Girlguiding Edinburgh’s International Advisor, Alison McNab, tells us why Girlguiding is Going Global whilst Staying Local.
Back in March this year as coronavirus took hold across the globe, holidays and visits abroad began to be cancelled and the prospects of travelling internationally over the summer became less certain. As all this unfolded it became clear that the Scottish and regional INTOPS events that run over the summer each year wouldn’t be able to take place as normal. INTOPS events (INTernational OPportunitieS) are all about Guides, Rangers and Leaders finding out about the international experiences on offer in Guiding.
The international team at Girlguiding Scotland agreed to have girls submit video applications for INTOPS this year – not only a good way of finding out more about the girls, but also a great stay-at-home challenge demonstrating that we’re keeping up with the modern world.
As a result plans for our Edinburgh INTOPS event in early June were also then changed to a make it a virtual session. We were delighted to get bookings from girls across Edinburgh and from a mix of ages for the virtual event. A couple of volunteers who had agreed to help deliver the original in-person event agreed to help out with the online event – we were all set!
Girls were issued with a kit list for the session – well, you’d pack a bag for a day event so why not a virtual one too – which featured their uniform, two items that would tell others about themselves, an international themed snack, and pens and paper. We sent a postcard to each girl in advance, which was stamped and addressed for them to send back to us, and a world badge.
We started off with a ‘getting to know you’ activity where we each shared our two items that told others about us, and then we learned about different types of international experiences, watched a video made by a participant in a previous INTOPS trip to Mexico, played a game of international trip consequences, ate our international snacks, took part in a culture quiz, and drew pictures of the things we’d share with others about our own country and things that we’d ask other people about their home.
At the end of the activities, girls were encouraged to evaluate the event by sending their ‘two stars and a wish’ back to me on their postcard, and to sew their world badge onto their uniform (did you know that all Girlguiding members are allowed to wear the world badge on the right sleeve of their uniform, a great way to remember that we’re a part of a world-wide organisation!) And the most common ‘wish’ we got back from the girls was for the event to be longer next time!
While disappointing that we couldn’t be together in person, hosting the virtual INTOPS event still gave girls the opportunity to find out about the range of international experiences on offer and very importantly to also have fun with their peers. Some of the girls went on to join the Scottish INTOPS event which was held virtually at the end of August. It was fantastic that more girls than normal were able to take part in this event as it was held online. The aim is to offer an international opportunity to all girls who have attended Scottish INTOPS via their county INTOPS event.
Among much more, 2020 has been a year of cancelled trips, camps (including Girlguiding Scotland’s own Camp Brave) and other events. For many of us, these activities usually play a significant part of Guiding life. While it remains to be seen when we will be able to take part in these activities in person again, there are plenty of opportunities to inject international activities into your programme, in person or virtually, and to share international experiences from the safety and comfort of our own homes. Just as we are reminded that a puppy isn’t just for Christmas, ‘international isn’t just for Thinking Day’.
Take a look at the wide range of resources available:
- UMA activities e.g. World Centre Postcards (Rainbows), Trefoil Trivia (Brownies), World Centre Welcome (Guides), Guiding Blockbusters (Rangers)
- Girlguiding Scotland’s Window on the World
- Girlguiding Scotland’s Sustainable Development Goals Challenge
- Girlguiding UK – International Adventures information
- WAGGGS resources