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International Opportunities for leaders - GOLD - Mexico - 2018

Emma Morrison - Assistant Leader, Mexico 

This summer I was selected to take part in a 3-week GOLD (Guiding Overseas Linked with Development) project in Mexico. From over 300 applications I made it to the final 40 people chosen. I ended up being 1 of 7 members from Scotland, and 1 of 2 from North Lanarkshire! From the selection weekend, we were put together in teams with 5 other leaders aged 18-30 from around the UK ready to start preparing for our project. Our project was in Mexico, but other teams are working with Guiding organisations in Oman, Estonia and Georgia, Zambia, Aruba, Rwanda, the Maldives and Peru. Each project lasts from 3 – 5 years with a different team visiting each year to develop the work done by the previous group. Girlguiding works closely with the member organisation and WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) to ensure the projects are needed and sustainable, so each country and each team have very different aims and experiences!  For our project, we were asked to members of Mexico’s Guide Association from 4 year old Haditas to adult leaders in a variety of topics. These ranged from confidence and leadership skills, to WAGGGS and Peer Education, from Recruitment and Retention to Advocacy and Community Action.  

Before we started our project, we had 3 briefing weekends as a team to train ourselves in our team roles, learn more about what we would be doing, and of course get to know the women we would be living with for 3 weeks! With each weekend we grew more confident in what we were doing, bonded as a team and got even more excited to get going.

When all of our training plans had been written, our resources gathered, and our vaccines received, it was finally time to fly! After the months of planning and fundraising, we couldn’t believe how quickly July had come around. We had arranged to fly out a few days before project started so we could make the most of being in Mexico and visit Our Cabaña. For some of us this was our first world centre, and for others it was like coming home. We enjoyed our days by the pool, spending too much in the shop, and exploring downtown Cuernavaca. It was a great chance to catch up with each other and bond a little more before the hard work began! And of course, I made sure to stop by the office and say hello to our very own Programme Lead for Rangers, Aileen, who is spending the summer volunteering there. We both appreciated hearing a familiar accent!

Our first training session took place a few days later in Mexico City and Guias de Mexico were kind enough to host us in their Headquarters, Ticalli, which by the end of our three weeks, we had dubbed ‘Home in the big city’. It being our first session of the project and our first time working properly as a team we found lots of areas to build on, but we know that the girls and adults we worked with had a great time.

From there we travelled up and down the country, visiting 6 different cities in our short time in the country. We started off with Veracruz, and Coatzacoalcos before heading up north to Durango, Guadalajara and Juarez. In each city we were lucky enough to be greeted with amazing hosts who took such great care of us, welcoming us into their homes and showing us their beautiful country. Each city came with its own challenges and incredible experiences that I will never forget, from swimming in the Gulf of Mexico at sunset and watching girls be presented with their hard-earned awards in Coatzacoalcos to trying tequila, taking lunch time naps in paradise and watching a Mariachi band over dinner in Guadalajara.

During many of our training sessions, our team split into pairs and took different age groups to run different sessions. Myself and another member of my team are Peer Educators at home, so we ran a lot of those sessions with the Guias (9-12) and Intermedias (12-15). In each city the sessions turned out so differently with the input of the amazing girls we were working with who were never short on enthusiasm or a new activity to teach us! They were very supportive of us as well, and one girl ended up teaching me how to count to 20 in Spanish!By the end of the project we had reached almost 400 girls, young women and adults, visited the most southern Guide groups in the country, made some amazing friends, and learned enough Spanish not only to run a training session without a translator (even if it was only for 10 minutes), but to have conversations with market traders after we had left our hosts and their translating skills behind. If you want to read more about our adventures in Mexico you can find our blog posts here: https://goldmexico.wordpress.com/ or look us up on social media.

GOLD been an amazing adventure right from the start of the selection weekend, and I can’t believe it’s almost over (we still have one more weekend!). I have found myself to be more confident in my skills and abilities, learned to see things in a different way and discovered an amazing support network. If you want to find out more about GOLD or are thinking of applying (you totally should!), check out the Girlguiding website here: https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/what-we-do/international-adventures/gold/

Volunteering opportunities abroad - Aileen Stewart - Our Cabana Mexico 

Volunteering at Our Cabaña

In June 2018, I flew to Mexico City to begin my time as a Summer Volunteer at Our Cabaña. Now, as we are approaching the end of the season, I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences of my life. As a volunteer, my role is to plan and deliver the Summer Friendship Event programme, along with providing any other additional support that Our Cabaña requires. This consists of many things - facilitating training on the new WAGGGS leadership model, delivering WAGGGS initiatives such as ‘Free Being Me’ and ‘Stop The Violence’, leading groups during exciting activities such as waterfall jumping, giving tours of nearby towns including Tepoztlán, Taxco and Downtown Cuernavaca, arranging activities about Mexican culture and traditions and so much more. As Our Cabaña is the only world centre offering a bilingual programme, it has also been an excellent opportunity to improve my Spanish. In my free time I have explored more of Mexico with the other staff who I now consider friends, and I have even skydived! Living and working in Our Cabaña has been so great that I am now returning for the Autumn season to continue as a volunteer, and I can’t wait to see the new opportunities it will bring.

INTOPS - Adelboden 2015

In July 2015, I took part in an INTOPS trip to Adelboden in Switzerland with a group of girls from across Scotland. The trip was a fantastic opportunity to meet new people, try lots of new activities and travel in a more independent way. During our visit, we tried lots of new things including zip-wiring, bungee-jumping, Swiss chocolate-tasting, dry-tobogganing and traditional Swiss games, and also we had the chance to visit Our Chalet. We got to experience lots of new places, as we visited Interlaken, some amazing waterfalls, and spent the night sleeping in the attic of a Swiss barn on beds of straw. I made some amazing friends that I am still in contact with today, and I would recommend INTOPS to anyone!

Royal Garden Party 2018

We celebrated Year of Young People 2018 with some of our young adult leaders attending this years Royal Garden Party.   Selfies with important people could not be missed. 

Check out our other pages - Want to volunteer, leaders in training and leaders resources.