With the plight of Syrian (and other) refugees so prominent in the news, the 1st Greenfield Park Guides took special notice when a Québec Council email “Take Action Now” arrived in our in-boxes. The email mentioned that GGC would be tracking the efforts of units across Québec to collect warm clothing for families fleeing from war and upheaval.
This was just the catalyst we leaders needed. At our last meeting before the Christmas holidays, the four of us talked to our unit about what it meant to be a refugee. Would the girls be interested in doing something to help displaced families settle into a new life in Canada? Our Guides were enthusiastic. Within 10 minutes, they had come up with a long list of items they could collect. From winter coats, blankets and school supplies to toys and toothpaste, their ideas were impressive. One girl thoughtfully proposed that we could raise money to pay for a Guiding membership for a refugee girl.
To build momentum, we started off our January programming with a round robin of activities based on a “Syria” theme. The girls learned some simple Arabic words such as “welcome” and “family”. They located Syria on a world map and worked together to answer a quiz about that country. They discovered that girls in Syria could belong to Girl Guides and that their promise was not unlike our own. “I think this made them realize that the refugees were real human beings just like them,” noted our newest leader, Marie-Lissa.
After that, the girls started collecting many of the articles they had brainstormed back in December. After two weeks, when all the donations had arrived, we made a game of sorting, counting and folding them. In the end, there was a mound of 15 large green garbage bags, each filled to the brim. Seeing the piles of sweaters, mitts, hats, coats and other items helped the girls better comprehend the reality of being a refugee. You could see the mental wheels turning when they asked, “You mean they really arrive with nothing?”
This initiative gave our unit a common purpose that girls, leaders and parents all shared. And we saw how even small actions on our part can, and do, contribute to a better world.
This blog post was submitted by Laurene (Laurie) Bennett, one of four leaders with the Greenfield Park Guides, on Montreal’s South Shore. She and her co-leaders would like to thank our provincial Guiders and Greenfield Park Brownie leader Cindy for giving them the information they needed to get started.