Girls’ Brigade off to Zambia

Cayman Girls' Brigade delegates discuss plans at Elmslie Church Hall as they prepare to travel to Zambia later this month for the International Conference of the Girls’ Brigade. - Photo: Jewel Levy

Eighteen delegates of Cayman Girls’ Brigade are jetting off to Zambia in Africa to attend the International Conference of the Girls’ Brigade.

Chairperson of the Cayman Girls’ Brigade, Debbie McLaughlin, said the conference, which occurs every four years and is being hosted in Zambia this year, takes place July 21-28.

“This is a special year in the life of Girls’ Brigade International because it’s celebrating 125 years of Girls’ Brigade. The theme for the international conference is ‘Fruitful and overflowing,’” Ms. McLaughlin said.

The focus of the conference will be about moving the Girls’ Brigade forward. It will also provide training opportunities and the chance to interact with leaders from 46 countries around the world, as well as meet up with old friends, enjoy a culture evening, a night of fellowship and devotions, and a tour of Zambia, Ms. McLaughlin said.

The Cayman delegates funded themselves for the trip, she said. Girls’ Brigade covered the registration costs for the youngest emerging leader and contributed funds toward her airfare. Funds to cover those costs came from their annual government grant and fundraising by Girls’ Brigade. The cost of the trip varied from $3,000 to $5,000 dollars each.

“We are especially pleased to have three emerging young leaders between the ages of 18-35 traveling with the group,” Ms. McLaughlin said, adding that she was looking forward to her first trip to Africa. “It’s the first time for all of us going to Zambia, but some of the group have visited Africa before.”

Excitement filled Elmslie Memorial Church Hall Wednesday evening as the group discussed their travel plans, with some of the Brigade members planning trips further afield while in Africa, to Zimbabwe and South Africa.

“We are as prepared as can be; we’re even packing bug spray,” said Olga Gourzong, friend of the Savannah Girls’ Brigade.

She said she had had all her shots and the group members were taking tablets for malaria prevention. Some of the group leave on Thursday, the others following sometime next week. Ms. Gourzong said it was her second time attending a Girls’ Brigade Conference but the first time traveling to Africa, a place she has always dreamt of visiting.

“I’m looking forward to visiting Robben Island, [Table Mountain] in Cape Town South Africa; spending four nights on a safari trip and getting to see the animals up close,” she said. Ms. Gourzong also wants to connect with close Girls’ Brigade friends, hear some of the concerns they face and compare them with Cayman’s Girls’ Brigade to see how they can help each other.

“I am looking forward to meeting up with some old friends, going on a safari and taking in some sightseeing tours that are planned,” said Shari Welcome, charge for North Side Girls’ Brigade. “One thing I do want to see is Victoria Falls,” she added.

“I am also looking forward to visiting Victoria Falls and Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was kept as a prisoner,” said Lisa O’Neal, Brigade officer for George Town.

“I went to Ghana last year for the Youth Conference and didn’t know what to expect, but it was exciting to learn about their culture and how they run their Girls’ Brigade,” said Jennelle McLaughlin, of the George Town Girls’ Brigade. “This time I am going with an open mind, I want to learn more about the country and meet new GB friends from around the world.”

“This is my third conference,” said Sarena Whittaker. Her first was in Europe and the second in Australia. She said she was looking forward to having an enjoyable time, meet other Girls’ Brigade groups and visiting Livingstone. Livingstone was, until 2012, the capital of the Southern Province of Zambia. Ms. Whittaker said she had done a lot of research into the religion, economy and political situations in their destinations.

“The food looks good so far and I’m looking forward to trying it, especially the wild meat,” she said.

The International Conference of Girls’ Brigade is held once every four years, and Brigadiers must be 18 years or older. The purpose of the conference is for all five fellowships of the Girls’ Brigade – Asia, Caribbean and Americas, Europe, Africa, and Pacific – to come together to attend meetings, elect officials, plan for the development of Girls’ Brigade internationally and attend workshops and tours.

The Girls’ Brigade is a Christian interdenominational uniformed organization for girls aged 5-19 years. Local companies are formed in churches and sometimes in schools, but each company must be attached to a church of an approved Christian denomination.

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