The WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) World Centres – Our Chalet in Switzerland, Sangam in India, Our Cabaña in Mexico and Pax Lodge in London – have a special place in the hearts of the Venture Abroad team. We have been enabling Guides, Senior Section members, Guide Leaders and members of the Trefoil Guild to visit Our Chalet, Our Cabaña and Sangam for a many years and between us, we have visited all of the World Centres (some more than once!) which adds up to some serious air miles and some very memorable experiences.
When we started thinking of the perfect trips for Senior Section groups to celebrate their centenary year in 2016, the World Centres were naturally at the top of the list. A visit to one of the World Centres really brings home what it means to be a part of the international Guiding movement; there are few other places where you can feel a part of something so powerful, so inspiring and so global. WAGGGS has set out a vision that: “all girls and young women are valued and take action to change the world.” In light of the oppression that girls and women still experience in some parts of the world, this certainly seems ambitious but nobody works harder towards this goal than WAGGGS. It is difficult to imagine a more powerful, international movement that has girls and women at its heart.
Our Tour Coordinator, Katie Farrell, has visited Sangam twice, the first time was when she was in Senior Section herself and then as a member of the Venture Abroad team. On her first visit, Katie remembers being struck by the truly international nature of WAGGGS: “I made friends on that trip to Sangam from all over the world, some of whom I am still in touch with. I loved the fact that these girls from the USA, Costa Rica, Australia were essentially just like me but from another country.”
On her second visit, Katie was a Venture Abroad courier and travelled with a group of leaders. This time, she was struck by the influence that WAGGGS can have on Guide leaders, “The sessions we took part in encouraged everyone to think of their Guide group as more than just a weekly meeting, but rather as a small but important part of a large, international movement. This is something I always try to remember when I am planning meetings for my Guides.”
WAGGGS’ mission statement is “to enable girls and young women to develop their fullest potential as responsible citizens of the world.” As Katie discovered at Sangam, the workshops offered in the World Centres, and the links that each Centre enjoys with its local communities, work towards fulfilling this mission. By enabling visitors to get involved with local projects and help tackle local issues, the girls and women feel empowered to make changes in their own communities back home, knowing that their actions really do make a difference.
Colette, also one of our Tour Coordinators, has very fond memories of the cultural exchanges she experienced at Our Cabaña. “To experience Mexican culture was in itself a very special opportunity for me, but to experience it with Guides and Leaders from around the world was something else entirely. A highlight of my trip to Our Cabaña was the International Festival which was a chance for each group to present something from their own country. The result was a colourful celebration of international cultures; something I will never forget.”
As the very first WAGGGS World Centre, Our Chalet in Adelboden is justifiably known as the home of International Guiding. For more than 80 years Our Chalet has been a place where Guides from around the world come together to meet, share ideas and form life-long friendships. Our Assistant Manager, Kate Eveleigh, remembers the pinning ceremony she was a part of at Our Chalet as one of the most moving moments she has experienced in Guiding. “Receiving the pin during the ceremony at Our Chalet was very poignant. It is a very special place for Guides from around the world and I believe that everyone involved in Guiding should visit at least once.”
If you are inspired to give your meetings a more international flavour, or you want to learn more about Guiding around the world, have a look at the WAGGGS website for some ideas. If you want your Guides or Senior Section to experience one of the World Centres for themselves, take a look at the dedicated pages for Our Cabaña, Sangam and Our Chalet on our website, or call and speak to one of our team about how we can help make their dream a reality.