Submitted by Krista Beucler
Northern & Northeastern CO
The Juliette Low Seminar takes place about once every three years, and, in 2019, it took place in 18 hub locations around the world, all at the same time. We learned about the new WAGGGS leadership mindsets, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and how to fight gender barriers to leadership.
Girl Guides and Scouts from all over the world would be participating in JLS at the various hubs and we were so excited to see old friends and make new friends. I was assigned to the Thailand hub and my sister, Anna, was assigned to the Nigeria hub. All of the hubs were unique, but also shared the camaraderie of participating in a world movement. Since Anna and I participated in the same seminar in two different hubs, we’d love to share with you how our experiences were similar and different.
How did you get there? What was your hub like? Who was there?
Krista: After about 30 hours of travel (graciously paid for by Diane Saber and supported by the Look Wider Scholarship), I arrived in Bangkok and was met by representatives from the Girl Guide Association of Thailand. They brought me back to the GGAT headquarters where the participants would all be staying and experiencing the seminar. The Thailand hub hosted 23 participants representing 14 different countries, and five facilitators each from a different country. Helping our facilitators was the wonderful Thai logistics team made up of GGAT members who helped to keep the whole week running smoothly. Of our 23 participants, five were local Guide leaders in Thailand. In Thailand, schools decide if they want to participate in Guides and if they do, then all the girls in the school become Guides and their teachers are the leaders. My favorite part of attending international Guiding and Scouting events is always making new friends and learning more about their countries and their Guide organizations.
Anna: My journey started with research and obtaining a visa to visit Nigeria. Once on my way, I spent 24-ish hours between driving, flying, and layovers getting to the hub in Lagos. I was also met by local guides at the airport and was surprised by a familiar face! I had met Debbie last year when I volunteered at Kusafiri during the JLS facilitators training and now she was here in charge of the logistics team for Nigeria Hub! Such a small world! Nigeria Hub was located at a conference center near the airport in Lagos. We had 25 participants representing 14 countries. I definitely want to thank Diane Saber and the Look Wider Scholarship for making our trip possible!
How did you communicate?
K: Our hub took place in English, though we often paused to make sure everyone understood and the Thai participants helped to translate for each other.
A: While Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba are widely spoken, the official language of Nigeria is English. Many of the countries surrounding Nigeria were colonized by France and speak French, so Nigeria Hub was conducted in French and English.
What did you eat?
K: Thai food! Our fabulous kitchen prepared us a variety of traditional Thai dishes throughout the week. My personal favorites were pad Thai and cashew chicken.
A: Lots of jollof rice! Other Nigerian favorites on offer included pepper soup, fried rice, boli, and groundnut. They made sure we were never hungry with the usual mix of meats, seafood, bean, rice, and of course, plantains all cooked in a myriad of combinations.
What was a typical day like?
K: The weeklong seminar basically involved learning about the six leadership mindsets that make up the new WAGGGS leadership model, gender barriers to leadership, and the Sustainable Development Goals during the daytime sessions. In the evenings we did activities like Thai culture night and international night. Thai night involved performances of traditional dance by local students, learning Thai crafts and games, and trying Thai snacks. At international night, each of the participants set up a table and shared snacks, badges, and small gifts from our countries. We also all shared short performances of dances, songs, and games from our countries. I brought some Girl Scout Cookies to share and taught everyone the classic camp song, Fred the Moose.
A: Krista summed it up! I imagine all of the hubs had similar sessions on the WAGGGS leadership mindsets, gender barriers to leadership, and the Sustainable Development Goals, but facilitated in different ways according to the culture of the location. And of course, we celebrated Nigeria night instead of Thai night!
Did you connect with other hubs?
K: Yes! During our opening ceremony we Skyped with the Taiwan hub, which passed the international guiding light to us, ceremonially lighting our candles, and we passed it on to the Maldives hub during their opening ceremony. We also got to Skype with other ‘mystery hubs’ where we played a guessing game to figure out where they were located. We spoke to Poland and the Maldives as mystery hubs. We also got to call into one of the UK hubs to hear Nicola Grinstead, former chair of the World Board, give a short speech. There was also a WAGGGS event app that helped us connect with others by posting photos in the participant space and message scouts from other hubs. I messaged Lisa at the Nigeria hub and Priya from the Sangam hub and we shared what we were doing at our hubs.
A: Despite trouble with technology, we managed to connect with Kusafiri in Tanzania for their presentation by Kate. Kate now works with Days for Girls in Tanzania educating young women on menstrual hygiene and female genital mutilation. Her journey to this point in her life was not easy. She told us how she escaped female genital mutilation herself by hiding in the trunk of a visiting family’s car when they left to return to thier home. She lived on the street for a time and used drugs before being befriended by a local pastor who helped her. She summed up her story by saying that sometimes you only need one person to see you and you may never realize how much you have helped someone by seeing them and reaching out to them. This inspiring thought helped us to start brainstorming our 100 girls projects. Besides this connection there were other attempts that did not work to connect virtually with other hubs but we knew they were there thinking of us as we connected on the online participant space.
Did you get to be tourists?
K: There was some time to be tourists in Bangkok. I arrived one day early for the Seminar and had a chance to visit a floating market and Wat Pho, one of the most famous temples in Bangkok, with two of the other participants–ladies from England and Madagascar. One evening, we also had free time to go out to dinner. The Thai participants wrangled the rest of us through busy public transportation to an open air market and we all had dinner together. After the seminar was over, I stayed a few extra days to visit an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Rai and see a few more of the sights in Bangkok.
A: We mostly stayed in the hotel learning about leadership, the Sustainable Development Goals and the culture of Nigeria. We were surprised on our community day with a visit to the Lekki Conservation Center where we got to do the longest canopy walk in Africa! We challenged ourselves and got to see views of the city. That day as we were driving around we got to see some of Lagos and drove over the longest bridge in Nigeria!
What was the most inspiring part of the seminar?
K: In preparation for our 100 Girls Project, we did a mini Lead Out Loud project in small patrols. Each patrol was to address a gender barrier and do a small project that would reach 30 people in four hours. I was pretty skeptical that we could have even that much impact in such a short time. My group decided to talk about catcalling and harassment women experience on the street. We made a Google survey asking about people’s experiences with catcalling and we filmed some video clips with people on the street and our fellow participants, asking them to share opinions and experiences. We made a poster with the results of our survey and after four hours we had received 40 responses. I was surprised we had managed to reach that many in such a short time, but I was even more surprised when I kept checking the results of the survey over the next few days and we had more than 400 responses from people from all over the world aged 14 to 55, more than 95% of which reported having been catcalled. Hearing about the mini projects the other groups at my hub did, I was surprised at the reach all of us were able to achieve. It taught me about the power of social media and teamwork, and helped make the 100 Girls Project seem less daunting.
A: The most inspiring part of the seminar for me was interacting with the other participants and discussing issues in their community. It inspired me to see how dedicated this group of young women was to making their world a better place.
Did you spend any time in the community?
K: We had a day to visit a community outside of Bangkok called Baan Khoksalung to learn about community development and leadership. The community is primarily from the Thai Bueng ethnic group and has faced some challenges related to the flooding of the nearby reservoir which wiped out a lot of their agricultural activities and forced many families to move. As a way to both preserve their traditional culture and identity, and to supplement their income, the community set up a local museum that hosts tourists for the day or overnight and shares dances, traditional craft making (mostly weaving and toy making), and cooking with guests. Baan Khoksalung is just one of many local museums all over Thailand that has found a unique way to keep their cultural traditions alive in a changing world. The community was so welcoming to us and shared their strategies for leadership in the community: dialogue, networking, system thinking, and strategy. The community really stressed communication as a way to bring happiness and harmony, and a way for the young people to learn from the elders, and in turn, for the elders to learn from the young people. We had the chance to learn traditional weaving of cloth and reed mats, and how to cook Thai pancakes.
We got to hear from a member of a local organization that supports leadership in business on our community day. She talked about gender equality and led a few activities on gender equality. After we went to EduPoint, a company that was started by graduates of the business leadership program that connects students with tutors. This was followed by lunch and tour of the Nigeria Girl Guide Association Headquarters. All of us participants did a Stop the Violence photoshoot on the roof of the headquarters. We got to meet with local Scouts from our logistics team and all went on the canopy walk together.
What is the 100 Girls Project?
K: At the end of our seminar, each of us returned home with a plan to share what we had learned about the leadership mindsets, the STGs, and gender equality with 100 girls and young women. While in Thailand, I made a plan for my 100 Girls Project, hoping to share what I learned at Our Chalet as a volunteer, and during my planned volunteering at a leadership workshop for young women in Guatemala this fall. With COVID-19, everything is pretty uncertain. I won’t be going to Our Chalet this summer, and Girl Scout camp won’t be in session either, nor will I be going to Guatemala. So right now, I’m working on a new plan to create an Instagram campaign about the WAGGGS leadership mindsets, sharing activities and inspiration for girls who are stuck at home. The Creative and Critical Thinking leadership mindset helps us adapt when things don’t go as planned and helps us find unique solutions to new problems.
A: I’m hoping to create a program for girls in Colorado who are thinking about doing a Gold Award. The program will help girls think about the WAGGGS leadership mindsets and the UN Sustainable Development Goals to identify a project that meets a need in their community. The goal will be to help girls create really thoughtful and impactful projects that make their world a better place.
That sounds awesome! How do I get involved in more international Guiding opportunities?
Anna and Krista: We’re so glad you asked! A lot of people are surprised when we tell them all of the international opportunities we have had through Girl Scouts, but we think it’s really important to remind everyone that Guiding and Scouting is a global movement and we’re all working together to support girls and young women of courage, confidence, and character around the world. If you’re still an active girl member, you can plan your own international trip! I recommend trying to connect with a troop in the country you want to visit to learn more about Scouting in their country, or visiting a World Center for a program. You can also check out GSUSA’s Destinations. If you are an adult volunteer, you can also participate in World Center programs, or you can volunteer or intern at the World Centers. Anna and I have both been World Center volunteers and we highly recommend it. Join the Global Leadership Opportunities pool, follow WAGGGS on social media, and check their website periodically to find out about global events like JLS. Scholarships are available to support girls who want to participate in international events, so make sure you check those out! The Look Wider Scholarship for Colorado girls is always a good place to start. We have made so many international friends and have gotten to feel like a part of a global movement; we just cannot recommend getting involved in international Guiding enough.
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