The World Centres are something you talk about in Guiding from a young age. You learn where they are, what they’re called, what kind of food they eat and what games they play in the countries where they are located. But last July, after two flights, two train rides, a bus ride and a hike up a steep hill, 13 of the 33rd Montreal Pathfinders, one 1st Monkland Ranger, and three Guiders visited Our Chalet in Switzerland for the first time.
We had an amazing trip, experiencing everything you would expect from a stay in the Alps – hiking, friend making, rock climbing, cheese, chocolate, zip-lining, singing, wood burning, learning about WAGGGS, trading, storytelling, experience comparing, and the list goes on. Yet my most memorable and thought provoking moment was one that could have happened at home. I’ll tell you all about it, but first you need the back story.
Our first couple of days we spent a lot of time doing high-adrenaline adventure activities. As you can probably guess, these required hair to be tied back – you don’t want it to get caught in a zip-line pulley after all. As leaders, we spent a lot of time asking the girls to tie it back (as I’m sure many of you do at camp). It got to be so frequent that during our nightly debrief we finally told the girls that we expected hair to be tied back from the time we saw them at breakfast until the time they went to get ready for bed – we followed our own rules as well.
The next afternoon, there came a knock at our door and our Ranger handed us a piece of paper. “It’s a hair petition,” she said. “They spent their free time composing it.” Well at first we had to laugh. Their arguments about it looking better for pictures and causing fewer sunburns if it was down seemed far-fetched far best. We could have flat-out disregarded it and told the girls to do what we said. But what kind of message would that have sent them?
We spend much of our time in Guiding (and hopefully life in general) encouraging girls to stand up for themselves, work for what they want and never take no for an answer. We decided that this could be a teaching moment. That night, we had the girls present their arguments in person and came to a compromise. If they could show us that they could keep it tied back for an entire day without us having to remind them, they could leave it down when we weren’t doing activities for the rest of the trip.
This may seem like a trivial and odd little story. But to me it’s what Guiding and travelling are about: listening to the girls, learning from differences, cooperation and compromise, problem solving and encouraging girls to believe in themselves!
By guest blogger Elizabeth Knowles. Elizabeth is a Guider with the 2ndLockerby Guides in Sudbury, Ontario, where she is completing a graduate diploma in Science Communication at Laurentian University in part thanks to the Roberta Bondar Girl Guides of Canada scholarship she earned. She is also the provincial Deputy Program Advisor in Quebec. You can read more about her trip to Our Chalet and her other Guiding adventures on her blog.