Blog from the Western Hemisphere Conference
The Western Hemishere Conference officially started today at Our Cabana. It is the first time a World Centre has been selected to host a Regional Conference and what a wonderful place to be. This my first time at the Cabana, my first Regional Conference and my first time to meet Guides and Scouts from all over North and South America. I am so excited to, be here and to take part!! This region is very large geographically,with the most extreme diversity, 95% of the membership is in the USA and 22 of the MOs have fewer than 2000 members. There are 36 countries, 33 here and two of these countries are associates, Surinam and Aruba.
I am most impressed with the quiet and the serenity at the Cabana. There are beautiful gardens, lovely low Mexican style buildings with red clay roofs and secluded areas to sit. I love listening to the birds, and am trying to learn the names of all the flowering trees and flowers. Everyone should come and experience this remarkable place, especially after arriving in the Mexican Airport and driving through the traffic. By the way there are 25 million people in Mexico City and over 1 million cars. I'm sure they were all on the road together yesterday! When you compare this to Canada, we only have 33 million in our whole country!
Most of the delegates and guests arrived by this afternoon, with some having great travel stories!
Harriet came over to the hotel and then she toured me around the Cabana and introduced me to her Rangers who are volunteering for the Conference. She has a group of about 30 senior girls that meet at the Cabana every Sat.they are from the local orphanage.
There was an orientation session and a walk around the Cabana and then an early supper so all would be ready for the Opening Ceremony.
The ceremony was in a very large tent over the tennis court. The sides were up so it was lovely to enjoy the out of doors and have the flag ceremony and meet the guides from the local neighborhood.
Guias de Mexico were responsible for this event and what a fun filled, thoughtful, exciting,evening it was. We were given little clay pots on ribbons that they put around all of our necks as we arrived, and little pins for our uniforms. What a colorful group we all were with everyone in dress uniform. There was a very warm feeling and so many happy reunions. People were genuinely delighted to be together.
The Mexican Anthem was sung after the colors were presented and then we all joined in to sing Our Cabana both in Spanish and English, so much to share even though we are from all over the world. I loved hearing us sing. The meeting was conducted in Spanish with translators in English.
We very much enjoyed hearing the former First Lady of Mexico, Margarita Zavala give the keynote address. She was very enthusiastic about our organization, talked about her experience as a Guide and how important it has been in her life. She felt guiding makes us grow as women and the values taught stay with us lifelong. She is very well liked by all the Mexican people.
Then, the rain and the thunder and the lightening started, the sides of the tent were quickly lowered but they still blew. Tropical storms are certainly loud, and the amount of rain incredible. It certainly didn't stop the enthusiasm for the evening. Next the Guias de Mexico put on a pantomime, and we also enjoyed watching a video. I will try and find out if a copy could we shared I think you would find it very moving.
Just then they announced that we were all going to share a Mexican tradition! Out came bottles of tequila and all our little pottery mugs were filled and we had a toast. It was great fun with lots of laughter and many funny looks on our faces as we all tried it.
Back to the hotel in the teeming rain wearing brightly colored ponchos, and everyone still smiling.
I' m saying good night and look forward to tomorrow and the start of the business of the conference.
Sally Palm (Canada)
Today was as diverse as the Western Region! Not sure where to begin, but here goes!
I loved the reflections given by one of the Guias de Mexico. It was a very personal story of how she became a guide. It took her 3 tries and a very determined friend who talked her into going for 3 weeks in a row. Going to camp, making "ugly" soup by herself, and being with her friends in the out of doors changed her life and she has loved guiding ever since then. She lives by the Guide promise, She said:
I know where I am,
I know what I need
Then she had us stand up on own two feet, then put our right foot forward and anchor ourselves. Now we can reach out, help others, always try to become a better guide.
Today was a business day, starting by calling the role, 29 countries and they are expecting Chile to come later in the week. There was then some procedural issues, the appt of the procedural committee and the tellers and a discussions of the rules and regulations for the conference.
Fiona Harnett, from the World Board spoke about WAGGGS and mentioned some of the projects they have sponsored, the Rwanda project, the leadership training at Pax Lodge, on line e learning, and the 5th World Centre. She talked of the Stop the Violence programs organized in Mexico, Bahamas and Costa Rico She updated the group on the financial situation and all were very excited to hear that the Global Girls Fund had passed the 3'million pound mark and our cooperate partnership,with UPS and now Dove.
Jill Zemanovits from the World Board, then talked about how the World Board wants to take a change of direction. She mentioned 3 changes.
- They want to transform it from and operational Board to a Strategic Board.
- Creation of an nominating committee to identify and then source members from around the world for this Board
- want to create WAGGGS as a separate identity and will need to check with each of the MOs.
Lots of questions were asked about this, good exchange of ideas.
Met the two Guiders from Suriname, a country in South America, was fascinated to learn that although it was settled by the Dutch, they all speak as many as 4 languages , Dutch, Spanish, English Portuguese and some even know French. It was their first conference and they are hoping to become a full member in 2017. it is a land locked country, I think near Brazil? I really think that there should be a big map displayed so we can see where all the countries are. I'm sure I am not the only on that doesn't know where they all are?
Love the tee shirts worn by the Guias, who are here to volunteer, talked to some of them and they travelled here from 2 areas one quite near the US border. They are having a great time helping with all the little tasks that make the event work. Such happy girls enjoying meeting all the guides from the WH. Went to church with some of them and we stopped and bought ice cream from a local vender, gave my a small flavor of Mexico outside the Cabana.
The highlight today was a networking event "Empowering Girls and Young Women". It was an opportunity for us to hear about the WAGGS and the Dove Self-Esteem Project that will launch a new Body Image and the Self-Esteem Programme. Patricia Galvez, the Grand Manager from Dove, spoke about "real " women, everyday issues and problems we all face. How many of us can describe ourselves as beautiful? We saw an awesome video "Peek a Boo I love you." Did you know that 9 out 10 girls want to change something physical about themselves, and only 11% like themselves. She and Dove said we have a social commitment to the next generation. It was almost as though WAGGGS and Dove had worked together to create this campaign Our Vision and our Missions are almost identical. Dove uses the wording, lets make girls unstoppable.
They have given 3 million pounds to be used around the world for projects The countries in the Western Hemisphere selected are Canada, USA, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
What exciting news, we will all want to be involved. What a wonderful opportunity for girls.
Made it back to our home away from home just before the thunder and lightening and again, a real downpour I wonder if this is a nightly ritual.
Sally Palm (Canada)
Reflections had us share how we had grown! We had small pieces of paper and wrote a word to describe this, for example, more sincere, kind, efficient, freedom of expression, patient, and many more. All was posted on the wall.
Excellent report given by Fiona (World Board member) on Global Strategic Plan. She talked about Vision 2020 and wanted to know how all the MOs were doing? She handed out questions for the groups to work and results will be reported later.
Jill (World Board member) and Sally (WAGGGS, World Bureau) lead a discussion on Global and WH Membership Development Strategies.
We have 8.2 million girls as of 2009, but think there are over 10 million now. There are 145 countries and hope14 of the associates will receive full membership by 2020. She gave a count for each region, Europe has 39, Western Hemisphere 36, Africa 31, Arab 14, and Asia Pacific 25. There was discussion on strategies to help increase membership, and the importance of keeping the quality, but thinking outside of the box. Where do we look for girls? Most are from communities, schools, or faith based, but maybe we can look for partnering with other youth organizations, etc.
The groups were divided and went off to discuss 4 case studies and the results wii be reported on later. Membership is a key issue for this region and the room was buzzing with everyone fully engaged. They discussed models of possible types of Memberships for example a Federation like Suriname has, or maybe a Cluster would work!
Girl Scout USA shared their model on how they have addressed the Membership issue. They led discussions on what worked for them and gave material to all the MOs either in English or Spanish It was very helpful and all the material is available to buy on their web site.They emphasized the importance of developing a plan and then staying with and working on it. Again we all participated in working on suggested models and the the results were shared.
What a wonderful place to have this conference, the sun shines, it is a perfect temperature and the food is fabulous. I sat with a group, all Spanish speaking at lunch today. They were from, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Lima, and Chile. I finally got my iPad out to look at Google maps to see where all the countries were. It was a lively conversation and I really enjoy listening to their language. We all enjoyed fish cooked with tomato, onions, green olives and some chilies (not too hot), rice and freshly cooked beans all served on blue ceramic dishes. We are very spoiled.
The highlight again today was Dr Christine Burton from Mexico and the Dove Foundation. She talked about Body Image and Self Esteem. She showed some videos and gave some statistic about how girls feel, about their self image. Did you know that that girls as young as 5 worry about their body image? If you ask a girl what she doesn't like about herself she takes 2 sec to answer but if you ask her what is beautiful about herself the answer takes much, much, much, longer.
All girls need to be valued and as Dove says "let's make peace with beauty".
Paul (WAGGGS, World Bureau) shared with us what will happen in the project. Our Aim is to reach 3.5 million girls. They are developing a badge "Free Being Me" for girls 7 to 10 and 11 to 14. There will be resources available and funding will be available to bring the message to girls in communities. The Global launch will be on the Day of the Girl, 11th October 2013.
Paul then asked us if we would like to see a "tease" of what some of the material would be like. He introduced a game that can be downloaded on the web, or played on the web called Flawless. He had cards for us to play with and we all tried the game. There was good interaction and lots of guessing as to what the right answers was! We thought the guides would like it.
A full day, time to say good night and by the way there was no thunder or rain and we even have a full moon.
Sally Palm (Canada)
An interesting Reflection to start the day! A young women reminded us about having our feet firmly planted, and now we must work well as a team. She had us blow up balloons and then gave us tooth picks and asked us to move the balloons across the room! Some worked better than other and there were quite a few loud bangs. Often working as a team helps us reach our goals. It was a good lead into the days activities.
This was the day for workshops! Many of these workshops gave worthwhile opportunities for the MOs to choose from and learn! All the session are for one and a half hour. The first sessions offered the following options, Enhancing Recruitment and how to retain and engage Guides, or, Voice for Young Women Forum, or, How to build a diverse organization: strategies for breaking into under-represented groups. I wanted to observe the one on Voice for Young Women but it was in Spanish so I very much enjoyed going to Enhancing Recruitment.
There was discussion about why the older girls 17 to 20 leave Guiding and Scouting. This age group seemed to have many reasons why they leave. Some suggestions made by the group were very helpful. "Keep them Linked" This age group want to further skills, use social media to connect, like being with their friends, might love to travel and see the world. Keep the program flexible and relevant.
Team Guiding might work, Lone Guides have been in Canada for years. Link, a program where the young leaders are brought in for specific skills and therefore still are involved.
Venezuela has a program called 1 and 2 makes 3. One girl invites 2 friends to come and try Guiding or Scouting. UK didn't have enough leaders so now have a 12 hour challenge. Anyone can volunteer for 12 hours a year. They have developed a great pool of volunteers.
Trinidad and Tobago will celebrate 100 years of guiding and have introduced Tea Talk, and Time Together. They have invited all their past guides to come and get reconnected. All excellent suggestions
The next group of sessions were on areas like Succession Planning as the Key to Sustainability, Building a Strong Leadership to ensure growth and sustainability. Developing and Growing Leaders, Volunteering, helping MOs to grow and retain leadership capacity.
There were more workshops in the afternoon, on Advocacy,enhancing quality and membership growth in the MOs and Stop the Violence Campaign. All well attended.
The Delegates work long hours, have many meetings and I am very impressed with the WAGGG personal and how knowledgable and helpful they are to all the countries
There was time for a presentation on OB-PS later in the afternoon. The power point presentation both in English and Spanish.
We also put up some posters and had some brochures available. It was a small group but those who came were interested and asked questions. Harriet (OB-PS member) was very helpful in answering many of the questions. They were very interested in the Anne Scott Fund and wanted to know how to get more info.
I think it is good that we have a presence at these events and I have shared my enthusiasm and passion with many of the delegates. They are all very appreciative of the fund raising we do. I just hope we will get some donors in the future.
It is great to have fellow members of OB-PS members here at the conference. Fiona Harnett is on the World Board, Linda Foreman, represents the Four World Centers, Sandy Thomas heads up the USA delegation, Joyce Lujan Martinez was at the networking forum on Empowering Women, Lynn Wilbur is running the shop and Harriet's rangers are here to volunteer, and she knows everyone here! So we are all involved.
Went to my first Spanish campfire. They have such fun. We all gathered together around a very large campfire, so beautiful to watch the flames and love the smell of smoke, it bring back many memories of singing around the fire up north in Canada during the summers. This group love action songs, dancing, getting everyone up and jumping around. The energy level is amazing. After an hour, when some of us were going home, many were still going strong. I wonder for how long?
Today I felt so much more at home, as we are all getting to know each other. Hope tomorrow I will meet the cat! I understand the cat writes a blog!
What perfect weather for sleeping, Goodnight from Our Cabana!
Sally Palm (Canada)
What a surprise when I arrived! The front door was completely
covered with a big Birthday sign and inside there were paper decorations everywhere, very festive and the celebrations continued throughout the day. All of a sudden at lunch, on went the music and they performed a flash mob with all the staff, and I mean everyone the gardeners, the cooks etc, all dancing for us. It was fabulous!
We enjoyed a great Birthday cake during the afternoon break and also said Goodbye to Sandy Thomas from GSUSA, who is retiring after 41 years of service. I understand that she has travelled to over 50 countries. We continued the celebration with a delicious Mexican dinner and then all enjoyed the Regional Market and danced to the Mariachi Band. Many of the delegates dressed in their national dress, so colorful and beautiful. The day ended with fireworks!
What a day! Our Cabana and Guias de Mexico have really done a fantastic job. We all have loved the week!
Our Cabana is celebrating 56 years today and we started the day by singing a birthday song that is usually sung in the morning when you wake up and enjoy your presents. It is called Las Mananitas and the English translation is:
This is the morning
That King David sang
Because today is your saint's day
We're singing it for you
Wake up my dear, wake up,
Look it is already the dawn
The bird are already singing
and the moon has set.
Even though the day was full of celebrations, there was still business to do and workshops to pick. The first topic was Improved image and viability of Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting at every level. The delegates could choose one of three sessions. Promoting your MO through the use of social media and on- line tools or Modernizing and Rebranding your MO's image, or How to build Successful Strategist Partnerships. After the break there were two more sessions. One on Understanding why Fund Development is a key feature to a successful MO and Building a Philanthropic Culture. This was the third day of intense discussion and learning. During the lunch break you could see groups talking around the garden areas, or by the pool, or sitting on the grass.
The session after lunch was called Looking onward to 2020, there were reports given by various delegated on all results of the workshops and these reports will all be posted on the WAGGGS sight.
Two motions were read and will be voted on tomorrow and then the vote was taken to select the 6 delegates for the New Western Hemisphere Committee.
One of the highlights of the week has been chatting and getting to know a group of Guias that have been here all week helping out everywhere. They serve meals, are runners, work at the stores, and are always there when you need something. They are a happy group and we all enjoyed them. I asked them what was the best part of the week? They told me they really enjoyed meeting all the people from the different countries, loved taking us on the bus into town, had a great time tonight at the market. Also enjoyed watching all the discussions and realized how important all the time and organization it takes to grow and be more. Guiding and Scouting is very important for them. Susana Lozana is the leader and she brought 5 girls with her, Marifer, Caty, Paola, Carolina and Andrea. They are from Monterrey in the Province of Nuevo León. I want to give a big Thank you to all of them.
I looked for the cat, Nieve ,and finally found him asleep under the bushes. Maybe he will come out to say hello tomorrow.
By the way we had a thunderstorm and heavy rain just before dinner, but it all cleared up in time for the festivities. I can't believe my time here at the Cabana is nearly over.
Sally Palm (Canada)
This statue was presented to the Our Cabana on it 50th Birthday. It represents the 5 Regions in the world.
It is time to say good bye to this beautiful place in Mexico! It captures your heart, and all who were here just wanted to stay and enjoy! Pictures can't capture the serenity, there are so many places to relax and take time to quietly chat.
The day started with voting and passing of the 2 motions presented yesterday. It was announced that Grace Ann Crichlow will be Charimen and Rochelle Forde will be Vice of the Western Region Committee for the next 3 years. It was a popular choice.
I had the opportunity to chat with the delegates from Haiti. They were telling me that they lost all their records, their building and many of the guides were killed. It is like starting all over. They were very appreciative of all the help they have had and have just bought some property and hope to start building soon. They were so positive. I can't imagine what they have been through.
Yesterday I wrote about a delightful group of Guias from the city of Monterrey and some how I put the wrong picture beside the write up. You can see they are just leaving the Market last night and Canada had had a draw to win shirts and bags etc. So they look like happy winners!
The big excitement was then the bids of who will host the 14th Western Hemisphere Conference in 2016. Both Barbados and Curaçao gave upbeat, professional presentations. Both are island paradises and all got very enthusiastic! The winner was Curaçao!
Then the Thankyous started. All the countries give presents to the Cabana. Mapi, Rachel and Adriana were given a standing ovation for what they did to make this event so amazing! Guias de Mexico also did an outstanding job in running the opening ceremony, giving us gifts at lunch and just making our stay comfortable.
It was special for me to be here. I met so many wonderful dedicated guides and scouts, enjoyed taking part at the workshops. Getting to know some of the Guides and Scouts from Central and South America was wonderful. We really are a Global Organization! The Western Hemisphere has pledged to grow their membership to 5 million by 2020 and watching their enthusiasm, I am sure their goal will be reached.
It was good to have fellow OB-PS friends at the conference.
I had such a good time, was looked after in very way and I feel so fortunate to be here, to represent the Board and to want to help this organization grow. This event re confirms my passion to empower young women and girls worldwide.
I leave early tomorrow, and will miss this place!!