Guides from across the district have come to Ripon to take part in a rigorous selection process for the chance to help disadvantaged people in Madagascar.
Fifteen Girl Guides from the city, Boroughbridge, Harrogate, Knaresborough and Masham were at the Hazel House headquaters from Friday to Sunday for the residential course identifying the 12 who will travel to the island country in summer 2016 to help charity TASC Madagascar with its education, health and environmental projects.
Gemma Martin, who will lead the group, said: “It was a really tough selection and to select the 12 girls who will go was really, really hard.”
Among the activities carried out by the 12 to 16-year-olds during the three-day event was cooking breakfast outdoors, entertaining a group of Brownies and litter-picking in the Temple Gardens, on Allhallowgate, around Sharow View and the footpath between there and Princess Close.
Gemma said: “There were different activities that they undertook to challenge them to work both as an individual and as a team, with us looking to see who took the lead role and whether everyone was included.
“For some tasks, we also blindfolded some members of the group to see if they would include people with disabilities – showing just because someone has a disability doesn’t prevent them from taking a full role.”
Between now and the trip to Madagascar –which lies in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa – in 2016, the 12 Guides selected will spend the next 18 months fund raising and taking part in team building exercises.
Gemma said: “It’s letting the girls all get to know each other and build-up a relationship as a group.”
TASC Madagascar was set up in 2008 by Gemma’s father, Coun Stuart Martin, and others to support the work of a mission in the south-west of the country. He said: “People there are still suffering from disabilities caused by polio.”
There have been two previous Guide group expeditions, in 2010 and last year, and projects they have been involved in have included helping with the refurbishment of a physiotherapy room and contributing money towards stabilising a riverbank to prevent soil erosion.
Coun Martin said: “We try to let the Guides choose particular projects to help. I try to give them some idea of what they could help with and one of the projects I have identified so far for 2016 is a primary school that TASC Madagascar is rebuilding that would serve 400 children a day.
“The communities over there get a great deal of help and satisfaction from the Guides being there – they make a massive difference.”