Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CAITLIN DEAN LAUNCHES GIRL GUIDES

Caitlin Dean is one to watch. Three years out of college, she is starting a non-profit outdoors program, Girl Guides, for fourth through tenth grade girls. Good news! She is launching a pilot group in Northwest Brooklyn, and is spreading the word through as many community networks as possible.

Says Caitlin of her own outdoors background: "For years, my sister and I spent part of our summers in Belgium, where we have family friends. There, we participated in summer wilderness camps with Girl Guides, which is the Belgian equivalent of Girl Scouts (and actually the name of most countries' Scouting programs for girls).

In practice, it's very different from Girl Scouts here in America. For one thing, Girl Guides is a youth movement, which means that the groups are run by young adults (usually college-age girls or recent graduates), not parents, and that over time, the participants learn leadership skills and take on increased responsibility within the group.

Girl Guides also puts a strong emphasis on outdoor activities and environmentalism, and it encourages teamwork, cooperation and communal living over individual recognition (there is no focus on merit badges, for example). Activities are held throughout the school year, usually on weekends (afternoons, day trips and overnights), building up to a two-week camp in the summer. Our 'camp' is actually just a field that we transform into a community. We pitch tents, build our campsites (literally - the constructions are incredible!), cook over open fires, hike, play games, sing around the campfire, and learn to live in nature as a group. I have long wanted to make it possible for American girls to participate in such a wonderful program, and so I have decided to take on the challenge of starting an American version of Girl Guides.

For more information, check out Girl Guides USA or contact caitlin.dean@girlguidesusa.org
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