8 January 2020
By Mary Bermingham
Twelve IGG members from Cork city, Macroom, Mallow and Kinsale were among a group of 50 Girl Guides who took part in the 10-day trip to Sangam World Guiding Centre in Pune to mark the start of the Senior Branch centenary (Senior Branch is the branch of IGG for 14-30 year olds).
The trip was an educational and cultural experience and the participants are using their new knowledge to develop a Responsible Consumerism badge. The badge, which is supported by Irish Aid’s Development Education department, will encourage IGG members to reduce their use of single-use plastic and take other steps to lead more sustainable lives.
As well as exploring the area around Pune, meeting local people, going on hikes and shopping for saris, the group members took part in community action projects in local schools and retirement homes. It was a life-changing experience for all who took part.
“Travelling to Sangam was a trip of a lifetime,” said Caoimhe Lynch (16) of Kinsale Senior Branch. “To be in a new country and environment with 50 other girls that I had only met once before, was definitely an experience. Being so far away from home, yet feeling so happy and safe was incredible.
“It was a fabulous chance to make a difference in other people’s lives,” she continued. “We did this by teaching the children in a local primary school songs and dances. It was an amazing experience and I will definitely be back.”
Sarah Carroll (16), also of Kinsale Senior Branch, said she had “an absolutely amazing time” in India and enjoyed getting to know “some incredible people”, including the volunteers and staff at Sangam as well as the other IGG members. The highlights for her included climbing to the top of the water tower and late-night pool parties. “I loved it all,” she said. “I enjoyed every minute of travelling around Pune in the fast-paced rickshaws, getting used to the blaring horns and lack of rules of the road. I had so much fun with the community action project in Sanskruti School where we got to play games and sing a few campfire songs with the most lovely kids.
“A night I know I’ll never forget was the Indian culture night. All of us dressed up in our beautiful saris, turning the hall into a sea of vibrant colours. These lovely and talented ladies came to do mahendi on our hands and, just when I thought the food could not get any better, the ladies in the kitchen completely outdid themselves with a traditional maharashtrian meal. This was followed by some attempts at Bollywood dancing!
“During the trip I made some amazing friends and came way out of my comfort zone to do things I never thought I would do. I couldn’t wait to go back to my Senior Branch unit in Kinsale and share with them the many things I learned and encourage them to jump at opportunities like these.”
Vera O’Riordan (23), a member of MacEgan Senior Branch, Macroom, and a member of IGG’s Media Panel, was so moved by her experience in India that she wrote a poem during the trip, which she shared during a campfire at Sangam. “Campfires are great for sharing songs, but I also love campfires that involve story-telling and skits, so I decided to write a quick poem for everyone there,” she said.
“The programme we undertook at Sangam was called Discover Your Potential and we all felt the hospitality and activities that were ongoing at Sangam were a great way to reignite our Guiding spirit. In the poem I talked about the hiking we did, the lovely people of Pune we met and the jokes we shared along the way.”
Irish Girl Guides welcomes new youth members aged 5-30 and adult volunteers from age 18+. No previous Guiding experience is necessary. See www.irishgirlguides.ie for further details or tel: 01 6683898.