Being a member of Girl Guides of Canada gave me the opportunity to travel to Switzerland in 2011 representing Canada - this sparked my interest in exploring the world. On this mission with Junior Team Canada, I have been asked by the Honourable Minister Keith Hutchings to look into the non-profit volunteerism sector in Asia. I couldn’t think of a better suited place to visit than the Hong Kong Girl Guides Association (HKGGA). Today, I had the opportunity to meet with Karen Siu, Project Officer with the International and China Liaison Unit of HKGGA.
I was immediately hosted with handfuls of pamphlets and books with rich information to bring back to Canada before I even took a seat. It was evident that she was just as eager as myself to learn. I quickly gathered that the guiding system of Hong Kong is similar to that of Canada. However, the differences easily contrasted- exemplifying the obvious diversity. Consisting of about 60,000 members, HKGGA has both school and open units over three regions, and offered in two languages (English and Chinese). They have girl members aged 4-50+, and is as well open to boys in the ‘Happy Bee’ age group (4-6).
Focusing in on volunteerism, it is an important aspect of the program for both girls and women. All unit guiders are volunteers, and without these 4,500 devoted women, guiding could not happen. All youth members are encouraged to participate in service projects, and Girl Guide Service Flash (Bronze, Silver and Gold) are awarded to Guides who have actively participated in community service. I inquired as to which projects the girls undertake to complete the hours and Ms. Siu replied, “Many girls help care for seniors; maybe doing chores around the house or keeping them company”. She continued to tell me that many also help with the education of those who in poor areas who cannot afford education. Many continue to give back to the guiding association as leaders.
HKGGA has gained much respect for their volunteerism. Classified as ‘Champions’, HKGGA is the Hong Kong Volunteer Award recipient for the 7th consecutive year in 2012 for dedicating close to 4 million hours of services. Within the association, various dedication awards and service awards are given to the guiders. Every girl and guider is listed in each year’s annual report to recognize their involvement.
“Volunteerism is getting bigger, it’s growing”, says Siu in reference to volunteerism itself in Hong Kong- and she credits the Government organized ‘Volunteer Award Ceremony’ to this.
In perspective of Hong Kong- Canadian relations, both Siu and I realized that though both countries attend many international exchanges, camps and programs, Canada and Hong Kong are very rarely in connection. We agreed to keep in contact and work towards connecting our countries. Anyone involved in Girl Guides of Canada wanting to become involved in developing a plan to build closer ties with Hong Kong - Canada Guiding movement can email myself, Kayla, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kayla St. Croix, Junior Team Canada Ambassador