Girl Guide Leaders from around the world pictured at Newgrange during the international Juliette Low Seminar hosted by Irish Girl Guides at Gormanston Park.
Twenty-three young women from 18 countries who attended a leadership training seminar at Gormanston Park last week have headed home to make a positive impact on their communities.
They were among 500+ young Guide Leaders from across the globe to take part in the international Juliette Low Seminar, which is organised by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts every three years.
The seminar took place in 18 countries simultaneously and it was the first time for Irish Girl Guides (IGG) to host a hub. Those attending the event at Gormanston travelled from as far away as Lebanon, Malawi, Ghana, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, USA and Barbados as well as other parts of Europe, including Spain, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Finland and the Ukraine.
Three IGG Leaders took part and two were facilitators while 11 other IGG members took part as facilitators or participants at hubs across the globe, including Poland, Mexico, Nigeria, Oman, Madagascar and the USA.
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The 500+ participants across the world all followed the same Lead Out Loud programme to help them develop their leadership skills. Each of them has pledged to share these skills with girls and young women in their own communities.
Assuming each participant reaches 200 girls over the next two years, a total of 100,000 girls and young women will be empowered to also lead and bring about positive change in their communities.
Elizabeth Lynch, IGG’s North East Regional Commissioner and a Leader of Kells and Mosney Guides, was one of the facilitators at the Irish hub.
“It was a great privilege to work with such enthusiastic young women from so many countries, all sharing the Guiding ethos and passionate about global issues, such as gender mainstreaming and sustainability, while developing their own leadership skills” she said.
“It was amazing to see friendships grow as people found their voices and were encouraged to share their stories. I have no doubt they will return home ready to pass on their enthusiasm and become the change-makers our world so badly needs. As the local Regional Commissioner, I was also delighted to be showcasing the best of the Boyne Valley area.”
As well as following the Lead Out Loud programme, the participants were introduced to Irish food, music and dancing and paid visits to Newgrange, Laytown beach and Sonairte National Ecology Centre where they carried out a community service project.
Three of the participants at the Irish hub were from Ireland, including Maggie Cumiskey from Dundalk, who looks forward to sharing what she learned with younger IGG members in Dundalk and in Galway where she is currently a student.
She said: “When I applied for the Juliette Low Seminar back in February, I had this idea of flying off to amazing, wonderful places and experiencing different cultures, so it was a bit of a disappointment when I was told I would be attending the Irish hub. Even more disappointing when I found out that the hub would be half an hour from my home town so I would not even experience another part of Ireland!
“However, as the week progressed I began to realise how wrong I was to be disappointed. Although I was very close to home there was still a variety of different, young, inspirational women from around the world.
“We all bonded instantly and we formed such a strong bond that will stay with me forever. It immediately became a safe, supportive space where we could share our different experiences and openly talk about difficult topics, such as gender barriers etc.
“I will forever be grateful to be given this opportunity. I have made friends for life and can wholeheartedly say that it is not the destination that matters but the people you are with.”
Aisling Claffey, IGG Assistant International Commissioner, was also a facilitator at the Irish hub. She said the seminar had been “a resounding success” and that she had seen the participants grow in confidence as they developed their leadership skills during the week.
“The girls learned how to lead and to create change,” she said. “On our Community Action Day we went to Laytown beach where we spoke about plastics and how they affect the sea. We then went on to Sonairte where we learned about waste and recycling. We were able to see the fantastic work they are doing with a second-hand shop and eco shop onsite. We also spent two hours weeding and doing other gardening tasks in their community garden.
“All the participants are bringing home a planned project and will work on it over the next two years. The future is exciting for these young women and their local communities!”
The participants at the Irish hub also heard three motivational speakers during an Empowerment Evening on Sunday when the speakers were children’s rights advocate, former Senator and former IGG Chief Commissioner Jillian van Turnhout, award-winning STEM communicator and IGG Ambassador Dr Niamh Shaw and Ciara-Beth Griffin, an education rights’ activist and inspirational young Guide Leader from Galway who designed the Mi Contact app to help children with autism improve their eye contact skills.
MaLau Navarro, a Guide Leader from Costa Rica who was also a facilitator at the Irish hub, said: “It was a week full of planning and adventures where each participant was challenged and reflected on their own lives and how they can lead out loud. It has been very nice to see the girls grow in confidence during the week.”
Irish Girl Guides welcomes new members from age 5+ and volunteer Leaders from age 18+. No previous Guiding experience is necessary. For further information, see www.irishgirlguides.ie or tel: 01 6683898.