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

Night 4: Chicago City Scavenger Hunt

Hello readers!

Another picture post, yay!  Since day 0, the three of us hadn’t really had time to explore the city.  The scavenger hunt arranged by the girls planning team was a really great way to do this, I think especially for those girls and chaperones who had never been to Chicago it was a really good idea.

The first stop was the Chicago Water Tower.  As the girls learned on their bus tour, this was one of the only structures to survive the great Chicago fire.

Chicago Water Tower

The next stop was the CTA entrance.  We never actually took the subway while in Chicago, but it was cool to see how we would take it.  We arrived at this stop at the same time as another large group of Girl Scouts, singing all the way down the block.  I hope Chicago misses us now that we’re no longer filling it’s streets with song.

Next was the Daley Center, with a Picasso sculpture in the middle of it.  The girls told me (since my bus tourguide on my bus failed to mention it) that it’s a sculpture of Picasso’s wife.

Picasso Statue

Next up, one of the oldest paths in Chicago, State Street.  At each stop, we received a card with a picture on one side and some words of encouragement on the other.  The photos were taken around Chicago by one of the members of the girl planning team (anyone know who? They were great photos!).  We also stopped at the Palmer House, the famous Art Institute lions, and then entered Millennium Park, but not before stopping for slurpees at 7/11 🙂

We went back to The Bean, whose official name is apparently Cloud Gate.  It looks really cool at twilight, but it’s hard to get a good picture.  You’ll just have to take a trip to Chicago to see what we saw!

GSHOM delegation at The Bean

We also saw the garden and the foot bridge at the park.  We knew we were at the right place when we would see the green-shirted volunteers.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned them before, but throughout the week, volunteer Girl Scouts (both girls and adults) from the area were everywhere, in conference rooms, on buses, around Chicago, at the registration table, at all times letting us know where to go and how to get there.  These women did an amazing job all week, I can’t believe it’s taken me until now to talk about them.  With all the unclear-ness going on when we were given instructions, the volunteers always did their best to tell us the right thing or find out if they didn’t know.  Since most of them were from the Chicago area, they were great guides on the Scavenger hunt, and honestly on the bus tour I learned more from the volunteer in front of me than from my tour guide.  Thank you volunteers, you girls rock!

I had a really great time on the scavenger hunt, and Ali and Julia found they had a lot of common interests.  Even though we came as a delegation and slightly new each other beforehand, we were mostly split up during sessions and such, so this was really one of the first times we were hanging out just us.  I’ll talk more about that in my wrap up, but I’m really glad they both ended up coming, they were awesome to work with and made my job super easy.

So, I’m almost done!  Just one more day!  And it’s mostly pictures of the party!  I have to work tomorrow so I’ll leave you for now, thanks for sticking with me!

Yours 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

Night 3: International night

This is what everyone had been waiting for:  International Night.  It was a great experience for everyone.  Everyone was in their traditional dress, and there were performances of traditional dances, songs and games.  Around the outside of the ballroom were tables where each delegation could set up a display about their country or their council.  Here was ours, we had a slideshow with pictures from Michigan and the Pure Michigan tourism ads, and some Surf Michigan and Girl Scout t-shirts.  GSHOM also gave us a Source book and a camp book.  We shared table space with Heart of New Jersey, Heart of California and Historic Georgia.

GSHOM International Night display

International night was an amazing sharing of cultures, traditions, and of course swaps!  There isn’t much to say that I couldn’t better show you in a picture, so here are some from the night.

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As I write this, I’m about two days behind the actual conference.  I just got back from the closing celebration/dance party.  Don’t worry, I will finish going through all the days, I just wanted to say that I have had an amazing time at the Girls’ World Forum.  I learned a lot about myself, my girls, WAGGGS, and so many awesome things that girls and women around the world are doing.

But before I get too deep into that, it’s time for bed, I will write more about what I learned here when I wrap up.

Don’t for get to comment and share with your Girl Scout friends!

Yours in Scouting,

Ana Cristina

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