4 World Centres Tour 2015

 

4 WORLD CENTRES TOUR 1 SEPTEMBER 2015 TO 7 OCTOBER 2015 – Catherine Searson GGNSW&ACT

 

In September 2015, 25 Girl Guides members from Australia and 1 from New Zealand met at Sydney airport for an adventure of a lifetime. It was lovely to receive our scarfs by our tour guide Sally Thornton before boarding the flight to Los Angeles then to Mexico City.  We stayed in Mexico City for 3 days looking at historical sites, a catholic basilica, trying tequila and visiting pyramids.

We were greeted on arrival at Our Cabana with volunteers from Germany, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Everyone slept with their patrol in a dormitory. There was a duty that needed to be completed each day such as kitchens, colour party, writing a Facebook post and clearing up the craft house. At this world centre we had sessions on Stop the Violence, Surf Smart and Free Being Me. But on most days it was exploring places such as Taxco, Tepoztlan, Xocalco and Cuernavaca. A highlight I enjoyed was participating in a community service project with young mothers and their children where we played games and taught them Australian songs.  The final activity at Our Cabana was the Mexican Fiesta.  It was the perfect opportunity to taste the meals we created from cooking lessons, listen to a mariachi band and took turns hitting a piñata. A surprise the night before leaving Our Cabana to catch the flight to Miami was when the volunteers visited each dormitory and sang a campfire song to wish us goodnight!

 

Our Cabana

After 27 hours travelling from Mexico City to Miami, Zurich then London we arrived safely at Pax Lodge. What I like about Pax Lodge is that the World Bureau is next door and this is where the decision making for WAGGGS is made. On arrival we were served traditional cream tea and scones for afternoon tea. The next day we spent a full day exploring London City on a bus and some time visiting St Pauls Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and riding the London Eye. A day touring Buckingham Palace was absolutely fascinating and a privilege as this was my first time to London. The rest of the time in London was travelling on the tube or red double decker buses to go sightseeing, shopping, going out to dinner and watching Mamma Mia!  At the closing ceremony everyone received a participation certificate and the Pax Lodge pin. The Pax Lodge challenge badge was also presented to some of the tour group.

Pax Lodge

Our Chalet was the third world centre that we visited. So much snow, mountains, chocolates and cheese! We were welcomed at the flag and opening ceremony where we received the Our Chalet pin. It was also the perfect opportunity to meet the volunteers who came from countries such as South Africa, Thailand, Australia, Canada, United States, Argentina and Austria. Majority of the activities we completed at Our Chalet contributed towards achieving the Our Chalet challenge badge. I was very excited to travel on a train to explore Jungfraujoch which is the top of Europe. It lies at a height of 3,466 meters above sea level in the Bernese Alps, on the boundary between the cantons of Bern and Valais. There were plenty of opportunities to take photos of picturesque scenery during hiking activities around Our Chalet. My favourite evening program session was the cheese and wine night. It was very informative as we listened to an authentic audio recording of how Helen Storrow persisted about the need to build Our Chalet.

Our Chalet

Sangam was the final stop on the tour. We experienced Indian culture through its traditions, history and people. A visit to a family for dinner was the perfect opportunity to learn more about India. Everyone was sent in a group of 3 and travelled on a rickshaw to various families in the local area.  I was very anxious

and nervous before leaving Sangam as I wasn’t sure what I was going to expect. But the family I visited made me very welcome and were interested to learn about life in Australia. My favourite part was participating in activities/ workshops related to community leadership, and advocacy during our stay.  Sangam has a partnership with a Muslim Girls orphanage in Pune for many years. There were so many young girls in the school playground with big smiles on their faces who were ready to greet me with a hug. The final evening was very special as we dressed up in a sari or Punjabi suit and joined in a traditional maharashtrian dinner. At the closing ceremony there was katak dancing and we reflected on our memories visiting Our Cabana, Pax Lodge, Our Chalet and Sangam. 

Sangam

The last 4 days of the tour was spent visiting other parts of India. We travelled from Sangam in rickshaws to Pune airport and flew to Delhi. From there we travelled 4 hours on a coach and spent 2 days in Agra. Highlights there were the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. 5 tour group members who have previously visited Agra instead flew from Delhi to Varanasi and stayed there for 2 days.  Back In Delhi we visited India Gate, Mahatma Gandhi’s gravesite, Qutb Minar and the Red Fort. It was time to travel back to Sydney with a short stopover in Bangkok.

Participating in the 4 World Centres tour has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. It has really shown the true spirit of belonging to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.  37 days of travelling around the world flew very quickly. I believe I have developed as an individual and my passion for helping others has strengthened.  I have met many new sisters in Guiding on the tour and at the World Centres that have made a positive impact on my life. I encourage anyone of any age to travel to a world centre and experience World Guiding. I hope to return to Pax Lodge one day and become a volunteer or intern. Many thanks must go to Sally Thornton for being an informative, flexible, understanding, and engaging tour guide.

“Nothing is better or worse, it’s just different”