This time next week I will be on a plane, heading towards Mumbai for my first International Girl Guide trip. I'm then travelling to Pune, where one of the four (and about to be five) Girl Guide World Centres is located. The Indian World Centre is called Sangam, a name which means 'coming together', and its mission is to help foster Girl Guide international friendship by introducing Guides to India, and by Guides forming new friendships through shared experiences.
I am visiting Sangam for a particular event, which is called Be the Change, with a focus on Millennium Development Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. You can learn more about the Goals on the UN's MDG website. During my time away I'll be working with other Guides to help advocate for change in our own home countries and will visit Sangam's community partners to see what they are doing to support the aim of MDG3. I'll also be learning about Indian culture and getting to know other Guides from around the world. On my return I'll be visiting Girl Guide units around my Region to help pass on what I have learnt on my journey.
Why go all that way though?
About six months ago I started looking into International Guiding because my friend Annie has been overseas with Guides a number of times for different events. The prices to India are reasonable expense for me because we are much closer to Sangam than the other World Centres, and cost did pay a part in my decision. Furthermore MDG3 is something I feel passionate about, and helping girls reach their potential or discover that they can do so much with their lives is really important.
I have also said growing up that I wasn't interested in going to India. To me it seemed very far away and I didn't know much about India other than the start of The Secret Garden (when all Mary Lennox's family gets wiped out from cholera) and that India had a cricket team. It wasn't really until I had my first meal at Beyond India that I realised that not only was Indian food delicious, they had a vibrant and exciting culture.
I've been overseas three times now, and this trip will make it my fourth. When I was still at school, and then university, travelling internationally had never been important to me because a) I never had the money for it and b) very few people I knew went overseas, other than on school exchanges trips. Since leaving school I've had the opportunity to visit places within Australia I never knew existed (I'd never even heard of Kadina, where I live now, until I went to Bible College), and seeing beyond what you know really does help shape you into a well rounded and balanced person.
My Guides are excited about my trip, and I can't wait to come back and tell them all about it. I have been a Guide since I was six, and though I had a fourteen year break, I'm of the firm belief that once you're a Guide you are always a Guide. My country's organisation Girl Guide Australia provide some wonderful opportunities for youth and adult members to serve their own Guiding communities and beyond.
I'm so blessed and fortunate to be able to make this trip. Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement. I'll be back soon xx