One day I was reading the profiles of the volunteers at Our Cabaña, one of the WAGGGS World Centres on their website and I thought, “I could do that”. So, I applied and didn't think any more about it until a few weeks later I received an email congratulating me on being accepted.
I got a guide book, badges to swap and some vaccinations and then in September I packed my bags, put on my Guide uniform and got on a plane from Newcastle Airport to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Mexico City and a bus from Mexico City to Cuernavaca.
What does a programme volunteer at Our Cabaña do? The answer is probably, “everything and then some more”. The overwhelming feeling I have about my time in Mexico is about how many different things I did.
The autumn programme team consisted of me, Olivia from Canada, Jocelyne from Senegal and Adriana, the acting programme manager from Bolivia. We were responsible for preparing and running the programme for visitors to Our Cabaña and looking after them from the moment they arrived to the moment they left.
Autumn is the season of Guías de México weekends where Mexican girls visit the Cabaña . We had visits from several groups including Monterrey District who spent 14 hours on a coach to travel from northern Mexico. Some of them were only Rainbows and Brownies. The participants requested the theme of each weekend so with the girls we visited the Olympic games, covered the WAGGGS AIDS curriculum and took a tour of the World Centres.
During my time in Mexico there were two international events. The first one, “¡Viva México! involved Mexican cooking, crafts, learning about the Stop the Violence campaign and a trip to Guadalajara and to Tequila. In Tequila we visited the blue agarve fields and had a go at chopping an agarve cactus with a machete then took a tour of the Jose Cuervo distillery.
Our second event, Mexican traditions and celebrations took place over Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is a time of celebration where Mexican people believe the spirits of their ancestors come back to visit. It's not a time of mourning, but a time of happiness. Everything is decorated in bright colours and there's food, music and dancing. We visited the small town of Ocotapec where Day of the Dead is still celebrated in a very traditional way. The families of those who have died in the last year make an altar for their loved one to come back and visit. It is decorated with lots of symbolism and also with pictures, clothes and favourite foods of the person who has died. They open up their houses for people to visit. Visitors bring flowers and candles and are given food and drinks made by the family.
The last event, and the main event of the season, was the Juliette Lowe Seminar. This is WAGGGS' flagship leadership programme for young women. The seminar was attended by 30 young women, each from a different country and an international planning team. Although the planning team led most of the programme sessions this week, Olivia and I were privileged to be able to plan and run the ice-breakers session at the beginning of the week and we were responsible for some of the evening activities and for accompanying the participants to their service projects.
Service projects are part of every event at Our Cabaña . If you visit as an event participant you might find yourself working with a senior citizens group, children from an orphanage or from Vamos, a project providing community centres in the poorest areas of Cuernavaca.
During my time at Our Cabaña I met Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from around 40 different countries, climbed a pyramid, ate cactus, lead activities in Spanish, celebrated Day of the Dead, represented Girlguiding UK and WAGGGS and had so many new experiences it would take up all of this newsletter to mention them!
So, instead of me telling you about international Guiding, take the chance and experience it for yourself! Whether you're a Brownie or a member of the Trefoil Guild, there is an opportunity just waiting for you out there.