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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Katie's Adventure: California Dreamin' International Camporee

Back by popular demand! Early Bird Registration is now open for California Dreamin' 2015, July 26-August 2, 2015, at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, CA

This amazing international camporee is open to troops of girls ages 11-18 in the summer of 2015. Camp out with thousands of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from around the world, take fun trips off-site and participate in exciting workshops and so much more! 

Get information and register at www.cadreamincamporee.org 

Activities for 2015 are being planned now - you can take a look at photos from California Dreamin' 2012 on Flickr, join our Facebook group to stay up to date on the latest, or follow the fun on Pinterest!

Here's an journal of the awesome 2012 California Dreamin' experience written by Katie, a Girl Guide from England:

"This holiday has been the most exciting thing that I have ever done. I didn’t even know that you could do this sort of thing with Girl Guides until a year ago. I was lucky enough to get chosen to go to San Francisco in California to attend California Dreamin’ Girl Scout Camporee to celebrate 100 years of Girl Scouting in Northern California.

We flew with British Airways and we went on a ten hour flight from Heathrow to San Francisco airport. We all enjoyed the flight as we got to know each other much better.   

When we arrived in C.A, we were met by three of the camp staff. They were very nice and they absolutely loved our accents. We then had a two hour drive to get to know them. They thought that we all drive mini coopers and drink tea and scones. We all found it very funny.

When we finally arrived at the camp, we got given our tents and told to meet at HQ afterwards for a barbeque. After we had put our tents up we went to HQ thinking of nice chargrilled burgers and sausages. However, we were in for a shock as we found out that our BBQ was a takeaway from Dickies BBQ pit! This surprised all of us as we had never heard of a takeaway BBQ before. We soon found out that it was really nice.  We ate with the crew as we were the only patrol there. Everybody else was coming the next day. After a 32 hour day we were all shattered and went to bed early.

The next day all the other Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from all over the world started arriving. We went shopping into Pleasanton and had lunch out at a restaurant called Gay 90’s. We got back to the campsite to find the field full of excited girls. The camp had been split up into several sub camps and we were part of Treasure Island.

The opening ceremony took place the next day. Each patrol had a flag, logo or banner which was displayed on the stage along with each country's flag. Our banner was full of ducks as we were known as “The Bucks Ducks!” The aims of the camp were:
  • To meet new friends
  • To have new experiences
After lunch we began to set up our home display table. Ours contained a hook-a-duck game with duck whistles for prizes and swaps as well as badges and pins. I really enjoyed the home display and swaps as I made new friends and learned lots of things. I also got around 60 new badges to sew onto my camp blanket!     

My chosen activities whilst at the camp were:
  • Making friendship bracelets. I really enjoyed this because it gave me a chance to sit and talk to other girls. I met loads of American guides and some Canadian guides. The American guides had loads of questions about England such as what did we eat and drink, what music did we like, what hobbies did we do and did it really rain all of the time.
  • Surfing. I went surfing at Santa Cruz beach. There were only 7 people who did this activity. I managed to stand up on my board which I was pleased with. During this activity I met my now new American friend Katie. It was Katie who told me about the ice cream shop where they sold Ice creams as big as your head!! (We managed to persuade the bus driver to stop there on the way back to camp). One of the coolest things about this day was that I saw a sea lion swimming in the sea just near us while we were surfing.
  • Fencing. This was something I had never ever tried before but that I really wanted to have a go at. We had to wear special equipment to keep us safe but it was unbelievably hot. After we had been taught some basic moves we had a go at competing against each other.
  • Scuba diving. We were the shown how to use the diving equipment and were then let loose in the tank to go around fishing for rubber crabs!
Two other really fun activities that the whole camp took part in were a base ball game and a trip to the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. I loved the board walk. The Bucks Ducks mostly spent time there with our host patrol called Le Golden Oreos. We went on loads of rides with them and they showed us all the really nice food such as corn dogs and bananas dipped in chocolate.
During the camp there were all sorts of other things going on like challenges. One of these was a breakfast challenge and we had to make two dishes with four set ingredients plus one other of our choice. The Bucks Ducks made a rice pudding cheesecake and a Cypriot salad. However the judges thought ours was yuck because they didn’t like rice pudding but we didn’t mind loosing because our host patrol won. Another challenge was a California Chaos where the sub camps competed against each other with some really funny tasks such as how quick can you melt a t-shirt and knocking over ping pongs with a yo-yo attached to your trousers!!!! 

On the last day of the camp there was a California Carnival. Really this was like a big party to celebrate a great week at the camp. There were bungee trampolines, water slides, a bouncy castle, climbing wall and other stalls where you could make ice cream floats, get henna tattoos (which is what I got). We also did candle dipping so we would have candles to use at the closing ceremony. This was the day I woke up feeling a bit poorly but Sian sent me back to bed for half an hours extra sleep but I woke up four hours later ... but I did feel much better and back to my normal self.

The closing ceremony was a bit sad and it made me cry a bit because I was sad it was over and I was sad I was going to have to leave all of my new friends. We all lit our candles from a giant candle which was to symbolise the spirit of the camp to live on even though the week was over. We were all also given some of the ashes from the final campfire in a little wallet so that we could take a little bit of our camp home with us.

Luckily for the Bucks Ducks that wasn’t the end of our trip. Our lovely guiders took us to San Francisco for a few extra days holiday. We went to Macey’s  for lunch and we were then allowed to go shopping. After shopping we sat in the middle of union square chatting. All of a sudden we saw a big bus pull up right in front of us. It was a duck bus – a bus that could go on land and in the water!!! We were so excited and so happy that Sue had arranged this surprise for us. After getting another duck whistle we went on. The bus drove around and then drove down a ramp into the water. Once we were in the middle of the bay we were allowed to drive the duck, it was so much fun.      

The next day we made pancakes for breakfast and then took a tram to the bike shop where we picked up our bikes and maps. We then set off for a nine mile bike ride across Golden Gate Bridge.  Unfortunately it was uphill all the way but it was definitely worth it just for the view.

The next day we went to U.S.P Alcatraz. It was so interesting.  My favourite part was when we got locked in a cell and when I saw the wax heads. I bought lots of souvenirs from U.S.P Alcatraz as that was my favourite part of the holiday. When we got back we went shopping along the pier and made our way over to Chinatown. This was where we ate our last supper.

The next morning we packed up our stuff and had just about enough time to go to the cheesecake factory. We got back to the hostel, checked out and then went on our minibus to the airport.

The flight home took another 10 hours. We were all very tired on the journey home because we had been so busy and had all had such a fantastic time. My trip was amazing I have made lots of friends and have loads of great memories of the camp. I have made a scrap book of all my favourite memories to help me remember this experience.

I am so glad that I experienced this amazing opportunity and am so glad I did this through guides.  This trip was absolutely amazing from start to finish."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Girl Testimonials: Janette & Cinthya Share How our Hispanic Initiative Has Changed Their Lives!

Attendees at our 2013 Annual Meeting on Saturday had the pleasure of hearing from Janette and Cinthya, two of our Half Moon Bay Girl Scouts in our Hispanic Initiative, about the ways that they've grown through Girl Scouting. We wanted to share their inspirational stories with you! 


Hi. My name is Janette and I live at the Moonridge Apartments in Half Moon Bay.

Girl Scouts changed my life and I am so proud to be a Girl Scout!

I have 2 brothers and 1 sister. My dad works in construction and my mom plants flowers in an agricultural company.

I started Girl Scouts when I was in 3rd grade. The older girls would help us do activities and I knew that I wanted to help when I was older too. Now my mom says I'm mature.

Now I am in 8th grade and I finished Girl Scout Program Aide Training where I learned to work with younger girls. I help them with science, writing, crafts, and prepare their snacks.

I have so much fun at Girl Scouts going on fields trips to watch birds at the beach and camping overnight for the first time at Camp Butano Creek. This past month, we went to the Academy of Science and learned about animals and plants. In Girl Scouts I get to go places I usually don't get to go to.

Girl Scouts has made me a more responsible person and better at school.
"Helping is what I love to do and when I grow up, I want to be a Girl Scout leader."


Hi. I am Cinthya. I am in 5th grade and I also live at the Moonridge Apartments. I am a Girl Scout Program Aide like Janette.

I have 4 brothers and 1 sister. My mom is a housekeeper and my dad works at an agricultural company.

Girl Scouts has made a big difference in my life.

I have been in Girl Scouts since the 2nd grade. My mom says that since I have been in Girl Scouts I get into less trouble, my grades are better, and I am a better person. I agree with her!

It has been fun leading activities and helping the younger girls with reading, writing, science, and art.

Before I was shy and not really outgoing but now I am more confident. I helped direct a play based on the book "The Little Red Hen" that we performed in front of our parents. I would not have been able to do that before Girl Scouts.

Last summer, I did the Girls Go Tech program and got the opportunity to go to Santa Clara University and learn about robots and moviemaking. It was really fun and we learned a lot. Now I know I want to be a teacher just like my Girl Scout leader, Marisol.
"My mom says that since I have been in Girl Scouts I get into less trouble, my grades are better, and I am a better person. I agree with her!"

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day Celebrations Conclude GSNorCal Girls' Participation in UN's Commission on Status of Women

World YWCA's Nyaradzai Gumbonzvada
We think it's perfectly fitting that on International Women's Day, 5 of our girls from Girl Scouts of Northern California are finishing up an incredible experience in New York City as part of the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women! 

This morning, our girls from GSNorCal marched - in the snow! - in the International Women's Day Celebration March starting at the United Nations and continuing through the city, and they are returning to Northern California this evening. Safe travels, girls -- you were excellent leaders before you departed, and you'll be even more exceptional after this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Highlights of our girls' work this week included:
  • Allison was a featured speaker and panelist at the Boy Girl Dialogue.
  • Jessica presented group recommendations for impacting violence against women.
  • America, Larissa, and Allison helped to complete the teen statement at the Girl's Caucus.
  • Varsha testified in a case at The Girls’ Tribunal on Violence, which was a unique opportunity for teen girls to share the impact that violence has had on their own lives. Girls are the experts of their own experience and the Tribunal created a space in which girls’ voices are given the respect they deserve. The Tribunal highlighted girls’ experiences with violence and how they have taken steps to move forward and work towards preventing violence. Divided into three topics, the girls’ testimonies addressed violence in the media, in their communities and in their schools. Special attention was given to the ways that girls’ experiences have led them to advocacy and activism against violence.
  • Larissa and America presented to Commission on the Status of Women delegates a session called “Girls Ending the Cycle: Combating Inter-Generational Violence Through Leadership and Empowerment.”
  • Jessica and Varsha were asked by the Princess of Saudi Arabia, Her Royal Highness Basmah bint Saud, to join her in a Skype session. The Princess was the sponsor of The Girls' Tribunal on Violence and wanted feedback from our girls!
  • Varsha and Prince Zeid
  • Our girls had the opportunity to interact with many leaders, officials, and dignitaries, including World YWCA Gen. Secretary Nyaradzai Gumbonzvada; His Royal Highness Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and actress Monique Coleman from High School Musical.
About International Women's Day

International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900s. IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The United States even designates the whole month of March as 'Women's History Month.' The tradition sees men honoring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reflections on Working With Girl Scouts Behind Bars

Got Choices' Shalon Maral at a juvenile justice center
Today's GSNorCal blog is written by Shalon Maral, outreach program manager for our Got Choices program here in Northern California. Got Choices takes Girl Scouting to at-risk, high-risk, and adjudicated girls in schools, shelters, and even juvenile justice facilities, where we focus on healthy decision making and relationship choices, self esteem, and much more. Shalon's words are also shared on the blog for the Independent Television Service (ITVS), which just released a new video featuring Shalon and her girls that focuses on how Got Choices is changing lives behind bars. The release of the video coincides with the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women in New York City this week, where two girls from Got Choices' at-risk schools program presented a session called Girls Ending the Cycle: Combating Inter-Generational Violence Through Leadership and Empowerment." You can watch the ITVS video by clicking here. Thank you, Shalon, ITVS, and to all our partners and supporters who make Got Choices possible!

A Got Choices Girl Scout in the system
I started out with Girl Scouts 22 years ago as a volunteer and I now have the most incredible job! For the last 10 years, working for Girl Scouts as an Outreach Program Manager has opened my heart. Our program, Got Choices, is a nationwide Girl Scouts in Detention Center Program. It is very strong in Northern California and continues to grow. We serve at least 660 girls a year in our council, in 18 sites in five counties.

My girls are in juvenile detention centers, on probation, and in group homes. Girl Scouts is working with girls from all walks of life. They are involved in gangs, drugs, and prostitution, to name a few of their choice activities before Got Choices … and they are Girl Scouts.  We have weekly meetings where I am potentially the only person that the girls see from the “outside” for days on end. These girls are MY girls. And I know that the work we do with them matters.

I can personally relate to these girls on so many levels, because of my experiences as a youth. I have “been there, done that.”  I am blessed to have the opportunity to share with them who I was and who I have become. The girls learn about my past and it builds trust between us. We connect.

At a self-esteem workshop
I believe these girls can make changes in their lives and in the community, if they are given the right tools. Having positive adult female mentors, such as me, helps the girls learn how to relate to others in a more positive way.  I have shown them that there is another way to live. They can make different choices. Believing they can have a positive future makes the biggest difference of all.

Partnering with ITVS has given the girls a look at the world through others’ eyes. They can see other girls who walk the same walk, talk the same talk. The girls relate to documentaries and can view them without being judged.  My girls can identify pieces of themselves within the girls in the films. The curriculum motivates them to be better people and to not go down the same path. They are learning to make a new path for themselves.  It gives them hope.

ITVS curriculum is current; it tells stories of people the girls can relate to, helping them develop a sense of empathy. The documentaries and activities are engaging so they are motivated to participate and learn at the same time. I love this curriculum and I love sharing it with others. The response has been overwhelmingly positive from the girls!

I believe together we can make a difference in the lives of girls from all backgrounds, including those in detention centers. Using resources like this one helps us one step closer to that goal.

The Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens Monday nights at 10 p.m. on PBS. Community Classroom is an innovative and free resource for educators, offering short-form film modules adapted from ITVS's award-winning documentaries and standards-based lesson plans for high school and community colleges, NGOs, and youth organizations. See more at http://www.itvs.org/educators/ 

In 2012, ITVS’s Community Classroom partnered with the Girls Scouts of the USA to create the curriculum “This is a Story You Have to Tell: Women, Girls, and the Criminal Justice System.” The collection features modules from three ITVS films: Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, Troop 1500, and Girls on the Wall. The Girl Scouts have since adapted the resource to be used as curriculum for their national programs Beyond Bars and Girl Scouting in Detention Centers, reaching nearly 17,000 women and girls around the country.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Updates from GSNorCal's Teen Delegation to the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women

UN in session, flags raised
Our GSNorCal girls who are part of the Girl Scout delegation to the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women had a busy weekend in New York preparing for their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present their voices on the global stage to work toward the "elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against girls and women." 

Preparing for upcoming sessions
"Our girls have no fear of standing up for what they think is right," said Marla Howard, a GSNorCal program director who is one of the adult chaperones on the trip. "They are stepping forward, eager and willing to a world that intimidates many adults to help make people understand why we need to stop violence against women and girls."

With Michael Kaufman of White Ribbon Campaign
On Saturday, the girls facilitated a discussion within their delegation workgroup on whether on not their blog site should be public. It was a serious discussion on what they want out there and how it could impact people as they talk about how they feel about discussions in sessions at the Commission on the Status of Women. They spoke up and said they want to be heard and want people to understand what is going on in the world rather than hide it out of fear that someone will disagree.

The girls attended an all-day orientation with teens from around the world, which included a session with United Nation's consultant Michael Kaufman, co-founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women.

Our Girl Scouts are taking the lead in getting themselves around New York City -- America hailed her very first cab on Sunday. They've figured out how to use the subway, onto the correct trains, finding their way through neighborhoods to their meeting places.

America and Larissa
Of course, no trip to New York would be complete without a trip to the Statue of Liberty, and the girls also visited Ground Zero. Here's the reaction from Larissa, one of our Girl Scouts from our Got Choices program, a program for teen and tween girls who are involved, or at risk for becoming involved, in the juvenile justice system:

"Today we visited the Statue of Liberty -- when coming to New York, this was one of the many things I wanted to visit. Visiting the Stature of Liberty was a great experience for me. I really liked it. I learned that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France. I also learned that Ellis island was for immigration when they were coming into the United States. They checked for diseases, head lice, and other things to allow them into the US. We also visited the World Trade Center Memorial where the Twin Towers were. While visiting, I learned more information about the attack and what people's thoughts were about. We met a guy who was a street historian who told us about 9/11. I learned that four planes attacked and there were about twelve restaurants inside of the towers. He also told us about how they were rebuilding it so at night two blue lights will glow to represent the memorial. He recommended the church that was right by the Towers that wasn't affected by the attack. We took the subway to these locations, and it was an interesting mode of transportation. It was dark and really packed with people, yet fun and overall a great experience to bring back home."

Chaperones Marla & Whitney
Whitney Evans, our Got Choices program director who is also chaperoning the girls, is beside herself with pride as she observes her girls - who have already overcome so many obstacles at a young age - succeeding on a world stage. 

"Watching Larissa and America participate with the other girls from across the country at GSUSA is a blast," Whitney said. "They are working hard to step out of their comfort zones and have their voices heard. I am so glad we were able to show them the Statue of Liberty and teach them a little about the history of this country. These two kids have worked so hard to be where they are in their lives, and I could not be more proud. I tease them that I taught them everything they know, but really they have taught me so much about resilience and perseverance."

Last night, as they made their way home, it began to snow -- another treat for these California girls.

The full Girl Scout delegation
"My New York dream came true today -- it snowed!" said Varsha, who is a girl representative on the GSNorCal Board of Directors. "That was the perfect end to a perfect day!"

On Monday, Varsha and Jessica are in monitoring the Commission on the Status of Women's general discussion, while America, Larissa, and Allison are helping to complete the teen statement at the girls caucus.

Stay tuned to the GSNorCal blog this week to hear more about our girls, including updates on their upcoming presentations!