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Kitimat Girl Guides rekindling their spark

Membership bouncing back after long covid slouch
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The Kitimat Girl Guides attend the Remembrance Day Parade Nov. 11. Contributed photo

A story of resilience and community spirit unfolds as the local Girl Guides unit makes a triumphant return after the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We lost over half our leaders and many of our girls during COVID. It was hard to keep people together in an organization that is about fun and friendship when one week we had to ZOOM and the next we had to socially distance; it just did not work for Girl Guides,” said Monica Rigoni, commissioner of the Kitimat unit. “Our girls are back. Our leaders are back. We’re back!”

The pandemic hit at a particularly unfortunate time for the Kitimat Girl Guides, disrupting plans for a significant rally in Sooke that was eagerly anticipated by the girls and leaders. “Then, a couple of weeks before, they decided that 4,000 girls in a big field was not a good idea with COVID,” Rigoni recalled, highlighting the impact of the pandemic on planned activities.

Despite these setbacks, the sense of determination among the remaining members was undiminished.

“After COVID, there were only three leaders left and a few girls. We looked at each other and decided to try and rebuild, and we did!”

This resurgence has seen the Girl Guides’ leadership grow to eight, with over 30 girls now actively participating and more joining. The renewed enthusiasm within the unit is palpable, with plans underway for a trip to a Girl Guide camp in the Lower Mainland, signaling a return to the engaging and adventurous activities that define the Girl Guides experience.

Rigoni’s personal connection to the Girl Guides dates back 14 years when her daughters joined the organization. She says she witnessed firsthand the positive impact it had on them, including one daughter’s participation in an engineering challenge in Edmonton. This highlights the organization’s commitment to encouraging young women to explore fields in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), where women are notably underrepresented.

From arts and sciences to outdoor challenges and global awareness, the Girl Guides strive to provide enriching experiences that will have a lasting impact on their lives. More broadly, the Girl Guides aim to empower young girls with experiences in self-esteem, friendship, teamwork, and leadership. It’s a movement dating back more than 110 years that encourages girls to challenge themselves, find their voice, and make a difference in the world.

The Kitimat units fell their representation in every school before the pandemic, to now just one after it. But as that unit moves forward on its a path of growth and revitalization, it will be celebrated on Feb. 22 as Guiders around the world mark World Thinking Day—a day emphasizing international friendship and the global impact of the Girl Guides.

The Kitimat unit has planned a special ceremony to light up the District of Kitimat snowflake emblem at the municipal boundary as well as the Tamatik Arena. This will be the fourth year of the Guiding Lights initiative across the province, originally designed to keep communities and members connected during the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

For those interested in joining or learning more about the Girl Guides and their mission to empower girls and young women, visit their website at girlguides.ca. “We’re coming back, and we’re really excited to welcome everyone,” Rigoni said.