hree years of planning is about to bear fruit for seven local Girl Guides and two leaders, as they embark on an opportunity of international proportions.
The nine headed to Europe Sunday to begin 16 whirlwind days exploring London, Paris and Amsterdam.
Highlights are to include a ride on the London Eye, castle tours, a visit to Stonehenge and a day at Disneyland Paris. A visit to London’s Pax Lodge – one of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ four World Centres – is also on the itinerary.
The 2½-week adventure is an experience most people don’t connect with the Girl Guide movement, said Barbara Fraser Tilley, one of the trip’s leaders, in a pre-departure interview.
While leadership, confidence and skill-building are a significant component of Guiding, for the majority, the words ‘Girl Guide’ evoke images of cookies and campfires.
But with 39 years of Guiding behind her, Fraser Tilley can attest that the organization offers so much more, including such life-changing opportunities as the trip to Europe.
“People have this image of Girl Guides as cookies, crafts, singing… and badges,” Fraser Tilley said. “But the program is much broader than that. It includes a lot of interesting international issues.”
For her daughter, Elizabeth, involvement in Girl Guides also led to an opportunity to perform in the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics.
For the current trip, Fraser Tilley and co-leader Heather McKinnon are traveling with Guides Julia Battie, Elizabeth Tilley, Meghann McKinnon, Mikaela Pawlikowski, Danica Penner, Samantha Rushowic and Bailey Woodridge.
Planning has included extensive fundraising – including cookie sales – to cover the participants’ costs, which total about $4,000 each.
Elizabeth Tilley, who just finished Grade 10 at Elgin Park Secondary, looks forward “to going to new places I haven’t seen before.”
“I think it’ll give me a different, broader view of what our world is like, instead of our local bubble,” she said.
“You just need to go out and see things and find new perspective.”
Tilley, 16, is particularly interested in London, where she hopes the group will be able to see the premiere of the new Harry Potter movie.
For Fraser Tilley, who teaches at Newton Elementary, the inspiration for getting the ball rolling for the trip is rooted in her own international Guiding experience.
In 1984, she was selected to lead a group of four Guides from B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick to the Switzerland World Centre, Our Chalet.
She had such a memorable time exploring Switzerland and Germany with the group that she made it a personal goal to one day provide a similar opportunity for other girls.
Kids who get the chance to travel benefit from broadened horizons, she said.
“It really rejigs their thinking.”
Shortly after their July 19 return, a number of the Guides will participate in a provincial camp taking place in Agassiz.
Two thousand girls and Guiders are expected to participate in the sixth Spirit of Adventure Rendezvous (SOAR). The week-long camp offers opportunities to take part in activities ranging from cooking and campfire sing-a-longs, to scuba diving and geocaching.