I am very happy to be here with you today on what, for me, is a special day. It is a special day because, of course, is it the launch of Guide month. But it is also a special day for me, because it is my very first opportunity to speak and to interact with you since becoming your patron.
As some of you may know, a patron is someone who gives her support to a movement or cause. I want you to know that I give my wholehearted support to the Girl Guides Association of Trinidad and Tobago, and to every one of its members. Let me tell you at least three (3) reasons why.
First, I am excited about making sure that young people have all the tools they need, in order to fulfil their greatest potential. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, to which you all belong, has a long and a wonderful history of encouraging, educating and empowering young women to do just that – to be all that they can be and to fulfil their greatest potential. I was thrilled to find out that the Guide movement began when a group of young girls took it upon themselves to attend a Boy Scout rally in 1909 and inform the founder of Scouting, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, that they wanted “to do the same thing as the boys”. What a wonderful display of tenacity and determination! As a result of their pluck and courage, Lord Baden-Powell was forced to accept that there should also be a movement for girls, and he formed the Girl Guides the following year, with his sister, Agnes, as leader. So, from its inception, the Guide movement has been about young girls standing up for themselves and claiming their place in the world.
What a wonderful example that is. Were it not for brave young girls like those who attended that Boy Scout rally, who knows where we might have been today? For all we know, we might never have had female leaders – like you are being trained to become: we might never have had a female Prime Minister or female Presiding Officers in our Parliament, or even female Presidents! Our female leaders of today owe a lot to young girls who stand up for themselves and claim their place in the world – like those young girls did at that Boy Scout rally in 1909; and like all of you are doing today by being members of and participating in the Guide movement. And so, I give my wholehearted support to the Girl Guides Association, because it helps young girls fulfil their greatest potential.
The second reason that I give my wholehearted support to the Association, is that at the centre of the Guide movement is the concept of ‘service’.
The ‘Brownie Guide Promise’ and the ‘Guide Promise’ both include a pledge ‘to serve my country and to help other people’. The ‘Brownie Guide Law’ calls upon Brownies to ‘think of others before herself’ and to do ‘a good turn every day’. The Senior’s and the Ranger’s ‘Further Responsibility’ is “to give service” and “to be of service to the community”. All of these commitments have ‘service’ at their centre. And it seems to me that this is what our society and our world need now, more than ever before – persons who are willing to serve others. It is said that “the hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray”. What that means is that we are our best selves when we actually do help others, as opposed to merely thinking about helping others. The Guide movement is all about actually helping others. From the youngest Brownie to the oldest Ranger Guide, the Guide movement helps you to develop a range of skills and abilities that enable you to serve others better.
From as early as Voyage I, little helpers are expected to fold and put away their clothes neatly and keep their surroundings tidy – thus serving in the home. In Voyage IV, you learn to cook simple meals and even how to dress a wound – thus enabling you to serve others, both inside and outside of the home. For Senior and Ranger Guides, you are encouraged to adopt the spirit of volunteerism outside of the home altogether — offering to help in homes for the aged, visit a child in hospital, or perform other acts of service. What wonderful lessons in service the Guide movement teaches us. And that is also why I give my wholehearted support to the Girl Guides Association: because it reminds us all of the importance of service to others.
The thing about service to others, is that it helps create a better world, not only for those to whom service is given, but also, for those who serve. Let me tell you a short story about how service helps everyone involved.
Once there was a young girl named Sita. She belonged to a poor family. One day, she was crossing through the forest carrying some wood, to help her family start a fire to keep warm. Along the way, she saw an old man, who was very hungry. Sita wanted to give him some food, but she was so poor that she did not have food for herself. So, she continued on her way. On her way, she saw a deer who was very thirsty. She wanted to give the deer some water, but she did not even have water for herself. So, she continued along her way to her family.
As she drew closer to her home, she saw a young man who was cooking some food, and who wanted to make a camp, but he did not have any wood to build the camp. Sita asked him his problem and she selflessly gave him some of the wood that she was carrying for her family. In return, the young man gave Sita some of his food and some of his water. Sita immediately went back to the old man who was hungry, and gave him some of the food she had got from the camper. She also returned to the deer who was thirsty, and gave some of the camper’s water to the deer. The old man and the deer were very happy. Sita then continued on her way to her family.
A few days later, while walking close to her home, Sita fell down a hill. She was in pain, but she couldn’t move and no one was there to help her. But the old man whom she had helped before, saw her, and he quickly came and pulled her up the hill. She had many wounds on her legs. The deer to whom Sita had given water saw her wounds and quickly went to the forest and brought some herbs. After some time, the herbs helped heal Sita’s wounds. In the end, all were very happy that they were able to help each other.
Do you see! Sita’s selfless service resulted in everyone helping one another. That is very much like what happens when we give service in the Guide movement: our service helps create a better world for all of us – for those to whom service is given, as well as for those who serve.
Which brings me to the third reason that I give my wholehearted support to the Association: and that is because, by your service, you, like Sita in that little story, help create a better world for everyone. The Guide movement helps the outside world – like it did during the Second World War, by making bandages, working in soup kitchens, delivering telegrams and helping take care of children. Even now, you and your sister Guides around the world, help make the world a better place by combating HIV/AIDS, advocating for peace and good governance, and helping develop health and nutrition programmes. But, very importantly, the Guide movement also helps us develop on the inside, too. The service that you give helps build very important values and character traits, inside of you. By giving service to others, often in very challenging circumstances, you are able to persevere through difficulties, and become more responsible, disciplined and confident young ladies, who help other people without expecting anything in return. You learn, not just how to be good Guides – but how to be good friends, good leaders, and good citizens of this country and the world. And so, that is also why I give my wholehearted support to the Association: because you help to make the world, and yourselves, better.
Brownies and Guides all, you inspire me. You give me hope for our future. I am so pleased to see you, in all your Brownie and Girl Guide glory, with your neatly pressed blue and brown uniforms, and matching ribbons and shoes – your outer bearing reflecting your inner discipline and resolve. Parents of Brownies and Guides – there is no better time than Guide Month for me to appeal to you to allow your girls to join the Guide movement. The purpose of Guide Month is, after all, to raise public awareness about Girl Guiding and to recruit new members, leaders and supporters. We live in an age in which girls need to be able to stand their ground, defend their rights and advocate for themselves – just like those brave girls did by attending that Boy Scout rally in 1909. Our children, our families and our communities will be all the better when girls stand up for themselves and let their voices be heard. I hope that parents and guardians of potential members heed my cry.
And so, as I close, let me thank you all for belonging to this dynamic global movement of girl ‘world-changers’. I am confident that you will continue to do all that you can to ‘build a better world’, and, in the words of Lord Baden-Powell, to “try to leave this world a little better than you found it.”
Thank you and good luck!