few weeks later.  He offered me his leftover painkillers for one kiss. My Ranger friends found out what had happened and told my Ranger leader. This began my first acts of courage.

Courage is defined as having fear but overcoming it to reach a goal. I always thought courage was being fearless when in reality courage is taking risks to leave your comfort zone. Courage is when I deleted his phone number and blocked him on Facebook even when I feared he would be upset. Courage is breaking free from his chains to realize he was unhealthy for me, and talking to the police. Courage is taking anti-depressants even when you’re worried it’ll erase your personality. Courage is standing in front of a room full of Girl Guides and the Chief Commissioner at the National Conference to tell them about how you fell apart but you’re slowly collecting the pieces from your past self that was shattered.

One of the most courageous things you can do is learning not to fear your vulnerabilities. Being quiet can make you a good listener. Being loud makes you outgoing, your modesty can make you approachable. Vulnerabilities can become your greatest strengths. Thanks to my autism I offer a unique perspective to problem solving situations, thanks to my abusive relationship I can educate girls on the importance of confidence and how to say no.

Today I’m projects coordinator of my provincial Ranger council, friends with three cats, a member of the provincial international trips selection committee, a cactus collector, a Girl Assistant with Brownies, a ukulele player, a Ranger unit president, a science fair judge, an honours student, a writer, a fruit sticker enthusiast, and a survivor of an abusive relationship.

Guest post by Morgan Boyer. Morgan lives in Paradise, NL. Morgan has been a member of Girl Guides of Canada for 13 years and represented Guiding at the 2014 International Day of the Girl conference at the United Nations. Read her previous blog post on this event – Moving Oceans: Working together to stop violence against girls.

Say No to Violence RibbonRead International Commissioner Sharron Callahan’s post Say No to Violence.

New! GGC’s Say No to Violence Challenge.

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Say No to Violence

As we launch our Say No to Violence Challenge and mark 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women, we’re  proud to re-post  this meaningful piece from  International Commissioner Sharron Callahan, who has volunteered in Guiding with victims of violence.

Stop_ConflictIt’s something no one wants to think about – violence against girls and women. But it’s more common than you might think. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. All violence is unacceptable, as is the humiliation, intimidation, and control that too many girls and women experience in their relationships.

Say No to Violence RibbonThe time is now to start the conversation on an issue that we’ve been silent on for far too long. Building from a whisper to a shout, we need to talk, join together and inspire action on violence against girls and women. That’s what our new Say No to Violence Challenge  is all about. In Canada, about 80% of victims of dating violence are female, and only 1 in 3 Canadians understand what it means to give consent. Through the Say No to Violence Challenge, girls will gain a better understanding of gender-based violence and healthy and unhealthy relationships. Whether it’s Sparks and Brownies learning about safe friendships, Guides learning about online harassment or Pathfinders and Rangers discussing dating violence, Say No to Violence covers the topics that Canadian girls need to know for safe and fulfilling relationships.

I encourage you to work with your unit on the Say No to Violence Challenge during 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Violence Against Women (November 25-December 3), an international campaign calling for the elimination of all forms of violence against girls and women. This movement highlights the following significant events:

  • International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25)
  • World AIDS Day (Dec. 1)
  • National Day of Remembrance and Action of Violence Against Women (Dec. 6)
  • International Human Rights Day (Dec. 10)

As members of Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada, there is so much we can do – and are already doing – to have an impact on the lives of girls and young women. Our unit meetings offer a safe and unique space where girls can feel comfortable discussing difficult issues, such as healthy relationships. Guiding is also a place where we are building strong and supportive relationships between girls. As a mentor, you are inspiring girls to contribute their time, energy and ideas to make their communities safe and peaceful places to be.

Having volunteered as a Unit Guider in a women’s shelter in St. John’s, NL, I’ve seen the devastating effects of violence against women and girls. But I’ve also seen the hope – the hope for a safe and brighter future.

We can change people’s minds and change girls’ lives. If we don’t take a stand, who will?

Chief Commissioner Sharron CallahanGuest post by Sharron Callahan. Sharron is Girl Guides of Canada’s International Commissioner.
How is your unit marking 16 Days? We invite you to post right on our Facebook page, or on Twitter or Instagram, tag us and use hashtag #16days.

 

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Opening the Vaults: Creative camp gadgets

We have some really interesting photos of camp gadgets in our collection. So many that we had trouble narrowing them down and reached out to some self-proclaimed gadget experts for their help with the selection. Choosing these pictures brought back memories of our own camping experiences and the pride we took in building our gadgets – especially when our tent won the gadget building competitions!

Nov24_Tripod_gadget

Our first selection is a photo of three Guides working together to build a tripod. We especially like the look of concentration on their faces in this one.  (APH 600 photo by Nick Yunge-Bateman, 1963)

Nov24_Tripod_dishcloths

In this picture we can see how the Guide has used her tripod to dry her dish cloths and also to hang her mess bag. (APH 490, c.1981)

 

 

 

 

 

Nov24_tripod_stripe_shirts

A second use for a tripod is to hold a wash basin.  (APH 1860, c.1987)

 

 

 

 

 

Nov24_tabletop_gadget

This creative tabletop gadget was used to do laundry at an early international camp. (APH 1300)

Nov24_basin&drying
And this innovative gadget has both a wash basin and a drying rack! (APH 1377, 1953)

Nov24_gadget_toasters

We all agreed that this picture of girls making toasters was a great shot to conclude with.  (APH 608, 1971)

What was your favourite use for a camp gadget? Are you still making them today?

See some of the previous posts in our Opening the Vaults series: 1920s and 1930s Campfires and Cookbooks; Warning! Cute Animal Alert!; Retro Camp Pics

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On the move: I will always be a Girl Guide

Back in 2013, I wrote about my move from being a Girl Guide in Vancouver, B.C to being a Girl Scout in Hanover, New Hampshire. This fall, I started classes at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Before arriving at Bishop’s, I looked online to find the closest Girl Guide unit. I sent out an email to Quebec provincial council  letting them know I was interested in being a Guider. The next step was to sit back and wait for a response.

About two weeks later, while sitting in my dorm room working on an assignment at 4:30pm  I received a call. It was the Guider of a local Sherbrooke unit wondering if I was still interested in being a part of a unit. There was a meeting that night – an open house for anyone interested in being a part of Guiding. I told her I was still interested and would come to the meeting at 6:00 p.m. The next hour and a half were spent finding my uniform, tucked away at the back of my drawer, and finding the meeting place in town.

Nov19_GuidesWhen I stepped into the meeting room I was greeted by smiling faces and happy children. It brought me back to being a Girl Assistant in Vancouver. I knew that I was back where I belonged. The first meeting was a success and I picked up a registration form on the way out. I am no longer a girl member, I am now Squirrel, the Unit Guider. My new unit is a multi-branch unit, and the way it is set up works so well. Helping one of my Sparks learn how to conduct a flag ceremony along with the Guides last week showed me that girls, no matter their age, can do anything they set their mind to. Seeing them smile makes everything worth it.

No matter where I’m living or what I’m doing with my life, I will always be a Girl Guide.

Nov19_DenaPinsGuest post by Dena Schertzer. Dena started out as a Brownie with West Point Grey District in Vancouver, BC. After a brief moment as a Girl Scout in New Hampshire she is back with Girl Guides of Canada. This time in Sherbrooke, Quebec as a Sparks Guider with the 1st Lennoxville Guides.

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On the move: Taking your Guiding life with you

This week on GirlGuidesCanBlog, we’re featuring posts by members on how they keep their Guiding connections strong…. even when they move across the country. 

Nov17_Jillian_Ashick-StinsonAt the end of August, I packed up my stuff and drove (and floated) over 3,000 km to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador from my hometown  of Sudbury, Ontario to attend graduate school at Memorial University. Even though my life was changing in many ways I knew I was going to take one thing with me – Girl Guides!

Here are some tips from my experience that will hopefully make moving smoother when you’re changing Guiding communities:

  • Use your Guiding contacts! You already know lots of people within Guiding, and they know people too! The Guiding family is smaller than you think, and people are more than willing to lend a hand to get you placed in a unit.
  • Understand how involved you want to be.  Moving across the country to a new school or new job is a stressful enough situation, so don’t bite off more than you can chew. During my undergraduate degree, I was the Contact Guider of my Girl Guide unit, but knew that I would have to take a step back to get settled in to my new life. Units are always looking for help, and if you make your expectations clear, then both you and the unit benefit.
  • Contact the province directly. I went through Newfoundland and Labrador’s Girl Guide membership coordinator to form my initial contact and from there we worked out the details to help place me in a local unit.
  • Start early (and be patient). Even though I started contacting people in the summer, I didn’t meet with my unit for the first time until the end of September. The start of the Guiding year is busy, so make your contact as soon as you know when you’re moving so you can join the fun immediately!
  • Let your new unit be your tour guide! So far, my unit has gone to the Government House, the provincial museum, The Rooms, and the Botanical Gardens – all places I would have never thought to explore without them. Let your unit help you explore your new town.
  • Make new friends outside of Guiding. You have to have someone to sell those cookies to!

No matter the reason you’re moving, the benefits of staying in Guiding are great! Being able to grow your Guiding family, meet new people in your new home and get out and experience the community are some of the many benefits I have experienced since moving to St. John’s. Good luck in the new Guiding year!

Guest post by Jillian Ashick-Stinson. Jillian started as a Spark and is now entering her 18th year of Guiding with the 1st St. John’s Brownie unit. Outside of Guiding, Jillian is pursuing a Master’s of Gender Studies with the hopes of becoming a midwife.  

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Remembrance Day: Reflecting and giving thanks

Nov11_crestLooking back on my 11 years of Guiding, some of my earliest memories are going to the Remembrance Day Ceremonies with my unit at the University of British Columbia. As I sat in War Memorial Gym year after year with the rest of the girls in my unit, all of us dressed in our Guiding uniforms, I couldn’t help but look around, observe and take in what was happening around me. My perspective on the meaning of the ceremony and the purpose of acknowledging the soldiers who served so valiantly changed when I was in Rangers.

As a Ranger, having the opportunity to place a wreath on behalf of Mackenzie Heights District at the ceremony meant a lot to me. Year after year, I would see the different girls participating in the placing of the wreath ceremony. When I got the opportunity last year to place a wreath on behalf of my district I felt privileged. Placing that wreath symbolized tribute and respect to the men and women who served in the two World Wars, the Korean War, Afghanistan and to all the current soldiers serving at home and overseas to maintain our rights and freedoms.

As I walked to place the wreath, I remembered the words of the veteran who had spoken moments before about his time on the front lines.  Reflecting on his words, it was truly impossible to imagine what it must have been like to be on the battlefields not knowing what will happen the next minute. As I placed the wreath, I took a moment to reflect, give thanks and honor those who put themselves in harm’s way for the freedom of our country and to remind myself never to forget the sacrifices made for my freedom and rights today.

We should continually recognize and be grateful for the sacrifices and contributions of the men and women serving today and in the past, and not just on November 11. Without their sacrifices we would not have the rights and the freedoms we are fortunate to have today.

Nov11_AnahitaGuest post by Anahita, who has finished the Ranger program in Vancouver, B.C. and is now a transitional member, volunteering with a Sparks group in Kelowna, B.C. She enjoys playing volleyball, volunteering in the community and trying new foods. 

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Opening the vaults: How Girl Guides Contributed to War Efforts

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada (GGC) members made significant contributions to Canada’s war efforts during the twentieth century. Our national archives collection offers a glimpse into how Girl Guides demonstrated bravery, ingenuity and selflessness during our nation’s most difficult … Continue reading

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Life of a twenty-something Guider

Have you ever been at a cookie selling event and had someone come up to you and ask you where the ‘adult’  in charge is? Or have parents ask the same thing? This has happened to me more than once this year. To be fair, even as an adult member, I am only two years older than my oldest girls.

Nov5_twentysomethingGuider_girlsThis year I became a co-Guider in a joint Pathfinder and Ranger unit. As a young Guider, I have received a lot of questions about how this works when the girls are so close to me in age. This role does come with its challenges. But I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Being so close to the girls in age makes building relationships and trust with them almost come naturally. They are not afraid to tell me anything or ask me for advice as they know I was in their shoes not too long ago.

This role may seem a little scary at first but there are some small things you can do to help the Guiding year run smoothly and to have the girls not only like you but respect you as well.

1. Introduce yourself to their parents the first chance you get! That way they’re less likely to confuse you with the girls.

2. Take some time to think about how much you are comfortable sharing with the girls. They will ask you lots of questions and push your boundaries. Those questions you don’t think they will ever ask, they will. I’m okay telling them what I’m studying in university, not okay talking about my dating life.

3. Your adult uniform and name tag are so important! Especially when you’re out in the community. I always wear my adult scarf, pin tab and name tag along with my shirt. It is a way to distinguish between me and the girls. It helps prevent those awkward interactions where people are trying to pick out the adult. It’s also a great way to set an example for the girls, too. If they see you take pride in your uniform they will, too.

4.. Remember that it’s great to be their friend. But at the end of the day, you’re in charge of their safety. They will still like you, even if you have to put your foot down sometimes.

Enjoy yourself! I love my Guiding role and those 22 teenagers are the highlight of my week. Embrace it, as you won’t be a young Guider for long. Take advantage of the special connection you can create with the girls. They will benefit from it and so will you.

 

Nov5_KaylaNicoleGuest 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.

Do you have a one-of-a-kind Guiding story? Share it with us! ggcblog@girlguides.ca

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How a vivid journey to the bottom of the sea led to my future

There comes a time in every teenager’s life when they have to make a decision on what they want to do or accomplish with the next few years of their life. For some, this decision is made over a long period of time, but for others, like myself, the choice for a future career can be made by simply a truly memorable moment in your life. As for my moment, it went a little something like this…

Nov3_SeaofCortezSnorkellingImagine the feelings that overcame me as I climbed aboard the vessel ‘Adventure’ to embark on what would be the trip of a lifetime, an eight-day expedition alongside other Girl Guide members to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico. I was excited, anxious, proud, nervous, curious and incredibly happy all at once. There were several memorable moments during this trip which deserve to be mentioned. From whale and dolphin watching, to eating fantastic Mexican cuisine – and even singing a few campfire songs on the top deck under the magnificent starry sky, in the leftover warmth from the freshly set Mexican sun. However, there was one particular moment which stands out above the rest. That moment was when I snorkeled and swam in the Sea of Cortez.

Those days of snorkeling would change my life and send me on a path that I never really expected to be on. The memorable part from these snorkeling adventures wasn’t about the locations – it was about how I experienced the sea itself.

This was my first time on the west coast and so far south – the heat was almost unbearable those first few days, so it was very refreshing to finally go swimming. Yet swimming here felt different; it felt new. I put on my snorkeling mask after I cleared the fog out of it, tested my snorkel, and away we went, like a school of fish, observing our brand new surroundings.

I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. I was not just seeing, but experiencing the wonder itself. By experiencing I mean using all of my senses. The water was incredibly clear. You could see the sea life even if it was 10 meters away from you. I remember diving under the waves and turning onto my back to see the sun rays shining through the surface of the water and almost reaching the bottom. I remember taking deep breaths so I could stay under long periods of time and swim down to touch the sandy bottom, which was rippled from when the waves carried the tide in. I remember tasting the terribly salty water on my lips and smelling the salt water each time I came up for breaths. It was like a vivid dream, almost too amazing to be reality. However, I still haven’t mentioned the best part – being a part of the world’s most amazing natural aquarium.

The Sea of Cortez is home to thousands of marine species, and I got to learn so much about them by swimming alongside so many of them. From moray eels to bullseye stingrays, to several different types of coral, star fish, and the widest variety of the most colorful fish that I’ve ever laid eyes on.  I have never had the chance to learn in such an interesting way before in my life. It made me feel as though I myself was part of the sea life. Sometimes, before I knew it, I’d be swimming in the middle of a school of fish, like I was one of their own. I got a whole new perspective on marine life, so much so that I finally decided what I want to be after school, a marine biologist.

This is what I want to do with my life, and this is how I want to feel every day, like I did in that moment. I want to work alongside the marine animals as I study them. I want them to show me how they live, I want to see new creatures every day, and I want to feel like I’m a part of what I’m studying. I don’t just want to study marine biology, I want to experience it. This memory, although still very fresh in my mind, will always remain as vivid as it is to me now. I will never forget the time that I spent there. Not just snorkeling in the sea, but really being a part of, and truly experiencing the magnificent wonder that is the Sea of Cortez.

Guest post by Michelle Stackhouse. Michelle is a Ranger with the 2nd Tidewater Rangers, Tidewater Area, New Brunswick.

Travel crest

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My camp blanket tells a thousand stories

Not all stories are told in books, not all memories are seen in pictures – some come in the form of a thousand little embroidered pieces of felt.

Oct29_campblanketcloseupMy camp blankets tell more than my Guiding story. They weave together a tale of friends, experiences and memories that span more than 25 years of my life. Each badge chronicles a moment in time – the visit to a World Centre, a successful district camp, an initial encounter with a soon-to-be friend – and serves as a colourful reminder of a funny story, a sad goodbye, or a proud achievement.

I decided to put together my first blanket after a life-changing visit to Our Chalet and Pax Lodge as a Pathfinder. Armed with my grandmother’s sewing basket, a fresh booklet of needles, and a bag full of badges from around the world, I sat down on my bed and stabbed into the coarse wool blanket with gusto… promptly piercing through the top of my finger. One gauze bandage and a precautionary tetanus shot later, I was back at it, determined to finish the blanket before the end of the year.

 

Oct29_campblanketBigThe Crafts badge was the first badge I earned in Guiding, and was the first sewn onto my blanket. As I carefully stitched around the tiny triangle, I recalled tiptoeing to the car after one of my first Brownie meetings, terrified of shattering my freshly painted light-bulb-head Brownie doll onto the sidewalk before I could show my parents my handiwork.

I then moved on to the Guide badges, laughing when I reached the Needleworker badge – which I earned more for my determination than for the lopsided, stuffing-challenged polyester pig I presented to my camp leaders with pride, a full hour after the other girls had finished and were outside enjoying the sunshine.

Finally, as the snow started to fall outside, I sewed on the last of the badges – a small Girl Scout Cookie Selling badge, given to me by a new friend I’d made at Our Chalet, who’d encouraged me onwards with the promise of chocolate when I started to falter on a seemingly never ending hike through cow-pie-covered fields. Putting down my slightly-bent needle, I remember stepping back in awe of all of the brightly coloured patches dotting across the blanket that had been such a dull monotone grey only months beforehand.

My current blanket weaves through my life as an adult member, chronicling my Guiding experiences internationally, throughout Canada, and in my backyard. It’s more than simply a collection – it’s a record of all the vibrant and fulfilling experiences Guiding has brought to my life. I love bringing my blankets to my unit meetings, to show my girls what Guiding can do for them in a way that speaks volumes more than a photobook or website.

So, tackle that box of badges hanging out in your closet or in your drawer, and relive all of your Guiding memories as you sew them onto a blanket, a poncho, or a jacket. The next time you’re around a campfire, you’ll be thankful to be able to pull it close and wrap yourself in hundreds of stories, told one badge at a time.

Guest post by Sarah Govan-Sisk is a Guider with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Unit and a former member of the National Board of Directors.  Check out her previous posts Opening the Vaults: Embarrassing moments.

What’s your Guiding story? Share it with us! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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Dear Lego….


2015 IDG crestWhen we heard how the 70th Toronto Guides celebrated International Day of the Girl (October 11), we had to share their story with you:

We shared with the girls the story of a female scientist who asked Lego to create sets with more women in their toys. So they created one. At our unit meeting, our Guides had the chance to write a letter to a company of their choice about how they feel about gender equality in toys and other items. Here’s a sample of what they wrote:

Dear Converse, Nike, Vans and Sports Check,

Can you include girl high tops in your collection?  When I outgrow my shoes, I want to get high tops… Also, most girls’ shoes are pink so I think there should be a wide variety of choices. My favourite colours are aquamarine and violet.

 

Dear people that made a fairy tale,

I think that you should change how the girl is always helpless, for example they’re stuck in a tower and cornered by a dragon or something and then the guy is like “I will save you” and it always has to be the guy that saves the princess.

Dear Nintendo, 

I think that you should include games that don’t have girls that are all helpless and like “Oh Save Me!!” It will make some girls sad because not all are like that. Some girls are independent and like other things. I think that you should have a variety of girls, not just one type. Because we’re all different and special in our own way.

 Dear Lego company,

 I think that your company should add more female characters because that does not seem fair.  Like what if there were more girls than boys?  Then who would be the ones complaining?

As Guiders Lelsey and Alison note: “This is why we LOVE Guides! When we see the girls thinking outside the box, we are so proud to be a part of it.”

This started as a unit activity but some of the girls’ letters may be sent so they can share their voice. Thank you to Guiders Lesley Skelly (Comet) and Alison Pearce (Thimble) for sharing their unit’s story.

What’s your Guiding story? Share it with us! ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca

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Clean shorelines for all

Last year, Girl Guides of Canada-Guides du Canada (GGC) partnered with Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup to celebrate Global Youth Service Day (April 17-19). Girls across Canada jumped at this opportunity to make a difference in the world by cleaning up their local shoreline. In fact, we registered a record 145 cleanups last spring! Here’s an overview of what girls and Guiders accomplished together:

Oct21_GCSC_Infographic

Units across the country  can make their mark as eco-citizens as a part of National Science and Tech Week (Oct 16-25)! Learn how to complete the challenge by visiting our Shoreline Cleanup page.

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