International Opportunities

There are so many great things about Guides, but one of the best is the opportunities we are afforded that we otherwise wouldn’t get. For example, in the summer of 2019, back before lockdown began, eight Rangers in our unit were able to travel to London, to stay in Pax Lodge, for three days.

For some of us it was our first time on a holiday without our parents or family; for some it was our first time going to London; for others it was the first time they had been on a plane; but for all of us, it was just a great opportunity to get away for a few days with a group of like-minded friends, and Guiders. A chance to exert a little independence, but in a safe way.

We wore our neckerchief at all times when we were out, so we could find each other in a crowd, and it really worked to our advantage. In the airport, we were whisked through security as a group; when trying to navigate busy underground stations in Central London it made it easier to find each other, but above all it gave us a sense of belonging, that we were all having this great adventure together. And you know what, when we met people on the streets, or on public transport, everyone smiled at us. I think seeing a group of 16-18 year old girls, all wearing our neckers, obviously having fun, just cheered people up. We had lots of people stop us and ask us who we were, what we were doing, were we having fun etc, all our interactions were really positive, not one negative one. I feel we showed people that not all teenagers are bad, and not all groups of teenagers means bad news.

A group of CGI members in green t-shirts pointing to the reception sign of Pax Lodge in London

We stayed in Pax Lodge in London and from the moment we entered the doors we just felt at home. The staff were so welcoming, it was bright and airy and all the volunteers were keen to talk to us, find out who we were, where we were from and what plans we had for our time in London. They were also able to give us ideas of things to do and places to go, they helped us with different modes of transport, timings for our different activities and suggestions for the best places to eat.

On our first night in Pax our Guiders had arranged a night in the lodge for us. Some of the volunteers came and played games and different activities with us, teaching us a bit about the history of Pax Lodge as we went. We also had a pin ceremony, which was really special, because the pins can only be given to people who visit Pax Lodge themselves, you can not buy them as souvenirs. We stood in a circle, one of the volunteers read a piece about how special the ceremony was, how special our time there together was, and solemnly gave us each our pin, including our Guiders, one of whom couldn’t hold back the tears!A group of Guides outside the entrance to girlguiding UK

One of our favourite parts of each day was the flag raising ceremony every morning. The volunteers would invite the guests to join them as they raised the WAGGGS flag and then sang the World Song to begin a new day at Pax Lodge, the home of Guiding in the UK, and indeed the home of Guiding worldwide, as the World Bureau of WAGGGS is also located on the Pax Lodge grounds.

When we first arrived we didn’t realise that a lot of the staff would be volunteer Guides from around the world; and it turns out that there are volunteer opportunities, both long and short term, at all of the WAGGGS World Centres. As Guides we have the unique opportunity to travel to different parts of the world, to work and stay in some amazing places, learning from the locals and hopefully teaching them something along the way too. Imagine being totally confident that you could travel to Mexico, India or Africa, and be completely safe and with friends old and new the entire time? Well, that’s the type of opportunity you can get in Guiding. You can volunteer in the City of London at Pax Lodge; on a mountainside in Switzerland at Our Chalet; in Mexico at Our Cabana; in Pune, India at Sangam or in Kusafiri, Africa. At all of these places you will receive the same warm welcome and feeling of belonging, because you do belong, you’re one of us. And that’s the power of Guiding.

Amelia Finnerty, Eastern Region.