Address by Her Excellency Reema Carmona at an Educational Fair Hosted by The Trinidad & Tobago Girl Guide Association

Address by Her Excellency Reema Carmona At An Educational Fair Hosted by the Trinidad & Tobago Girl Guide Association at The St Augustine Secondary School, February 27, 2016

There is no greater pledge, than one grounded in selfless devotion to one’s fellow human beings.  The Girl Guide pledge has stood the test of time in terms of relevance and in its capacity to effect both social and personal transformation.  “I promise that I will do my best, to do my duty to God, to serve my country and to help other people, and to keep the Guide Law. This promise made by every Girl Guide simply put, is a commitment to be a better person, a better friend, a better neighbour and a better citizen.  A well established, ethical and socially responsible society, is the driving force of a progressive and developed Nation.  The human resource with a principled, virtuous and honourable background, is the cornerstone and heartbeat of a caring society.  The Trinidad and Tobago Girl Guide Association, through its development, guidance and leadership programmes have embedded those defining characteristics of integrity, honesty and service in the psyche of their charges.

This year’s theme “Connect” has so much meaning and a quality of outreach to a world buffeted with conflict, loneliness and selfishness.  There is no denying that barriers have been broken and greater communication connectivity now exists, afforded through the growth of technology (the iPods, the iPads, and the iPhone) and with these things an aggressive rise of globalisation.  Globalisation has led to a type of international integration, a veritable interchange of world views and the sharing of culture, progress and vision.  Yes, with one click, or the touch of a button, daily we break the barriers of language, distance and time.  Yet, with all that technology can we really say that we are truly connected to each other or to ourselves?  Yes, we surely communicate but more importantly do we really connect?  Statistics reveal that 6 billion cell phone calls are made per day in the United States alone.  Internet users send roughly 204 million emails per minute and there are over 200,000 text messages sent every second.  Is communication synonymous with connection and introspection that leads to self-discovery?  The hurtful reality sworn to by many is that with all the communication tools we have we have become more disconnected and unfeeling as human beings.  Connecting is about positive relationships, caring interdependence and eternal bonding.  We all must connect to the better part of ourselves if we wish to truly make a difference in our society and our very lives.  In Trinidad and Tobago we are simply not connecting as a people to what really matters, that materialism and material things are not the be all and end all of our existence, that kindness is a non-depreciative currency that you can use any and everywhere for the rest of your life and that compassion, we must invoke to all especially to the weak, the helpless and the differently abled and most of all we must behave and treat each other with respect, regardless of our disagreements, differences and fears and often unfounded fears.

Today we are celebrating World Thinking Day.  Let us take a step further and let us rather celebrate World Critical Thinking Day.  The Girl Guide Association recently celebrated its 100th anniversary; a true celebration of not just sisterhood but an unbreakable connection characterised by camaraderie, togetherness, common beliefs, stellar principles and strong values.  All of this are enshrined in the ten laws that Girl Guides have sworn by oath to keep; once a Girl Guide, always a Girl Guide.  It is by adherence to these ten laws that our young girls will develop a greater sense of spirituality, empowering self-esteem and leadership qualities to take charge in their homes, communities and the society at large.  The Girl Guide Association is Nationalistic in form and substance and provides our young women with the wherewithal to meet life’s challenges.  Historically, the Girl Guide Association has always been a National service organisation.  I have noticed that there is a hue and a cry, to create new organisational structures of National service.  In these economic challenging times why something new when we have an organisation like the Girl Guide Movement and its workable ideals, tried and tested?  Why not build on what we have and what has traditionally gotten the job done.  We are looking to create an environment of discipline and order for our young people to live in, one that is sustainable and the Girl Guides Movement is a solution staring us in our faces.

The Girl Guide Movement in Trinidad and Tobago has always nurtured women of great stature in our society.  What is required is to put in much needed resources to support this organisation because genuine participatory volunteerism is on the decline and not for the want of volunteers but rather through attrition and us not creating progressive lines of succession.  Volunteerism is also proving to be costly.  Those at the helm of organisations like the Girl Guide Association and also those in the trenches of the Girl Guide Movement often without complaint have to pay for transportation for their charges, they travel long distances to ensure proper stewardship and leadership.  Some troop leaders buy food and uniforms for those charges who are unable to afford same, and they do it all out of a genuine love of service to our young women.  In reality, what may be required, is some small assistance to perpetuate boost and improve the cadre of volunteers available.  Though very much appreciated over the years, a subvention of some $80,000 per year cannot effectively run the Girl Guides Association.  Consider for example, the Association  having a paid secretary, having cleaners, paying utility bills, renting offices and paying external trainers and professionals and hosting events and you will suddenly realize that compassionate volunteerism in action can be an expensive affair.  We are now caught in a recessionary whirlwind and we as a Movement will be forced to be innovative in raising funds to improve our capacity, to continue to make a difference in the lives of our young women.  We may have to resort to timeworn options, like raffles, cake sales, bingos and harvest.  I ask all of you good people in this good organisation, to keep the faith.

The programmes that the Girl Guide Association facilitate are so diverse that volunteers with the required expertise are always in high demand.  As your patron, I am reaching out to citizens from all sectors of our society, can you for one hour a week encourage a young girl to realise her potential and her ambition, can you join us for just one hour a week and empower a young girl to build confidence and self-esteem to keep her focused and on track.  A clarion call, I am making on behalf of the Girl Guides Association to all of those who were once Girl Guides, please come forward and volunteer.  To all the women who were once Girl Guides, please do not forget where you came from, your roots, where your friendships and bonds were formed and don’t forget the ten Girl Guide promises you made.  Come join us in our outreach Programmes.  In the same way someone was there for you yesterday when you were a young girl, consider that a young girl needs you to be there for her today.  My dear Girl Guides, spread that wonderful message that we have all been taught of doing good and being good.

Let us all Girl Guides recommit ourselves to connect in real terms to the ideals of the Girl Guide Movement and its evergreen ten promises.  We are one, and we must remain one, in our resolve to make Trinidad and Tobago a better place for all.

I thank you and I officially declare this event open.