GIRLS WORLD FORUM 2012 – AN EXPERIENCE I’LL NEVER FORGET!

Written by: Allison Hollender, GSCCS Delegate to the Girls World Forum 2012,Chicago IL Allison is a presenter at the 2012 Women Inspiring Girls Luncheon in Bakersfield on October 5, 2012.

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It has been some time after the Girl’s World Forum in Chicago, and now I have had some time to digest the extreme amount of information that has been thrown at me during the week. The statistics, narratives, and ideas that were all delivered in discussions and presentations (while I was running purely on energy supplied by morning coffee and afternoon tea) can now be applied to my life and can now help me broaden my focus from myself and my community, to the globe.

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In one week, I was taught about the power we as Girl Scouts have when we work as individuals, when we come together as sisters, and in the simple ways we live our lives. I was reminded of just how small this world is, and the lives of people miles away can be identical to our own. The greatest part about the trip was the balance. I could spend a night with a group of girls laughing and talking about Justin Bieber’s hair, and I could also spend a morning discussing poverty with girls from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal.  Each day was important, and each day I learned more about this globe and myself than I could have imagined.

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7/11 Wednesday

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The first night is a blur. A swirl of names that I couldn’t pronounce, speeches by the President of Girl Scouts of the USA, Connie Lindsay, and the National CEO-Anna Maria Chavez, and SWAPs (Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere). Lots of SWAPs!

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I did meet a group from Japan, who taught me a few different phrases in Japanese. And I taught them some American slang. I spent time with the two girls and their chaperone, Chieko, during a lot during the trip. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, and required a lot of translations, we could all still easily laugh together.

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7/12 Thursday

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The next day began bright and early, with an opening flag ceremony with a flag for every country that represents Girl Guiding and Scouting. Then we went right into our sessions, we broke out into different groups and would remain in those groups the entire week. Each group had a language focus, so the translators could stay with the girls- I was in the Arabic group. It was such a variety. On my left would be a girl from Turlock, California which is just a short drive away and on my right- a girl fromYemen, a long plane ride away. My group included girls from California, New York, Hungary, Texas, Yemen, India, Bangladesh, Maryland, Georgia, Antigua and Barbuda, all over the Middle East, and all over the rest of the world.

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The focus of our sessions was on understanding the eight Millennium Development Goals. They are goals set out by the United Nations to help eliminate global poverty by empowering global citizens, promoting health and education, and sustainably helping people and the environment. We also learned about organizations like Heifer International and The Girl Effect. I really recommend that you do a quick Google search and learn more about these two organizations and how they are working to end poverty by empowering women. The Girl Effect is designed to help girls stay in school to help break the cycle of child marriages and prostitution and Heifer International helping to empower women and their communities through education and business.

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Later that night we went on a double decker bus tour of Chicago, and got a chance to see all of the sites including Oprah’s house!! Afterwards I had a chance to walk to the city with a group of girls and their

three amazing chaperones and see the sites for myself. We had tea at Argo, a local tea shop that caters to Chicago’s coolest, and then ate popcorn at the Chicago’s famous Garrett’s. They have a Chicago blend which is cheddar cheese popcorn and caramel corn mixed together to form heaven. Afterwards we went to the famous

Millennium Park, and stumbled on a free symphony and then a show of Guys and Dolls. And lastly before our eleven o’clock curfew, we took touristy pictures under the famous Chicago Bean!

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7/13 Friday

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Friday began with a quick breakfast and a long bus ride to the Brookfield Zoo, the day was focused on environmental conservation and included three sessions about three of the largest global issues – deforestation, water conservation, and climate change. The most interesting thing was that most of our paper products (which is practically everything we use!) is logged illegally, and is causing severe deforestation in rainforests that are vital to our area. A simple thing that anyone can do is buy products that have an FSC label, which means they are certified and the paper products come from trees that are sustainably produced. Since coming home I have already encouraged my family to make the change and we now are using toilet paper and paper toilets that are FSC certified. (Just a hint, Starbucks uses cups that are FSC certified, an excuse for that morning latte!). After our sessions we were allowed to explore the zoo, and see all the animals.

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7/14 Saturday

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Saturday was all sessions, back to back to back. We covered women empowerment, self esteem, and political leadership in our daily lives. The session, How to Lead a Political Life by Erin Viardi was by far the most interesting (follow her on twitter, @ErinViardi!) she taught us that by being informed and passionate anyone can lead a political life.

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7/15 Sunday

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Sunday was back to the zoo! This time we helped to plant native grasses that would benefit the environment and the local area. We worked during the day to plant grasses and wildflowers, so if you ever go to the Brookfield Zoo, ask where the Girl Scouts planted grasses and they will take you there. The grass right now may not look like much, but soon it will be giant.

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Later that night, we all broke out into groups to go on a Scavenger Hunt throughoutChicago. We teamed up with a group fromIrelandand sang Camp Songs the ENTIRE time. We came back dead last, but we had the most fun! Afterwards, there was a giant party! Ice cream, sumo wrestling, crazy pictures, and dancing! It was so much fun, I loved to see girls from around the world dancing to Miley Cyrus or old eighties tunes.

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I was so privileged to represent the girls in our area, and I hope I did them all justice. I learned so much, I want to bring that back to our valley and help to change some of our community’s greatest problems. This experience has changed me as a person and opened my eyes to a world so much bigger than myself.

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