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Two of our younger members from St Patricks Aghgallon getting ready to make Smores

A member from Buion Naomh Pol in a wigwamMay seems quite a long time ago at this stage, but let’s think back, shall we? It’s not every year that we have a National Camp on the May Bank Holiday weekend, then again it’s not every year that we find ourselves socially isolating and in national lockdown before St Patrick’s Day and stretching out into the future with no reprieve in sight.

With no physical meetings for any of our Units and only a few being able to provide remote meetings via different conferencing apps, we knew that as a National Organisation we had to step up immediately and begin to find ways for our Units and our members to feel connected; you already know about some of the initiatives we had, including the Time Capsule and the Boredom Buster, but we knew that most of our members would be missing something much more important, their annual camp!

Whether you have a Unit camp outdoors or indoors, whether you go on the National or Regional camp weekends or you simply have your own Unit camp, it’s an experience that all of our members look forward to, from the youngest to the oldest, and we couldn’t let this summer go by without at least trying to compensate in some way.

So, we decided if we couldn’t camp together this year, why not camp apart? And the idea of our first ever virtual camp was born. We can’t go any further without thanking everyone who was involved in making this wonderful weekend happen; from our National office staff, to our Youth Media Team, from our Guiders who helped out with videos and the campfire to the wonderful Irish authors who not only allowed us to use their books over the week, but many also recorded readings especially for us. Our camp officially ran from 12pm on Saturday May 2nd to 12pm on Sunday May 3rd, but weeks of work had gone into preparing everything beforehand.

A family in a blue tent   A member from St Marys on the hill, with pieces from the Scavenger Hunt Members of St Brendans Guide Unit beside their tent

We kicked off at 11.30 with a little preview from Michelle, our Assistant Chief Commissioner, on what to expect throughout the day and then at 12pm we had the official launch by Emily, our Chief Commissioner.

Throughout the day, from 12pm, at regular intervals, either on the hour or half hour, we uploaded new video content of games, skills and activities that we would usually do at camp. We began with a scavenger hunt, we had science experiments and outdoor skills, we had some Lamh training, some crafts and some backwoods cooking. Each video was presented by a different Guider, and we couldn’t have done it without them; they all responded immediately and were eager to help, and thanks again to you all.

Then the most anticipated part of any camp, the campfire. We did have some technical issues unfortunately, but we regrouped and began again and even though not all Guiders who were prepared to sing for us got a chance due to wifi connections, it was still a wonderful night.

Buion Francis Taylor member in her indoor tent

At 8pm we were all very excited as Eoin Colfer kicked off our week-long storytime sessions with Irish children’s authors. Again, like our Guiders, all of these authors replied to our request within hours and all were keen to be involved, and we thank them for that.

That was the end of a long day for our youth members, and then lots of them headed off to sleep in their tents outside or the forts that they made in their houses. But the Guiders still had one more session, the quiz and social hour. It was a little bit hectic with so many of us online and talking over each other, and the competitive spirit did come out during the quiz, but it was a great laugh, and a lovely end to the day.

Members of Buion Francis Taylor outside their black wigwam tent Two Members of St Francis in their tent set up indoors Charlie from Buion Naomh Ailbhe in her white tent

Sunday morning dawned and many of us were tired from the nonstop day previous, but we still had a few more hours to go before camp was done. We began with a light-hearted news roundup of what had happened the previous day, brought to us by the team of Assistant Chief Commissioner and Youth Media Team. Next was a really nice touch to our camp weekend, the Guide’s Own was brought to us by the Cork branch of Le Cheile, and it was wonderful of the ladies to get involved in the weekend and we were delighted that they did.

Sadly, our 24hr camp was over and at 12pm our Chief Commissioner thanked everyone for taking part and wished everyone well.

We were overwhelmed with the amount of interactions and the number of people that took part in camp; the number of photos and videos that came through to the Facebook page all day and the messages of support and enjoyment we received. Unbelievably, we had over 1,000 people take part in the activities of the camp weekend and we had over 200 people log in to join in our campfire on the Saturday night; we even had Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from the UK and the USA join us throughout the weekend.

It would be true to say that May We Camp Here weekend was much more of a success than we ever could have hoped for, and that was entirely due to all of you, our brilliant Guiders, getting involved yourselves and encouraging your girls to join in the fun too, so thank you all once again. And who knows, we just “May” do it all again some time?

Mural from Longwood Unit with a rainbow on a brick wall for May We Cmap here