Completing challenges with style!

Members of Centenary Guides and Senior Branch from Dundrum, Dublin, are just back from a week in England. During the week the girls were awarded their Aviation badge (launched earlier this year with Aer Lingus) while on an Aer Lingus flight (!) and worked on their Europe badge too.

Here their Leader, Jillian van Turnhout, reflects on learnings from the experience:

The words endurance, challenge, leadership, confidence and awesome are foremost in my mind. Last week I had the honour to lead a group of 21 girls and Leaders on a trip to London and Foxlease (Hampshire). The girls were aged between 12 and 16. We had planned this week-long trip for over a year and it couldn’t have gone better. The words I am thinking of sum up my current thoughts.

Endurance: We faced record-breaking high temperatures over the past week. This group of girls also camped with me during the May bank holiday weekend when it was minus 0 degrees. Now we were at the other end of the scale. We all looked out for one another to ensure everyone was drinking their water and had enough sun cream on. We did many activities out in the open and yet none of us got any sunburn or dehydration.

Challenge: We signed up for several activities and completed each with style. We did high-ropes (leap of faith), raft-building, and tunnelling. It was fascinating to watch and support each girl as they faced their fears, managed the adrenaline rush and embraced the challenge. I know this will stand to them as they go through life.

Leadership: I was proud to be a member of the leadership team. We had done the preparation; we each knew our role and seamlessly stepped forward and back, as needed. We played to one another’s strengths not just in theory but in practice. I also observed, when given the space, how each girl demonstrated their leadership. When considering future employees, if you see they were a Girl Guide, remember they will have been equipped with leadership skills.

Confidence: I watched as each girl grew in confidence during the week. The influence of role models was evident. We all know the importance of diversity, having different voices and perspectives. Recently a female pilot visited our group and spoke with the girls of her work, her challenges and what were her first steps. We need to see more of these types of interactions. More about how you can play a role is at the end of this blog.

Awesome: Each day, when we are away, I have a ‘word of the day’ and the words above featured. My word for the last day was AWESOME. It was a fun-filled week of adventure and kindness. Most of all, each girl showed us how awesome she was – they were amazing! I think it is obvious how highly I thought of each girl and Leader. It was an immense privilege to lead this group.

To end on a lighter note, Barbie: I like to get up early when I am away with a group and have a cup of coffee in the calm and stillness of the day. One morning as I sat outside, admiring the blue sky and reflecting, two of the girls joined me. They asked me about my career and I shared my journey. One of the girls said, ‘You are Barbie; you are just like Barbie!’ I have to admit I was taken aback and felt a little disappointed that this was the word she used to sum up my achievements. Working with young people, I have learnt to be like a swan – calm on the surface even if you are paddling furiously. So, I asked ‘How so?’ The girl replied, “You have done everything and been everywhere, you are awesome”. In a thank you card, the second girl wrote, “I hope I can be like you someday”.

I cannot put a value on the immense return you get when you know you played a positive role in the life of a young person. We can read and see all the negative in the world. What are you doing to make it more positive? My challenge is to ask you, “What have you done to support and inspire young people”? I would encourage you to contact your local Girl Guide unit and see how you can support their work with a visit, with funding or the ultimate – to volunteer. You could also support the national organisation! I am a lifetime volunteer with the Irish Girl Guides and find the more I give – the more I get back.

As a final thought, when we were in Foxlease, we had the opportunity to see the original Guide Law as written by our founder Robert Baden-Powell. I was reminded of the 11th law, [this law is unwritten but is understood] ‘A Guide is not a Fool’. From my week away, I can endorse his words. Great to be part of this growing global movement!