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

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Let’s Get This Party Started

 

Namaste!

So last week was my first event, and my last week of training.  I’m now officially the MCI! With real MCI work!

We finished the event on Sunday, and, miraculously, many of the participants actually left that evening.  Since we had Gwen’s birthday during the event and didn’t really get a chance to celebrate, we had a “surprise” party for her in the staff lounge upstairs.

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Happy Birthday Gwen!

We’ve had a lot of new people move in upstairs in the last few weeks (a new volunteer from Australia just

arrived!) and we were all tired from the event so we were glad to have an excuse for a party.

Gwen was very surprised to find that the theme of the party was her birthday, and Catherine has organized some cheesy party games for all of us.  It was awesome to all get together and eat and drink and just hang out.  A lot of times working at Sangam, you can get really wrapped up in your work.  It’s awesome work, but you will get burned out if you do anything 24/7, no matter how awesome it is.

Christa made these awesome cookies out of some stuff I brought from the states, and I need to remember to get the recipe from her, because they would be great for daisy girl scouts!

Sugar cookies with frosting and jumbo marshmallow petals.  With a surprise inside!

Sugar cookies with frosting and jumbo marshmallow petals. With a surprise inside!

We learned though one of Catherine’s games that Camilla, from Denmark, can turn a certain kind of cracker all the way around in her mouth.  None of us knew what kind of cracker she was talking about, so she found one about the same size and showed us. Then, Sarah tried to do the same, but did not fair very well.

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Camilla’s special talent

 

Sarah needs more practice...

Sarah needs more practice…

We also messed around with some Christmas decorations, put up pink lights in the hall, and balanced a snowman on Jen’s head.  It was a pretty fun night.

So, I should probably wrap up now, I have to get up at 4am tomorrow morning to greet 33 guests for our next event.  I have Friday off, and I want to write a post more about WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and will hopefully be more rested then.  I’m also working on a video to promote our Be The Change events, so when I finish that maybe I’ll write more specifically about what guests experience at our different events.

As always, thanks so much for reading, please share this blog with anyone you think might like it, and if you have any questions, please comment!

Yours in scouting,

Ana Cristina

Welcome Ceremony: The Spirit of Sangam

Finally, pictures!!

Every event at Sangam, we hold a Welcome Ceremony for the participants.  The Welcome Ceremony is a mixture of Guiding/Scouting and Indian traditions.  Since it was my first Welcome Ceremony of this term, I participated as a participant wearing my national uniform (please don’t get me started on what I think of our national uniform).  In the future I’ll wear the pink sari like the rest of the staff.

One of my favorite things about the welcome ceremony is seeing all the different uniforms from the different countries.  This event there are participants from India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, the UK and Malaysia.

Participants from India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, UK, and Malaysia around the Welcome Lamp

Participants from India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, UK, and Malaysia around the Welcome Lamp

This was also the first Welcome Ceremony for Shweta, one of Sangam’s Volunteers in Training.  The VIT program takes older Girl Guides from the Nivedia guides who meet at Sangam (read more in my previous post) and train them to work with the Sangam Volunteers. They are learning computer skills, customer service, workplace etiquette (being on time, respecting authority, etc), and improving their English language skills as well as gaining the amazing international experience that Sangam offers.  Right now our Sangam volunteers are Sayali (not pictured) Priya (left) and Shweta (right).

Priyanka and Shweta, local guides and Volunteers in Training, with the Welcome Lamp

Priyanka and Shweta, local guides and Volunteers in Training, with the Welcome Lamp

I always love the welcome ceremony, and this one was no exception.  The World Centre Manager (Jen) welcomes each participant to Sangam by placing a garland around their neck.  When she came to me and said “Welcome home”, my smile didn’t disappear for the rest of the night.

Jen and I at the Welcome Ceremony

Jen and me at the Welcome Ceremony

As I have realized so much in the past two weeks, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to come back to India, and to Sangam.  As I think I mentioned on my last trip, I feel like in the three months I spent here last year, I just barley scratched the surface of what India and Sangam have to offer.  I’m really excited to be working on the marketing side of Sangam this time, spreading the word and Sangam Spirit to as many Girl Scouts and Girl Guides as possible.

Here are some more photos from the Welcome Ceremony, including some of the shenanigans we got up to when it was over.

Me and Rachel (Sangam Volunteer, UK) after the Welcome Ceremony

Me and Rachel (Sangam Volunteer, UK) after the Welcome Ceremony

Jen (World Centre Manager, Australia) and MaLau (Community Relations Intern, Costa Rica) at the Welcome Lamp

Jen (World Centre Manager, Australia) and MaLau (Community Relations Intern, Costa Rica) at the Welcome Lamp

Catherine (Guest Services Coordinator, Ireland) and me after the Welcome Ceremony

Catherine (Guest Services Coordinator, Ireland) and me after the Welcome Ceremony

Gwen, Shweta and Jen messing around after the Welcome Ceremony

Gwen, Shweta and Jen messing around after the Welcome Ceremony

As always, thanks for all your feedback, I think my next post will have some more information about Sangam, WAGGGS, and Girl Guiding/Scouting in general, so maybe you can better understand the language, acronyms, and programs I talk about.

In the Spirit of Sangam,

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

Countdown to India

Hi everyone,

The hour approaches!  It’s Tuesday night, and Thursday at 3:20pm feels closer and closer every minute.  My open suitcase on the floor, my dirty laundry pile getting smaller, adding and crossing things off my many, many lists…I’m having dejavu of last September when I did this all the first time.  I am more prepared this time I think, I am packing more gifts/donations/”stuff” than clothes, and hopefully the clothes I do bring will be comfortable and weather-appropriate.

Almost all packed!

As you can probably guess, I am really excited about this trip.  Last time I was just starting to get a little nervous about such a long flight, about arriving so late at night, and going to such a new and different place.  But this time I’ve been waiting since I got back to leave again, so I’m feeling nothing but excitement and anticipation.  I’ve kind of just been “hanging out” for a few months waiting for this trip, so I am more than ready to hit the ground running with my new job at Sangam.  I am going to be the Marketing and Communications Intern, so different than last time when I was a Sangam Volunteer.  I’ll post more about what exactly I’ll be doing later, once I find out more about my specific responsibilities, but the basic idea is to promote Sangam as a destination to Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world.  I’ll work with WAGGGS and the other World Centres on messaging and branding as well.

Sangam Logo

If you are someone who followed my blog last time I was in India, I promise to be more diligent with my posts this time.  I also think my posts might be more Girl Scout centered, I realized when I was in Chicago that there are actual Girl Scouts (and parents!) who are reading.  Of course I know what you really want to see are pictures, so I’ll be sure to upload those more often too.  As always, I love your input, so please tell me what you’d like to see more or less of.

Thank you all for reading, I am so looking forward to sharing this awesome journey with all of you!  As always, please share this with anyone you think might be interested, and please comment with any questions, comments, ideas or just to say hi!

Yours in Scouting,

Ana Cristina

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

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