Patriots & Pizza, Churches & Chocolate

Happy, “Ana finally took pictures” day!

Tuesday consisted of a lot of walking, and a lot of eating. Pretty good day, right? Right.

We began with a North-End walking tour from Boston Pizza Tours, and saw things like the only Irish pub in Little Italy, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, the original Regina’s Pizzeria, Copps Hill Burying Ground with the gravesite of some dudes from the Salem Witch Trials, and also Robert Newman, the guy who actually lit the lanterns to signal Paul Revere to start riding, the skinniest house in the world, and of course the Old North Church. I think the girls enjoyed walking around the city, and the tour guides were great at making the stories interesting and engaging.

The tour ended in a park where pizza from Regina’s was waiting for us. And I have to say, as big of a fan as I am of Chicago Deep Dish, this was really good pizza.

We walked from there to a few of the famous Italian bakeries in the area. The girls were excited to try Cannolis, something very few of them had had before. I had a chocolate Ricotta one, and it was amazing.

Whenever you go somewhere with a lot of Girl Scouts, especially when they’re all wearing the same t-shirt, you tend to get noticed. A really nice lady named Maria was helping us at the bakery, and she didn’t even mind when the girls were indecisive and took longer than expected to complete the order. When I went to pay she said that she loved Girl Scouts, always bought the cookies, and had some nieces in the council here. I always love hearing people’s Girl Scouts stories, even if they’re not scouts, they usually have had a good interaction with a Girl Scouts at some point in their lives. It just makes me happy!

Next, we went the the New England Aquarium. It’s set up really cool, there is a giant tank in the middle that goes straight up through all four floors, filled with all kinds of fish, rays, reef, turtles, and even sharks. Around the tank is a spiral ramp, with smaller tanks on each level with other creatures to see. On the lowest level, in an enclosure all around the big tank, there are penguins zooming around under the ramp. So you can peek over the rail on any level of the ramp and see the penguins. In another section there are two touch tanks, a big one with rays and a smaller one with crabs, sea stars, and other crustaceans. There are also seal and sea lion shows.

As a special part of our trip, we went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the third floor tanks. In small groups, we went behind the wall and got to see how they feed, clean, and care for the creatures in the tanks. We also saw holding and quarantine tanks, and got to touch another horseshoe crab and lobster. We learned about how the water used in the salt water tanks are from the Boston Harbor, and recycled many times through it. We also learned a bit about the green technology used at the aquarium through the behind the scenes tour and the “Big Tank Talk” after.

Due to tour timings, we were in the aquarium for most of the afternoon. We saw the fur seal show, and then left to tour and eat dinner at Faneuil Hall, a revolution-era marketplace, now filled with stores and restaurants galore. I don’t know too much about it’s history, but the wikipedia page is pretty interesting!

We had these great vouchers that the girls could use to get certain meals from the vendors, and also a dessert. I had lobster bisque in a breadbowl, and a really great smoothie for dessert. It was great to just hang out and people-watch in the busy hall. The girls grouped up and went shopping, and it was also great to see them, after only three days together, laughing and running around together like they were BFFs.

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Lobster Bisque!!

Of course, not everything ever runs perfectly at a Girl Scout event, either with logistics (no matter how much you plan) or with the girls. But the issues that we have had have really been minor so far, and the other girls have been AMAZING at stepping up to be a buddy with someone feeling down and adapting to a changing schedule. I think we got some great girls here, and I hope we can renew some of their interest in Scouts and help them take full advantage of the wonderful program.

Well, I’m about to go to the beach, so I will try to post again tonight, please comment if you have questions and don’t forget to subscribe to get updates in your email!!

Thanks for reading,

Ana

Starstruck: The Girl Scout Edition

Hey there!

I guess that exclamation point may be a bit of an overstatement, if I were saying “hey there” to you out loud right at this moment, there would be no trace of an exclamation point. After a full day out on a boat doing science and animal encounters, then an awesome “show-and-tell” with SEA, then swimming in the MMA pool, a late-night trip to the snack bar and an even later-night meeting to prepare for a logistically complicated trip to Boston tomorrow, I have never been so ready for bed in my life.

BUT

There before all those things we did today, I got to “feed my geek” a bit with an amazing talk about an amazing woman, and I have to tell you all about it.

This morning, as is the Girl Scout way, we had a ceremony. Girl Scouts in full uniform, gloves, and sashes doing the flag ceremony, singing songs, and reciting the Promise & Law. There was an awesome “sand ceremony” by some of the girls on the planning team, which involved reading about things we would do during the week that corresponded to different items placed in a large glass vase, creating a kind of sand-art layered centerpiece that we will use at the final dinner. Some more members of the planning committee spoke, and then we heard from Margot Iwanchuck, the great great niece of Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low, the Founder of Girl Scouts in the USA, 101 years ago.

As you all probably know, I am a huge Girl Scout nerd. I have always admired Juliette Low, as an amazingly forward-thinking woman who created, incredibly quickly, an organization that has stood the test of time, and which continues to grow and change as the girls it serve grow and change throughout the years.

Juliette, age 28

But for as many articles and books I have read on the founding of Girl Scouts, I huge majority of things that Margot said were brand-new to me. She spoke about Aunt Daisy as remembered by her family, and since she didn’t found the Scouts until a bit later in life, many of the stories she shared were from before she spoke her famous words.

I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it tonight!

I’ll share with you one of the stories (my favorite) and then I really really have to hit the hay!

Even as a child Daisy was compassionate to all living things, even animals. One year, her family raised a turkey, called Tom of course, to cook for the Thanksgiving meal. Daisy had learned about a new things called chloroform, which she thought would be a much gentler way for Tom to pass than the alternative. She convinced her family to try it on the turkey. They did, and when the bird fell asleep, they plucked it and placed it in the ice house to cook the next day. When it came time for said cooking, the cook was found screaming in the kitchen, standing on the counter, cleaver raised in one hand, trying to catch the panicked naked Tom, who was probably wondering what happened to all his feathers!

There were many more stories like this one, describing a young woman who, even by todays standards, with all her handstands in boardrooms and affinity for fly fishing, would by some have been considered “cooky”. But by me and the 59 million Girl Scout alumnae in the USA today, she is our biggest hero and someone we all should strive to be more like.

Special thanks to Margot Iwanchuck for sharing her stories with us all today!!

So that’s it for tonight, I can barely keep my eyes open any longer, but I also can’t wait to have more adventures tomorrow, I just realized I haven’t mentioned the girls at all in this post, but they are AWESOME and I will post about them next time!!!

Thanks for reading!

An——————–zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Peace VS Evil

Namaste everyone!

It’s almost Christmas! Sangam is decorated, the stockings are hung, and there are even lights on our tree. In this season of cheer and happiness and family and all those awesome things, I wanted to share with you all some ways you can give back this holiday season.

1. Kiva.org

Kiva is an awesome mico-loan website that I use myself. You can choose an entrepreneur in an underdeveloped country and give loans of as little as $25. They collect $25 loans from all over the world and put them together to give the amount asked for. Then, your loan gets repaid over time, and you can re-lend the same $25 over and over to different people. It’s a really easy way to help and it’s great because it can keep on giving again and again. I have about $75 rolling in my account right now, and I’ve made 7 $25 loans.

2. The Uncultured Project

The Uncultured Project is literally one dude (Shawn Ahmed) who wants to make a difference. He works by creating partnerships with people all over the world by using the power of the internet and YouTube to find people who need help, and people who are willing to help. He works mostly in Bangladesh, where he recently built a school and named it in honor of John Green, one of my very favorite authors and awesome-makers. There’s a video about it here.

3. Girl Scouts of course!

Whether it’s by donating money, buying cookies, or volunteering your time, by supporting Girl Scout you are supporting the amazing organization that lets me have this great opportunity to live and work in India. WAGGGS works organizations like the UN to support issues that affect women and children around the world. By lifting up and empowering girls, you are supporting the future world-changers.

On that note, I want to share something that I’ve been thinking about since I heard about the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. I wasn’t as bombarded with images and and interviews as I’m sure everyone back home was, but being here, doing all this work around girl and women, and after hearing that eight of the girls killed were Daisy Girl Scouts, I was really upset.

I’m the kind of person who always, always tries to look on the positive side. Or at least find a positive side to things. I don’t think I can do that here.

All I can say is that instead of trying to fight against this evil, I try to work for the advancement of all the good things. For the empowerment of women and girls, for the reduction of child mortality, and everything else WAGGGS is doing. Every kid deserves all the every chance to grow and do whatever he wants, and achieve all her goals. So the only thing I can try and say to be positive is that by working with organizations like WAGGGS and Girl Scouts and here at Sangam is helping to do just that. By helping one young woman realize her own potential, maybe she’ll grow up and so the same for another girl, and help spread peace in the world. And maybe, someday, the peace will outweigh the evil.

That’s all from me, thanks for reading, and please comment if you have any questions about any of the organizations I talked about today.

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Yours in scouting,

Ana Cristina

Getting the Word Out: Is this just my job disguised as a blog post?

Namaste readers!

So, I have something a little bit work-related to discuss today. As the event just ended, and I’m officially done with training, I’m jumping right in and trying to get as much done each day as possible. A lot of my job is just trying to reach the right people with the right information. We have a deadline for volunteer & intern applications coming up (December 31st) and not enough applicants. Sangam already has in place communications with people in high levels of each of WAGGGS member organizations (countries that have girl scouts or girl guides), so I’m trying to work from the other side, and getting the information directly to the troop/group leaders or even the girls themselves. So many young women from all over the world have visited Sangam over almost 50 years, and they all know other girls who might be interested, and so on.

Now, I could go on for a few more paragraphs (ok, actually, I just did, but then I deleted them because it was way too long and boring for you to read), but I’ll just get straight to my point. I made this video today, and I want every Girl Scout and Girl Guide that I know to share it with all her Girl Scout and Girl Guide friends, and I want them to ask me about Sangam and world centers and other travel opportunities. I want them to ask their leaders and their leaders to share what they learn with the whole troop. I want girls to learn what Advocacy means and how they can start a Community Action Project of their own. These are my big Girl Scout dreams, and being here has just re-energized me and reminded me of these goals.

Sangam’s Youtube
Sangam’s Facebook
WAGGGS’ Take Action Pagemy email is aclesmez@hotmail.com or leave me a comment on this post if you are a Girl Scout or Guide looking for more information.

I promise my next post will have more pictures!

Thanks for reading,

Ana Cristina

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

Guess Who’s Back?

Namaste all!

Well, after about 26 hours of travel start to finish, I finally arrived at Sangam!  This time I flew through Munich, as opposed to last time going straight 15 hours from Newark.  All my flights were great, actually getting into the airports early.  I’m still undecided as to which route prefer, but I did enjoy getting bumped up to extra leg room from Munich to Mumbai 🙂

My laptop isn’t set up for the internet yet, and I can’t post pictures from this guest computer, so I’ll keep it short.  I’m so excited to be here, and to start training on Monday.  I’ll train for a week, then participate in the next event, and then start “real work”.  On Monday the next Community Relations Intern arrives, and we will be training and rooming together for the next two weeks.  She is from Costa Rica and she was actually at the Girls’ World Forum with me, but I don’t think we ever met there.  The Girl Scouting/Guiding world keeps getting smaller and smaller!

Right now there are staff and volunteers here from the states, Australia, England, Ireland, Denmark, Canada, India, Kenya, and Malaysia (I think that’s everyone!).  I think one of the reasons the Girl Guiding world seems so small is that despite our incredibly different background, experiences, languages, and home countries, when we all come together we are, in the end, so similar.  As Juliette Low, the founder of Girl Scouting in the US said, “Ours is a circle of friends united by ideals.”  She could not have been more correct.  I have only been here two days, and already feel incredibly welcome, already have “inside jokes” and have Wii danced with my fellow Sangam residents.  I miss the girls I was here with before, and I was a little nervous about being here with a new staff, but I realized we are all in that same circle of Guiding friends, and our ideals-empowering ourselves and other to make a better world for girls for one-unite us no matter where or who we are.

“Ours is a circle of friends united by ideals.” -Juliette G. Low

This circle of friends stretches all around the world, and all of you are a part if it.  Even just by reading this blog, you are a part of it.

So with that, I will remind you as always that this is a conversation, so please comment, subscribe, and share this with anyone else you know in our amazing circle of idealists.

Talk to you again soon,

Ana

Day 5: The End :(

The last day 😦  I’m sad just remembering it.  At breakfast, we heard from GSUSA’s international commissioner.  She talked about international friendship and the great work the girls are doing here.

After a bit more confusion about where we were supposed to go, we headed to the Advocacy Expo Hall.  Different organizations had tables set up to be resources for the girls to possibly use to execute their actions plans.  This was a really great idea, but some of the representatives were late, and there were way too many girls in the hall with not enough stations to visit.  The four WAGGGS World Centres were represented, and there was always a big crowd around their table.  I am, obviously, a huge fan of girls traveling to the World Centres, and I’m glad they were so represented at GWF, I think a lot of girls found out about them and about the volunteer opportunities they offer.  I talked to a lot of girls and young chaperones about my volunteer experience so hopefully some of them will look into going to Sangam or another World Centre.  Also represented in the hall was Heifer International, which is a great group that I have worked with before that donates livestock to communities in developing countries and helps to teach them how to make them a sustainable source of food and/or income.  Also the peace corps, the UN, and Feeding America were represented.

Ali & Julia in the Expo Hall

The next session was a listening session with a member Secretary Clinton’s youth council staff.  It was great to learn about this program and that the Secretary is interested in hearing from America’s youth.  While she gave some great info in her introduction the second part half of the session was supposed to be for the girls to present their Take Action Plans and to get advice.  Some girls lined up to present, and I loved hearing their plans since I hadn’t had a chance to hear any of them before, but besides giving out her contact information, the speaker didn’t seem to know a lot about the topics the girls were interested in.  Some of the girls had really great project ideas, like helping victims of sexual violence, creating better ecotourism, and creating a head-start-like program for preschoolers.  I can’t wait to hear how they all turn out, there were some really awesome ideas presented.  Not everyone got a chance to present who wanted to since the previous session had run long, but the girls who did present did a great job.

Then, it was closing ceremony time.  I found Ali and Julia (somehow) and we all sat together.  The keynote speaker was Tererai Trent, a very extraordinary woman.  She was raised in a small village in Zimbabwe, was married very young, but had dreams of coming to America to go to college.  She wasn’t allowed to go to school like her brother, but would do his homework in secret and taught herself to read from his schoolbooks.  With amazing encouragement from her mother, she buried her dreams in a box and grew them into reality.  She, with her five children, came to the US and she is now Dr. Tererai Trent.  She is an incredible speaker, and when another amazing woman, Oprah Winfrey, heard her inspiring story, she helped her spread it.  Oprah has helped Tererai build nine school in her country, to help all girls and boys grow their dreams, whatever they may be.
http://www.oprah.com/world/Tererai-Trent-Returns-to-Zimbabwe-to-Share-Her-Story-Video
If you ever have a chance to hear this woman speak, you have to do so.  She is so inspiring, so encouraging, and makes you believe you can do anything.  And then go out and do it!

Next they relieved the puzzle pieces the girls had decorated with their representations of their Action Plans.  Ali and Julia want to expand the recycling and composting we do at our GSHOM camps, and get lots of girls involved in it.

The puzzle piece representing GSHOM’s action plan

We ended the ceremony with a closing flag, and one last giant round of applause.  It was sad of course, but also exciting because I know what a great experience the girls and I all had, and now we get the chance to go to our homes all over the world and spread what we learned to our families (and our scouting and guiding sisters) and communities.

After a packing/nap break, was dinner and the dance party!  There was a salsa dance club from Chicago that came and performed and also did a lesson, so that was really fun, especially for Julia and I since we used to do hispanic dance club in high school.  It was a great party, but probably my favorite part was the ice cream bar 🙂

Finally got a picture with Jen!

Ali got this awesome Girl Scout “tattoo”!

I, feeling old, went to bed early, but the party was really fun and the girls danced the night away.  It was a great way to end a great week.

The next day before our train left, we took a walk down to Navy Pier since we never got a chance to see it during the week.  It was REALLY hot that day, so we pretty much just walked down, ate lunch, and walked back.  I stopped quickly to put my feet in the other side of Lake Michigan than usual, but it was definitely too hot to be on the beach.  Here are some pictures from our adventure.

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Our journey home was pretty uneventful, which is a good thing.  I was pretty tired at work the next day, but it was so worth it.  I learned so much and I made great connections with young women from all over the world.  This was a different role for me as a “chaperone” for older girls.  It wasn’t like being a brownie camp counselor (although I must admit I did head counts occasionally) or a programme volunteer at Sangam.  I embraced the “girl-led” philosophy of Girl Scouting and let the girls decide and plan a lot of their activities, and they really stepped up to the plate.  I’ve said it before, but I’m really glad that Ali and Julia were both able to make it with the short notice that I gave them.  They both gave 100% all the time, and truly appreciated every minute of the conference.  They rolled with the punches so to speak as far as logistical issues and most of the time knew where they were supposed to be better than I did.  I’m really proud of both of them and look forward to seeing how they change the world in their own ways in the future.

Thank you all for reading, I really appreciate it.  I would love for you to keep following (subscribe on the right side if you haven’t already) for my future girl scout related travels.  I’m actually currently in London visiting guiding friends and pax lodge and the olympics and will be writing about it soon.  If you’re a volunteer leader or girl scout parent and would like more specific information on anything I’ve mentions check out my links page or feel free to email me or comment below, I would love to talk to you!

Your sister in scouting,

Ana Cristina

Day 4: Sessions

Sunday was full of sessions. Sessions and yawns. After such a full day of work and partying at International Night, everyone was struggling to keep their eyes open. So, after an all but silent breakfast, the chaperones and I were off to our choice of different leadership and skill building sessions. I chose Evaluation and Assessment, Working with the Media, MDG 1: Poverty and Hunger, and Building Community Partnerships, in that order. Most of these sessions were designed to help us to help support the girls in the Take Action Projects.

Evaluation and Assessment
In this session we learned the difference between evaluation (checking your progress during your project) and assessment (analysis of your project when it is complete). That was about it, we got some worksheets with tips for going over this with our girls. We ended early, but not early enough to sneak in a nap.

Working with the Media
I was interested in this session for my upcoming job at Sangam, and because I’m always interested in learning how people are using social media. This blog has surprised me in how many people in different places it has reached and reaffirmed my belief that social media is something that Girl Scouts should be embracing to grow and sustain older girl membership. I would have liked to get a few more tips on exactly how to use sites like twitter, tumblr, flickr and such, but is was a great overview and informative for some people who don’t use these sites as much as I do. We watched this video about how social media is affecting our world.

MDG 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
This session was about how to introduce this MDG to your girls. I chose to do this one because out of the three offered, it was the one I personally know the least about. Learn more about the WAGGGS MDG program here. I actually did learn a lot about in this session. The UN definition of poverty is families living on less that $1 per day, and that a disproportionate number of impoverished people are women and girls, about 70%. The statistic that sparked the most discussion in my group was that the world does produce enough food to feed everyone on it, it’s just not getting distributed properly. We did an activity where each group got a different amount of money to feed a different amount of people for a week. We had to think about cost and also nutrition. My group did alright with $35 for three people, but each group was different. This would be a great activity for a troop to do and then compare answers. This slideshow goes very well with this activity.
Then we went into the hall for another activity. We made a big circle with a small circle of about five people in the middle and one person on the outside. The five people in the middle represent the people living in poverty. The large circle represents everyone else, who have enough to eat and who don’t really think about the people going hungry in the middle. The one person on the outside is trying to help the people on the inside but they have this barrier of apathy between them. The idea for the people inside to break out with the help of the person on the outside. This was a fun game, and shows how hard it is to break out of the cycle of poverty. It was a great session and I learned a lot.

Now, I have a confession to make. After lunch was my last session of the day. I could barely keep my eyes open during lunch, and I knew it was going to be another late night running around Chicago on a scavenger hunt. So, after lunch, I went up to my room to sleep instead of going to my session. I feel bad that the girls were in sessions all day, but I really needed the sleep.
That night was the Chicago scavenger hunt. It was really fun and I have a lot of pictures so I’ll do a separate post for that.
Now that the Forum is over, I’m trying to think of ways to keep all of you who are reading this connected. I’m still thinking on it, but feel free to comment with how you would like to stay involved.
Yours in scouting,
Ana Cristina

Day 3 Again: More Action

While Ali and I were on Iron Street, Julia worked the an organization called Chicago Cares.  They run different volunteer projects throughout the city.  The one she was working on was a community garden on the south side of the city in a neighborhood where about 40 percent of the residents live below the poverty line.  There is no true grocery store in the area, and until very recently, the only place to get food was McDonalds.

This garden is on land donated by a church.  Inside the garden there are 10×10 ft. plots that anyone on the community can use to plant their gardens.  Some of the Girl Scouts were working on creating new plots and getting them ready to plant.  There is a community shed (built out of old church doors) with tools and the group provides seed and can connect you with gardeners to help you get started.  The girls were working on weeding the outside part of the garden, between the garden and the sidewalk.  This section of the garden is maintained by volunteers and anyone walking by is encouraged to take what they need.  They grow different herbs, tomatoes, carrots, peppers and such.

Chicago Cares is starting another section of this garden to help the church’s existing food bank to provide them with fresh fruits and veggies.  One thing that many food banks are missing is fresh produce, since it is hard to store and keep fresh.

I don’t have pictures from Chicago Cares, but hopefully someone will upload some to the flickr site.  There’s not much on their right now, except mine, but we’re spreading the word around the conference about it so there should be more up soon, so check back.

Today is the last day of the conference.  When it all started I thought this would be a long week.  But as always with great experiences, it has flown by and I’m left wishing there were more sessions to go to, more meals to eat with new friends, and more nights to spend not sleeping but strengthening friendships.  I will do a more in depth wrap-up later, but I just wanted to say to anyone who is here, I have loved meeting you and I want to stay connected to you and all the amazing things you and your girls are going to be doing in the coming year and beyond.

Thank you for reading and as always yours in Scouting,
Ana Cristina

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