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29 Jun 2022

Ardagh Girl Guides savour Octagon camp experience

Ardagh Girl Guides

Ardagh Girl Guides and Leaders enjoying their Octagon Camp which took place over the August bank holiday weekend

Over the August Bank Holiday weekend, more than 1,000 Girl Guides from ten different countries took part in Irish Girl Guides first ever international online camp, Octagon, which took place from Saturday, July 31 to Monday, August 2.

Originally the International Camp was to be in Clongowes Woods, Co Kildare.

However, Covid meant a change of plan and a decision made to hold the camp in a variety of places in a variety of ways - moving online.

Octagon was streamed from the host location of Dublin City University with participants 'camping' at home or locally, connected together via a stimulating programme of varied activities.

Ardagh Girl Guides decided that to encourage maximum participation in the event they would carry out the activities at a camp together, locally.

The week before camp each Brownie, Guide, Sr Branch and Leader received their Octagon camp kit box containing all the materials required for the weekend's activities.

At 10am on Saturday morning, gathered in Joanna's field in Ardagh, Brownies, Guides, Sr Branch and Leaders joined the online streaming of Octagon's Opening Ceremony.

This was followed by Longford's own inspirational trailblazer, Municipal District Cathaoirleach, Cllr Uruemu Adejinmi who congratulated Irish Girl Guides on their resilience throughout the pandemic and encouraged the girls to be the best person they can be.

Cllr Adejinmi’s daughter Alexandria stayed with the Guides to join in the morning's STEAM activities.

Irish Girl Guides are hugely thankful to the ESB Energy for Generations Fund for a grant to cover the cost of a STEM in a Box kit from Lego/DCU LearnIT for each participant. Allowing the girls to develop their science and engineering skills by building a land yacht and trying it out with different varying factors.

The Big Birthday Bash to celebrate 110 years of IGG empowering girls and women was also part of this camp celebration - so the afternoon saw rice krispie buns made on camping stoves as well as each camper engaging in sessions learning more about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths).

An important part of the programme was engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals, each girl receiving a board game to learn about the individual Global Goals, there was the space for Carmel and Aisling to lay out a giant version of the game and play it in teams down the field.

The girls were lucky enough to have former Longford Girl Guide Leaders Marie Hand, Emma Reid and Sarah Ni Chasarlaigh of Longford Civil Defence come onsite on Sunday. They ran training with Brownies, Guides and Sr Branch in CPR, using an AED machine, managing a choking situation and what to do with a deep laceration.

After lunch the group set off to explore the Hidden Heartlands on their doorstep, starting with a visit to the Knights & Conquests Centre in Granard, where they had a glimpse of the Wolfshead Archers, a tour round the exhibition and managed to include a climb to the top of the Motte!

En route back to Ardagh next stop, Maria Edgeworth Centre for an excellent Tree Quiz Trail, create a family crest and a Treasure Hunt. Grabbing a pizza for dinner, the girls returned to the site for that evening's International Campfire - starting it streaming online and finishing it around their own social distant fire.

The rain on Monday didn't dampen any spirits and the girls played games, did crafts and further SDG activities included a morning with Francesca Pawelczyk of Longford Green Earth running a workshop on effective letter-writing with the Guides. The SDG Action Challenge the girls to write letters to both An Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs asking them to take action in relation to an SDG of their own choice and giving reasons behind their choice and action needed.

The girls packed up and were collected early afternoon, exhausted after a jam-packed programme of activities.

"Camping out for the Octagon weekend was so much fun. Every day was packed with new experiences and cool activities - I loved it!" enthused Aoife Comerford, Ardagh Guide.

"Seeing Carly heading off to camp reminded me of my own Girl Scout Camp and I sent a photo of her to my friend who's Mom was our Leader when I was a Girl Scout in the States - she will have such great memories!" said Carrie Belton who's daughter Carly moved up from Brownies to Guides during lockdown.

The weekend would not have been possible without the Ardagh District Leadership Team. "As a leader on her first camp all I can say is “when is the next one?” It was brilliant from start to finish. It was such a pleasure spending the weekend with such a fabulous group of empowered capable girls," enthused Clare Fahey, one of the three Brownie Leaders alongside Clair Baxter and Fabiola Aravena who also enjoyed their first camp.

Fabiola, a Leader since February, said, “In the middle of these difficult times, this camp reunited the girls and their friendships grew stronger than ever.”

Donna Reilly added, “As a new leader with the Guides I am so happy to be a part of it all and to be able to give these girls the opportunity to have such a positive experience, first time camping and it was brilliant.”

Camp Organiser, Joanna Pearman, explained that “although it was daunting putting together a camp in a pandemic with new Leaders - everyone worked so well together as a team and pitched in to make sure all our Covid guidelines were implemented.

The girls were all in individual pods, sanitising stations were all over the site and the girls were masked and physically distanced where necessary. Girls have missed out on so many experiences over the past 2 years – as soon as there was a vague possibility of a camp I grabbed it! As everyone is local, girls who didn't stay overnight were able to stay late and be dropped off early.”

Ardagh Girl Guides are grateful for grant funding from LWETB, Longford Sports Partnership and Ballymahon Municipal Council.

The opening and closing ceremonies can all be viewed on Irish Girl Guides YouTube channel. To find out more about Ardagh Girl Guides, please find us on Facebook and to find out more about Irish Girl Guides and look for a unit near you visit www.irishgirlguides.ie or email wcmrdo@irishgirlguides.ie.

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