Today I want to share about my experience volunteering with Girl Guides (of Canada) so far. Just a quick bit of history…Girl Guides is essentially a program for ‘girls empowering girls.’ The goal is provide girls 5-17 with opportunities to build confidence, challenge themselves with new experiences in areas including but not limited to) outdoor adventure, mental health, problem solving, and advocacy. The story began in 1909 when girls demanded to join a Boy Scouts rally which resulted in the beginning of Guiding. The Guiding movement reached Canada in 1910, and in 1912, the Canadian Girl Guides Association was created. In the past 100 years, 7 million Canadian girls (and women) have been involved in Girl Guides. I recently (in September) started volunteering at a local unit (shout out to Catherine for recommending me for the available position). I have volunteered for Girl Guides once in the past – for a summer camp in summer of 2014. But this is my first time participating in this extent, which entails weekly meetings throughout the year. Although, I have plenty of experience working with children (of different ages) so I knew I wanted to do this and would enjoy it. It has definitely been enjoyable thus far, however a very different real-sense experience than I had expected. I only really had opportunity to interact with the girls in my unit in-person for a couple months, and even then it was physically-distanced. And now, given the new COVID-19 public health measures, the experience is completely virtual.
Running Girl Guides meetings online is proving to be a new challenge – it is already difficult to engage 5-7 years old in person for an hour in-person, but having to do it virtually makes it ten times more difficult. Especially, with schools taking place virtually, kids (and parents) are not as excited about doing other things on the computer as well (understandably so!). We’ve tried to share little videos about fun stories during the meetings (to take advantage of having access to a computer/internet), but it seems that the girls get disengaged very quickly. So, now we are trying to play games and keep them talking/moving. Generally, there are themed activities that we plan to do so the girls can earn different badges but for now, we’re focusing on them staying engaged and having fun.
A new, fun, little project we have started is something called ‘Affirmation Jars’ and it is very close to what it sounds like. We ask the girls to write one (or get help writing one) small affirmation (e.g. ‘you make me smile’, ‘you are very nice’, etc.) and add it to a jar/cup each week. The affirmation can be directed towards anyone they like. And during our weekly meetings, a new person shares contents of their jar. The aim is to share positive messages with each other and have something a bit more long-term. As a side, affirmation are generally helpful in promoting positive thinking, increasing self-esteem, reducing stress and anxiety. So even though the aim of this project is more for fun, I am hoping the deeper meaning echoes in their day-to-day activities at some point.
World Thinking Day
A fun event coming up soon on February 22 is the ‘World Thinking Day’, celebrated since 1926, a day/opportunity to address issues that affect young women. The inspiration comes from a desire to have a special day for Girl Guides and Scouts around the world to express gratitude for the international Guiding movement. There is a fundraising campaign associated with the day which began in 1932. The campaign raised more than $200,000 (CAD) in 2019. The fund helps support major Girl Guides projects such as Stop the Violence campaign which raises awareness about violent against women and girls. This is my first time hearing about the day and I was pretty impressed when I did a bit of research. I am looking forward to activities planned for this year and hoping to be more involved in planning in the future.
This volunteer experience is a good learning opportunity, a special challenger this year, but still very rewarding. With the International Day of Girls and Women in Science just passed (February 11), I (recognize the need for and) appreciate other similar opportunities which raises awareness about challenges girls and women face, not just in science, but in everyday life around the world. I especially admire the Girl Guides mission about empowering girls from a young age and providing a safe environment for them to learn skills outside the classroom. And having learned about movement just as World Thinking Day, I am even more invested in this mission.