Shaping the leaders of tomorrow - Helen Storrow Seminar 2016

Daily updates from participants

This week, young women from around the world are honing their leadership skills at Our Chalet’s annual Helen Storrow Seminar. The week-long event, named after one of the original founders of Our Chalet, addresses some of the most important issues in modern society, with a focus on environmental issues and how to raise awareness and use practical skills to create change.

Check out the participants' insider views of the first few days...

Day One

Trudging through the morning snow, we kicked off the week with the traditional opening ceremony, where we received our Our Chalet pins and placed the national flags of all the participants into a log (see below...there are quite a few!). Before heading back into the warm, we played some team-building games to get to know each other better.

Helen Storrow 2016 Flags

For the rest of the day, we took part in a variety of sessions, which were a mixture of learning and interactive activities. During our introduction to WAGGGS' Leadership Development Programmes, we played an interactive game about the programmes, the World Centres, and about the environment. We were then sorted into our patrols and did some activities about our expectations for the conference. We also took time to discuss what we had in common with other participants and what is unique about ourselves (more difficult than it sounds!). We then created our patrol mascots - we are the reptile patrol, so we made a frog.

After lunch we discussed leadership qualities and what makes a good leader, as well as reflecting on our own leadership experiences and hopes for the future.

During one of these activities it started snowing!!! For some of the participants it was the first time that they'd ever seen snow, so there was a lot of excitement. We were given a spontaneous five minute break to play in the snow and after dinner we had an impromptu snowball fight.

Our last session of the day focused on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development and we found out about the great work that WAGGGS Member Organizations are doing on these.

Before we sign off today we would like to say ‘Happy Birthday!’ to Our Chalet staff member Sarah (who had Happy Birthday sung to her in eleven different languages!)

Day Two

A dash of yellow....

Today, with everyone wearing a splash of yellow, we've learnt a lot about leadership principles and how to accept that everyone has a different perspective, which gives them their own unique, and valid, vision. We've also had many in depth conversations about values and different ways of leading, for example, the strong leadership shown by Queen Elizabeth II and Aung San Suu Kyi, the inspirational Burmese Social Democratic politician.

We then read some statements and learnt about environmental issues. This was brilliant because it prompted questions that generated more in-depth conversations and sharing of experiences from our own countries.

In the evening at International Night, and after a yellow-themed lemon mousse for dessert, we shared food and culture from our own countries, which was full of laughs and enjoyable times!

Helen Storrow 2016 International Night

Today was full of colour, knowledge, friendship and diversity. In spite of the difference of language and culture, we were able to discuss leadership and environment freely and found a lot of common ground. Once again Guiding and Scouting shows us that we are one!

Day Three

Thursday brought us another beautiful sunny day with stunning views. Perfect weather to encourage us to be hopeful when considering ourselves as world citizens and the problems our environment faces.

We started off the morning with an energiser – a Venezuelan shower dance.  Ready to take on the day we discussed climate change and its impact on the different countries we are from. We cut up an apple to show how such a small part of the world is usable to grow food. Only the skin of 1/32 of the apple was left! It was a neat way to bring everything into perspective. After morning tea we played a celebrity guessing game – we were each given a slip of paper with a famous person on it and the others had to ask questions to find out who we were. This opened up a interesting discussion about the power of asking open questions. We analysed issues using the SWOT method (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and discussed the importance of dealing with challenging and difficult questions.

This afternoon we had the privilege of listening to three guest speakers from around the world talk about their interest in the environment and their role in taking action, followed by a Q&A session. It was really encouraging and inspiring to hear about the impact that actions of ordinary people coming together and working on a local level can make. We could relate it to our past conversations about leadership - how a good leader needs to capture both people’s hearts and minds. I think that brought things into perspective for a lot of us, especially about the projects that we will all undertake when we go home. Our actions should be about things that both we are passionate about, and that will be meaningful to people in our communities.

Tonight is Swiss night and we are so excited to learn more about this beautiful place where we get to explore our passions together this week!

Helen Storrow 2016

Day Four

We are on now the part of the seminar that focuses on the theme 'Me, The Achiever'. 

We started the day by hiking down Our Chalet to the adventure park, passing by homely cabins and backyards of the town with its authentic wood artwork and carvings. We were all geared up for our adventure with layers of warm clothes, food for lunch that we prepared ourselves, lots of water and energy. On our journey, we learnt more about the Swiss mountains that surround Adelboden, and found out that some of the rooms in the chalet are named after them. It was fun too, to practice safety at all times by shouting "Car!," "Skiers!," or even "Motors!" along our way and to make sure that everyone was okay.

The adventure park had our adrenaline rush to its peak with our screams when we got stuck during the challenges. The challenges were quite different for each one of us: Kateryna's small anecdote about making our guide, Christian, say "I love you"; Leila's most epic jumping face which we caught on camera; and Benneth and Sam's "do-or-die" moments for being the first one to do all the challenges in their respective groups. And of course we won't forget the brave actions we all showed for conquering our fears whilst doing something new and out of our comfort zones. It was nice too, to see the planning team and staff having fun with us and it was also remarkable to have lunch sitting in the snow, letting our bums get cold,  while enjoying the nice weather and the sun shining down on us. 

We learnt a lot from this outdoor challenge, not only that we need to be physically fit and ready to take action, but something more essential - that being brave and supportive to others is important, that we need help, and that it is a cloud-nine feeling to be able to achieve something that we don't normally do. It was also important to have the opportunity to enjoy innovations WAGGGS introduced us to, such as the online platform GLOW - a powerful tool for every Guide and Scout to spread their advocacy and communicate with others around the globe. 

We finished the day by watching a very interesting movie about a woman named Erin Brockovitch, who stood up against people who were poisining the water supply in her area. Her actions benefited a lot of the community, and we think everyone agrees that we can see a little bit of ourselves in her. 

Today was a wonderful experience and we are out of words to say. All that we know is that each day we have in this humble place, founded almost eighty-four years ago, continues our vision, forever improving and inspiring young women from all over the world.

Helen Storrow Seminar - HSS 2016 - group picture

Ninas Patrol              

Day five

Today we learnt that however unexpected they may be, changes do happen and sometimes they may shock us, leading to feelings of loss, despair and confusion. We discussed how a seemingly comfortable situation can suddenly change, and that by monitoring the situation, as well as people in our team, we can be better prepared, and using craft materials, play-doh, mind-maps and scrabble letters, we explored the process of adapting to changes. As leaders, we learnt that flexibility is essential in order to ensure a balance of roles within the team.   

We started the morning by building igloos in the snow - something that most of the participants in the Helen Storrow Seminar had never done before. In small groups of five or six people, we were each given one or two specific roles which reflect different working styles and approaches. At first some of us struggled to apply our allocated role to the task, which gave us a practical understanding of how we can effectively embrace different roles in order to achieve our goal. After shifting to roles in which we felt more comfortable, we worked more quickly and effectively, which allowed us more to complete our task and help other teams with their igloos. 

At the end of the day, we celebrated Earth Hour with an international campfire. We shared songs from home and learnt many new ones - Josmar’s Shower song from Venezuela is definitely one to teach our groups back home! Lighting candles was also a beautiful way to reflect on the tenth Earth Hour which takes us nicely to prepare for tomorrow when we will start to work more closely with our environmental projects. 

We won't forget what we learnt today about adaptation, flexibility and teamwork. We have the support of all the amazing people we have met this week, inspiration from women who have already participated in the Helen Storrow Seminar and the responsibility to pass on our leadership skills to others.

Be the change you want to see in the world! 

Helen storrow seminar - HSS 2016 - snow group picture

Day six

Throughout the week we had connected, extended, challenged ourselves and with only 2 days left to go, it was time to act. At the start of the session, as every day, we reflected on what we had learnt so far and how much we have grown with our own leadership skills and feel ready to act as leaders in a project. 

After we learnt about the five different key parts of completing a project and setting SMART goals to ensure it is a success, we had time to work on our own project plans which was difficult to start with. It was difficult to outline our projects, as every time we faced challenges which had to be taken into an account. We also had the chance to feedback to each other, which helped to highlight aspects of the project that we haven't considered and helped us see a project from a different point of view. It can feel discouraging to see all the potential problems with a project but talking with participants from the Helen Storrow Seminar in 2014, and learning about their success stories and what had been achieved, was inspiring to say the least. The coaching sessions with the programme team were very helpful too. Although our plans are not yet complete, we have a great starting point to help us achieve our goals when we go back home. 

Some of us traveled for many days to find themselves in the beautiful mountains of Adelboden at Our Chalet, most visiting the World Centre for their first time. Some traveled on their first planes, leaving their homeland for the first time, and some experienced their first snow fall. For some, it was their first experience of an international event, whilst others bought their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm from others. It's hard to put into words what has come from this week but, 

We have been challenged, 

We have grown, 

We have connected,

We have strengthened ourselves and our values, 

We have strengthened our abilities and knowledge in different areas of leadership. 

We have been taught, supported and encouraged by a bunch of amazing facilitators who all bought such a unique, but inspiring message to us throughout the week. 

We have been graciously hosted, supported and entertained as well as been fed delicious meals by all the amazing staff at Our Chalet. 

We have been blessed by the talent of Fritz the Alpine Horn Player, the encouragement and learning Christian gave us all at the adventure park and of course the souvenirs the talent woodcarvers have given us to take home. Without a doubt we have all been inspired, motivated, encouraged, loved and supported by our sisters in Guiding and Scouting who have stood by us throughout this week. 

Today, as we learnt more about advocacy and applying it to our projects, we enjoyed these small moments with one another, appreciating the impact that each and every person in the room has made in our lives this week. And as we sang and danced 'Together we can change the world', I looked around the room and saw so many people who have touched my life and saw so much potential to change the world that every person in the room had.

We reflecting upon the week's learnings, spending our last couple hours working together as a patrol, creating things to reflect our learnings, the challenges and the experiences we have had together. I took a moment to be thankful for everyone in the room who have touched my life and found a place in my heart this past week! 

New friends - thank you for an incredible week, full of challenge, love, hugs, support, encouragement, education, inspiration and most of all for being you and for welcoming the joining of us all as sisters, and as a family! 

WAGGGS and Helen Storrow - thank you for such an amazing experience, a once in a limed time learning and development opportunity and for growing my Guiding family yet again! 

Thankful to walk in the most amazing movement this world has ever seen! 

Helen Storrow

Day seven

I awoke this morning with a bittersweet feeling of disbelief and sadness but a heart full of gratitude. Tonight our physical journey together will end as the 11th Helen Storrow Seminar will come to a close. But the knowledge, the memories, the experiences and the new sisters in Guiding and Scouting we have gained will continue in our lives for many years to come.

This past week has been full of personal development, growing as individuals, leaders and team members, we have been challenged and stretched through our activities including the outdoor adventure park, building igloos, sharing our experiences, projects and lives. 

We have united as one, worked as teams, as a family, and as a beautiful collaboration of individuals who bring unique experiences, knowledge, personality, and life to create a powerful source of sharing, inspiration, encouragement and experience for moving forward as leaders and in the projects we are planning to take home to our Member Organisations. 

We have traveled the world with one another as we discovered our cultures, traditions and foods in an international night. But we have also traveled the world in the sense that we have learnt so much about the struggles, the environmental issues and the challenges and issues back in our home countries that everyone is passionate about, which affect us and this amazing world we live in! 

Helen Storrow Seminar - HSS 2016 group picture

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