Lord Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, and his wife, shared February 22 as their birthday. It is still celebrated today, as one of the biggest events in the scouting year. Today is World Thinking Day, a day for Girl Guides and Scouts around the world to think about each other, the incredible movement Lord Baden Powell started, and the annual theme.
The theme chosen by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), this year was "stop the spread of AIDS, malaria, and other diseases." In my area, it was decided that we would enlarge that to the general theme of health for our annual area event. Eleven units from the area participate, with upwards of 150 girls and leaders. Last year we had an international event, and the girls visited booths for the 4 World Centres as well as ones for Japan and Korea. A friend and fellow Sangam volunteer helped me run the India booth. This year I found myself volunteering to run the booth again, this time trying to add an international flair to health. I enlisted the help of a variety of Brownie handbooks I've collected from around the world, and did a presentation on the ways in which 6-9 year-olds learn about health/safety in Guiding/Scouting.
I had the girls start by looking at the photographs, and asked them which uniform they liked the most, and which badges they liked the best. Canada, the UK, and New Zealand have all recently overhauled their uniforms to make them more appealing to girls. I remember how excited we were as girls when the old Brownie dress was first replaced by a striped t-shirt. I remember the hype when I was a leader and the brown t-shirts were replaced by more appealing peachy orange shirts. I was expecting the girls to like these uniforms the best but was rather suprised to find that while a few girls picked the pink t-shirts of the Kiwi uniform, almost all the girls chose the green blouse and skirt of the Philippines, the most traditional of the uniforms (also the one most similar to what they were wearing). When I mentioned this to the other leaders they weren't surprised, which surprised me even more. Were the girls today just choosing the skirt because they thought it looked nicer, not because it was the one they wanted to wear? Or are Japanese girls more used to uniforms with skirts?
I talked a little bit about what Brownies in each of the 8 countries (Canada, the US, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and the UK) learn about health and had the girls guess which country I was talking about. Sometimes this was easy - "Little Friends" in Sri Lanka learn how to deal with snake bites, to walk 10 m with a weight of at least 1 kg balanced on their head, the importance of drinking at least 5 glasses of water everyday, and how to mix rehydration solution. In Canada Brownies learn about hypothermia and frostbite, and play outdoor games. In the US Brownies have a huge number of choices (at least twice many of the other countries) of individual interest patches, and are taught to have confidence in their uniqueness while they are encouraged to think about how their bodies are changing.
After the country had been matched to its program, we played memory - matching badge and country name. The girls seemed to enjoy themselves and both girls and leaders alike were fascinated by all the different badge books. It was a fun event to plan, and made me realize again that while the packaging varies widely, the contents of Guiding/Scouting around the world doesn't change much. (and that I'm going to have to keep collecting Brownie books from as many countries as I can!)
We ended the day, as always, with the friendship circle (the squeeze took a looooooong time to go through 150 people!) and closing song. As we sang I thought about all the Thinking Day events I've partipated in over the years - sticking pennies on a world map as a Brownie, laying flowers at the foot of pictures of Lord and Lady Baden Powell at my first Japanese Thinking Day, and of course the incredible day at Sangam my year in India. I thought also about my Guiding friends (one of whom has also been planning her own event over the past few days) and realized, once again, how lucky I am to be a part of an organization that has given me so much.
(Then, because I had been up most of the night planning, and because I spent the day in a freezing school gym wearing a t-shirt and talking almost constantly, I just about keeled over. I barely managed to get home, and as soon as I did I crashed for a three hour nap!)