Tipperary Irish Girl Guides Leader reflects on 5 years in India for World Thinking Day

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Tipperary Irish Girl Guides Leader reflects on 5 years in India for World Thinking Day

Cate O’Connor was Deputy World Centre Manager at Sangam World Guiding Centre, Pune

This year’s World Thinking Day (22 February) – a day when Girl Guides celebrate their international friendships - has special significance for a Thurles Irish Girl Guides Leader. It is the first time in five years Cate O’Connor will be celebrating the event in Ireland. For the past five years she celebrated with Girl Guides from around the world at Sangam World Guiding Centre in Pune, India, where she was Deputy World Centre Manager.

World Thinking Day is a day when Guides across the globe give thanks for the international friendships they enjoy through the Guiding movement and raise money to deliver life-changing opportunities for girls in developing countries. This year’s World Thinking Day theme is ‘impact’ and Irish Girl Guides’ 12,000 members are joining with 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts across the globe celebrating the impact that Guiding has on them and that they, in turn, have on their local communities and the wider world.

Cate, who is a Leader with Thurles Senior Branch (Senior Branch is the branch of Irish Girl Guides for 14-30 year olds) and whose day job is Community Youth Worker with Youth Work Ireland Tipperary, says, “Everything we do in Girl Guiding has an impact on our lives and the lives of people around us. My own life has been hugely impacted upon since joining at age seven. By taking part in relevant, exciting and fun activities our members experience positive change within themselves. As they develop different skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, commitment and citizenship, they get motivated to make a positive change in the community and wider world. Hence, Girl Guiding impacts individually and collectively.”

Cate’s time in India was life-changing. “What an amazing country! From the colours, the noise, the festivals, the vibrancy, the hustle and bustle and the warmth of the people, it was a real honour calling this country my home,” she says.

“A big honour for me was getting to represent the Irish Girl Guides and when I got to see the Irish flag flying high at the opening ceremony of the 107 events that happened during my time at Sangam. There was lots of fun and laughter had when I attempted to teach Irish dancing at international nights and special memories of enjoying Tayto sandwiches while watching and explaining Moone Boy with the Sangam family.

“During my time at Sangam I got to meet over 5,000 Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from all around the world! I also got to work closely with 13 other international staff, 36 Indian staff and volunteers in training from the local community, 71 volunteers and interns and 125 tare (community programme participants). So on a daily basis I got to experience the true friendship and sisterhood of global Guiding, have such interesting conversations, learn so much about other cultures. I am so privileged to have friends I can visit around the world from Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Canada, Japan, Kenya, Nepal, Rwanda, Slovenia and Sweden, to name but a few places.”

Cate considered herself very lucky to be part of Sangam’s 50th birthday celebrations from the early planning stages in March 2013 right through to the big day on 16 October 2016 when 1000+ friends from around the global and local community joined in Sangam campsite for a massive celebration.

She was delighted to discover that “amazing, wonderful, exciting things can happen when you’re brave enough to try and take the chance on new and scary opportunities”. 

She continues, “By getting on the plane on 19 July 2012, just days after Irish Girl Guides’ international camp CAMP 101, despite being so nervous, anxious, doubting myself and so tired, I got to experience so much from the kindness of strangers who are now lifelong friends, to being able to call the amazing country of India my other home to  having dared myself  to do all of the following from driving a rickshaw and scooter, trying Bollywood dancing, hanging upside down in an ariel yoga hammock, abseiling off the Sangam water tower, to travelling solo in India, including taking an overnight sleeper bus and finding my way around Delhi train station at midnight.

“This all happened because I took that first step to apply! So I would encourage you to BE BRAVE when new opportunities come your way, just GO FOR IT!”

Irish Girl Guides welcomes new members from age 5+ and volunteer Leader from age 18+. To find out more, see www.irishgirlguides.ie or telephone 01-6683898.