At this spring’s National Conference – Guiding Girl Greatness, four girl members spoke to delegates about their own personal experiences with our Mission keys – confidence, courage, resourcefulness and making a difference – and how they have incorporated them into their lives. Below is an excerpt of one of those speeches – we dare you not to be impressed.
I wouldn’t consider myself an incredible person, but I would consider myself an activist who has tried to make a difference. From a very young age, I found myself taking on social justice issues head on, because I cared. When I was five years old, I heard about this big word “pollution” and how bad it was. So I decided to rally up some friends from Sparks, make some anti-pollution signs, and march around the school where we met to bring awareness to this issue. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even know whether anyone noticed my friends and me, but at five years old, I felt like I had made the biggest difference.
At age six, I made a bit more of an impact. My local library was going to be shut down because of budget cuts, and being the driven kid I was and am, I decided not to let this happen. I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper and stood outside the library for hours with this sign that said “Save our library!” I also collected petition signatures, both outside the library and at school. By the end of my campaign, I had over 500 signatures. I went to a City Hall meeting with these to convince the mayor, and it worked: the library has been open ever since.
Fast forward to 2010, when that terrible earthquake hit Haiti. I needed to do something. At the time, the Red Cross was sending over Shelter Boxes consisting of a big tent, a water purifier, and a few other things, all in a box. So with my Guide group, we decided to raise awareness of these Shelter Boxes, by sleeping in one in the middle of winter. We got media attention for it and encouraged people to donate to this important cause. So again, something small made a meaningful difference.
In 2012, my Pathfinder unit was one of the first to complete the Girls for Safer Communities Challenge, which is a huge undertaking – planning meetings, doing activities, completing safety audits, and fixing a local problem, which for us was cracked pavement. Once again, something small, but we educated all these girls on safety along the way.
From that experience, I found that education is key if you want to make a difference. Last year, my school environmental council launched a huge educational campaign about plastic water bottles. Did you know that every piece of plastic ever made still exists today? We collected water bottles from the recycling bins at school over four days, and put them in a display case for everyone to see. We collected more than 300 plastic water bottles, and that number didn’t include what people threw in the garbage rather than in recycling bins. After educating the school, we sold reusable water bottles, and the profits went to installing a water bottle refill station, which is fantastic!
So here I am today. Guiding has really given me the platform to make a difference, and I have no doubt that it has done the same for everyone who’s a member. I have been able to run a weekend camp for more than 100 girls, I am a Girl Assistant for a Brownie unit, I am on the Ontario Girl Forum, I am the Ontario Twinning 2020 co-lead, and I try to take advantage of service projects offered by Girl Guides of Canada. Currently, I am working on the Words in Action challenge, and organizing a literacy backpack drive for an at-risk school close by.
So yes, I am involved in Guiding, but more than that, I have had the chance to learn from others who are making a difference, namely my leaders, who take time every week to plan activities, and who dedicate a huge portion of their time to give us opportunities to learn and make a difference. Leaders are the real heroes here if you ask me. The leaders who have put up with me over the past 12 years have helped me find, pursue, and share my passions, in and out of Guiding.
But this isn’t all about how I have made a difference. It’s about how Guiding and Girl Guide leaders have made a difference in my life. Guiding has given me an opportunity to serve others. I’m sure it’s done the same thing for you.
So what can you do to make a difference?
Guest post by Alissa Sallans. Alissa is a Ranger and Grade 11 French immersion 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.
Watch for future posts highlighting how Girl Guide members are living our Mission.