Girl Guiding In India: Hanging out with the 6th Nivedia Guides

Namaste everyone!

My first week at Sangam is over!  My first event starts tomorrow (Monday), and after that is over than my training will be complete and I will be the official Sangam World Centre Marketing and Communications Intern in training.

I won’t bore you with everything I learned in training, as it is probably only super-exciting to geeks like me, but I just finished the most active part of training, which was joining in a meeting with the 6th Nivedia Guide group, which meets at Sangam every Sunday.

The Girl Guides are from the neighborhoods around Sangam, which are very diverse in income and background.  The group has members from the smallest (Bulbuls) to the oldest (Rangers) and three leaders.  The girls and leaders all speak varying levels of English, some very well and some almost none.  The activity for the meeting was to perform a skit based on the first two parts of the Indian Scout Law.  My group has the second line, A Guide is Loyal.  While they were planning their skit, speaking Marati (the local Maharashtran language) I watched what they were doing and by watching and picking out the few Marati words I know (rupee, das=ten, bas=stop, nahi=no, TK=okay, ha=yes), I was able to pretty much get the idea of what their skit was about.

If we had done this same activity at a Girl Scout meeting back home, which I’m sure has been done, the girls would probably have come up with a very similar skit.  Girls who grew up on the opposite sides of the globe and probably have very few shared life experiences except that they are Girl Scouts or Guides play in exactly the same ways.  Guiding and Scouting gives us a common language, and that’s enough, even if we share nothing else in common.

I took some pictures during the meeting. but they didn’t turn out very well, but part of my job during the next event is to take pictures of Sangam “in action”, so I will for sure have some photos to show you next week.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, this year I am thankful for this amazing opportunity to come back to India, and for all of my amazing friends and family who always support me in whatever crazy thing I get into my head to do.

Talk to you all soon,

Ana Cristina

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Day 1 Continued: It All Pays Off

Hello all,
I just want to say a big hello to all my new readers, and also thank you to everyone who has shared this blog with sister Girl Scouts, and a special shout-out to the parents of girls here at the Forum from across the country and the world. I’m so glad you’re reading and your girls are wonderful.

Continuing from yesterday, right before dinner there was a scheduled “reflection” time for chaperones and girls to meet up and discuss what they had learned. I had prepared some questions and prompts to get the girls talking, and then I texted them (our main form of communication here) to meet up in my room. Turns out I had no need for questions at all, both Ali and Julia started talking and didn’t stop until I realized we were already late for dinner. They talked about all the different people they had met, and the changes they were ready to make in the world. Perhaps my favorite thing they said was about communication. Julia is in a breakout room that is run primarily in Spanish. The Forum runs in the 4 official WAGGGS languages, English, Spanish, Arabic and French. So in Julia’s room, the facilitator speaks in Spanish, and then a translator says it in English. At Julia’s table, she is the only one who speaks English as a first language. But instead of being frustrated by these barriers, the girls are leaping over them like they aren’t even there. Julia has some Spanish skills and the other girls all know English to varying degrees. Even if they had to go through multiple translations, everyone was speaking and giving their ideas and sharing their expertise. I was so impressed, especially because we had some translation issues in the chaperone room, and even once split up the tables by language so we could more easily communicate. I hope we as adults learn from the experience of our girls and make an effort to mix ourselves up more. If you only ever communicate with those who speak the same language as you do, you are missing an incredible number of ideas, strategies, and friendships. There’s no excuse for it, and the girls taught me that today.

Hearing how excited the girls were and how inspired to change the world, all my reservations disappeared. I was worried about them making friends, the language issues that we had in the chaperone session, the general disorganization of the schedule, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think I underestimated the ability of the girls. Not their intellect or their ideas, but I know that a lot of them haven’t been in this type of conference/forum encironment before. It’s a lot different than camp or many of the other things girl scouts do. But I was, of course, dead wrong. As they have already demonstrated, the girls are even better at this than we are.

And if I may brag a bit, having overheard some elevator gossip, my girls from Heart of Michigan are especially great. Some other chaperones were saying how their reflection sessions were not as inspiring as mine, that the girls were tired and got bored in their sessions. Although I was sad to hear this, I know that those girls, throughout the week, will grow so much, and learn from their sisters and their chaperones will be just as proud of them as I am of Ali and Julia for truly taking advantage of this geeat opportunity we have been given.  No matter what level you are at right now, by the end of the week you will have grown so much, and that’s the whole idea.

My girls are also dealing well with the organizational issues I eluded to before. A lot of the time we’re not sure where we are supposed to be or what our groups are or what our options are. But despite all this, just being here with such an international group, sometimes the waiting time when the facilitators are coping with various obstacles is even more informational because we’re connecting with each other and sharing our successes and failures in various programs with girls in our countries or councils.

I am so glad you are all reading, and I hope the stories of what these girls are doing inspires you to support or continue to support them. I promise my next post will include pictures!  But please keep reading, because these girls, with the projects they create here and the ideas planted in their heads here, will change the world, so this story has a happy ending.

Yours in scouting,
Ana Cristina GSHOM