Girlguiding Ulster held their first international camp in 20 years in Castle Saunderson.
900 Brownies, Guides, Senior Section, leaders and volunteer staff from Singapore, Denmark, Gibraltar, Australia, Oman, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and of course Girlguiding Ulster were onsite for a week.
During a packed week of activities and events saw the girls go back to basics with Bushcraft, try raft-building, do an overnight in a hammock, and break Castle Saunderson's assault course record!
Our international visitors also got a taster of what the surrounding area had to offer with off-site excursions to famous landmarks - Giant's Causeway, Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, Titanic Belfast, Marble Arch Caves, and Devenish Island Monastic Site.
One Danish guide commented "this is my first time in Ireland and so I was thrilled when I found out that we would get to explore more of it with trips off-site. I absolutely loved the Marble Arch Caves - i've never been anywhere like it!"
Another guide from Sri Lanka commented that "I never knew before that the Titanic was from Belfast - that tour was really good and I learnt a lot!"
Devenish Island also proved a popular trip with one guider from England commenting "the boat to and from the island was so relaxing - we got a beautiful sunny day and it was magic!"
As well as seeing some of the sights in the area, the guides also took part in Castle Saunderson's unique Peace Programme. Challenging how they see the world and how they can help to create a better world. While on the camp each group has developed a community project they will complete when they return home.
And in the evenings the action didn't stop! 19 year old medical student and former Guide Faith Viney was XPLORE14 Lead Volunteer and host on evening events including the Opening Ceremony and our talent contest XPLORE FACTOR featuring Britain's Got Talent finalist Jordan O'Keefe as star judge! We also had our resident XPLORE14 boy band featuring local boys Andrew Irwin, Andrew ---- and Lewis Swain.
A very wet Saturday may have damped spirits a little, but they were soon lifted by an extremely colourful International Day where the girls learned about each others cultures, combined with a visitors day where over 300 parents and friends of Guiding came to get a taste of camp.
Throughout camp we had a host of visitors including Girlguiding UK Chief Guide Gill Slocombe, Scouting Ireland Chief Scout Michael J Shinnick, and Viscount Brookeborough and Roisin McManus - Lord and Deputy Lieutenant.
At Tuesday night's closing ceremony, Tony Smith, Castle Saunderson Camp Chief paid tribute to the girls and their can-do attitude throughout camp and all the activities, as well as praising the strong relations between the Scouting and Guiding families.
Carole Graham, Girlguiding Ulster Chief Commissioner added her thanks to Tony, Castle Saunderson and all it's staff, and commenting "I'm thrilled that Girlguiding Ulster has been able to give so many of our girls a truely international experience. Reading the XPLORE14 memory tree, the most common favourite memory on our XPLORE14 memory tree is by far "meeting lots of new people from different countries"! and i'm delighted to be a part of that."