At the very heart of guiding and girl scouting has always been a commitment to help others in need. In the midst of this global pandemic, while face-to-face meetings might be cancelled, guides and girl scouts across Europe are springing into action, leaning on our shared values to guide us in taking collective action for our communities when it matters the most.
Our global family is joined together by a shared promise. It takes many forms in many languages (and you’ll find a lot of them in links in this blog), but at the heart of each one are two phrases - to do our best and to help other people. Previous generations of guides and girl scouts have helped their communities to navigate all sorts of crises - from flooding to fires, to the impacts of war. Now, in this time of great uncertainty, anxiety and the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic, this generation is playing its part in the response efforts - helping each other, adapting and learning in new situations and supporting their communities, all underpinned by the shared values of our movement.
A Guide’s duty is to be useful and to help others - Supporting our communities
Government advice and restrictions vary from country to country, and so guides and girl scouts are finding themselves in very different situations to before - perhaps school is cancelled, they can’t meet their troop and social distancing makes face-to-face interactions impossible. However, groups across Europe have come up with ways to stay safe and help others from home, or within guidelines.
Guides and Scouts in Austria are helping in their neighbourhoods, in Lichtenstein scouts are part of the charity campaign of the government and municipalities, and Luxembourgish guides and scouts have set up a list of groups available to support their communities. In Slovak Republic the “Scout Service” project is transporting food and medicines for older or disabled people. Scouts in Czech Republic are also making masks, and older scouts giving blood where stocks are needed. In France, scouts have set up a postcard project to send positive messages to the most isolated people in their communities.
A Guide smiles and sings under all difficulties - Adapting and continuing to learn at home with a positive outlook
When the global health crisis forced many troops and units to cancel their regular meetings, at first people might have been upset about the prospect of not seeing their guiding and scouting friends for an unknown period of time. However, almost immediately, hundreds of thousands of leaders across Europe decided to work with what they have, together with young members, find ways to keep guiding and scouting going remotely.
The scouting activities continue throughout the week in homes across Europe. Looking for a challenge? There are lots to choose from: the Malta Girl Guides’ #mggquarantinechallenge; the #feelthepulSEOfyourhome photo challenge from a local group in Corfu, the 14 day boredom challenge and a time capsule challenge from the Catholic Guides of Ireland, ZUHAUSE-BLEIB-ZEITVERTREIB (stay at home) tips from the Vorarlberger Pfadfinder und Pfadfinderinnen in Austria; a drawing contest in Cyprus; a home tent building challenge in the Netherlands; #zdalneharce daily activities from Zwiazek Harcerstwa Polskiego in Poland; challenges from Asociación Guías de Aragón in Spain and #NoMoreCoronaChallenge tasks from Guiding in Ukraine. Phew - that should keep everyone busy!
That’s not to mention the amazing lists of fun activities prepared in a matter of days for scouts and guides to do at home, from the Soma Hellinikou Odigismou; De grønne pigespejdere; Girlguiding UK; Guides Catholique de Belgique; Scouts en Gidsen Vlaanderen; Junák - svaz skautu a skautek; Det Danske Spejderkorps (includes garden activities); Danske Baptisters Spejderkorps; Suomen Partiolaiset; Bandalag Íslenskra Skáta; Irish Girl Guides (includes a neighbourhood bear hunt!); Latvijas Skautu un Gaidu Centrala Organizacija and Norges KFUK-KFUM-Speidere. And if that’s not enough, there’s a virtual game from scouting organisations in France and new badges from scouts in Norway and the Netherlands.
This might seem like a lot of information, so some organisations have set up online hubs for information and ideas, for example BdP Germany and Switzerland’s collaborative ideas spaces, PSG Germany’s information document, VCP Germany and Israel Boy and Girl Scouts Federation’s dedicated web pages and Norges Speiderforbund’s space for leaders and members to share ideas.
A Guide is a friend to all and a sister to every other Guide - Supporting each other through difficult times
Speak to a group of guides at the end of a camp or an international event, and you will be struck by the sisterhood between people who only met two weeks before, or come from incredibly different backgrounds at opposite ends of the world. It’s easy to see those friendships flourish in good times, but guides and girl scouts are currently showing the true strength of sisterhood that can be felt in times of crisis.
It’s incredible what you can do with a video call: groups have found ways to meet virtually by holding online meetings from Barcelona to Sweden. For those new to this technology, a leader from the Irish Girl Guides has written a blog about how they set it up for their group.
While these are incredibly difficult times, there have been smiles, dinners, campfires and singing along the way, as scouts and guides keep a positive outlook in spite of the challenges their communities are facing.
Photo: Pfadfinder Horn Translation of image text: Hello, we are the Guides and "Späher" from Horn and we are all staying at home but still stay in touch with our friends online. We are a community. Together we won't be bored. Let's take care of each other. #gutpfad/#beprepared #stayathome
In testing times, despite the pressures and uncertainty facing us all, girl scouts and guides and showing their adaptability, positive attitude and most of all their care and support for each other and their communities around them.
Of course, these are only some of the examples we have heard about so far - if you have other ideas please get in touch as we’d love to share them and help provide inspiration for others trying to plan solutions.
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Blog by Rosalyn Old
Europe Region Communication Team