Emilia, a Young Leader with Brownie unit in south Edinburgh, was part of a Girlguiding Scotland group who visited Sangam in India during July 2018. Emilia shares her international experience with us
This summer I was lucky enough to be part of Girlguiding Scotland’s INTernational OPportunities scheme and I travelled with nine other girls to India. I can say now, without a doubt, that it has been the best experience of my life so far!
We stayed at the Sangam World Centre in Pune, Maharashtra for ten days. Sangam is one of five world centres owned by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Whilst at Sangam we took part in community projects, went to local markets, made new international friends and got tailored saris and Punjabi suits. The Sangam Word Centre was absolutely amazing. There were cows in the garden and the international staff and volunteers made us feel welcome and at home instantly.
The project we took part in at Sangam was called Discover Your Potential and we worked with two local charities in the community. I had the opportunity to work with an amazing period poverty and awareness charity named Spherule. We (three other girls and me) learned all about the stigma and shame that surrounds periods in India. It remains a taboo subject even today and only around 20% of girls and women use sanitary products. This is due to their high price and also the shame that is associated with them.
We visited the warehouse of Spherule and helped to package up affordable sanitary pads, when they then sell to local communities. We also visited a school and talked about periods with Indian girls who were the same age as us. This was a really great experience as we found that we had so much in common with the girls. We also visited a university and met with students who were also working with the charity. We went to some nearby slums and showed the women there how to use sanitary towels. I learned so much from these experiences and they really changed my perspective.
As well as doing Discover Your Potential, we visited local markets and temples and ate amazing food. There were also lots of activities at Sangam. When it sadly came to our last day, a lot of the other girls, myself included, were crying as we pulled away in our rickety tuk-tuks to go to the airport.
&After we left Sangam we traveled up to Dehli and Agra to do some quick sightseeing. The Taj Mahal was a real highlight, even though we had to get up at five am to beat the crowds!
I’ve grown so much from my experience in India and it would not have been possible without INTOPS. If you get the opportunity to attend a selection weekend, I wouldn’t even hesitate to recommend you go. You never know what amazing experiences will be around the corner!