Thursday, 11 August 2011

We're famous.....!

Jenni here, updating the blog probably for the last time on Project- as we are off tomorrow to start our journey home via train/plane! In Kazan we had a lot of interest from a guy called Vlad who spoke very good English- as to why we were in Russia. His hobby is journalism and so asked if he could interview us and possibley publish a story to a local English newspaper. Wanting to spread the GOLD word, we of course said yes! I've just received an email with a draft copy of his article attatched, and following my response the article will be published! It's a fab article and I think he has got our aims accross perfectly.....

Girl Guides visit Kazan

A group of six volunteers from Girlguiding UK has visited Kazan as part of the organisation’s GOLD programme. With its name standing for Guiding Overseas Linked with Development, the programme encourages Girlguiding leaders from all over the UK to travel abroad and work with local Girl Guides and Girl Scouts groups – Guiding being a girl-only youth movement parallel to Scouting. For the last four years, Russia has been one of the countries targeted by the programme with volunteers visiting different Russian cities and regions every summer.
This year, Ufa has been chosen as the main destination for the fifth, and last, GOLD Russia team. However, on their way to the Bashkir capital, the volunteers – all girls in their early twenties, most of them students – stopped in Kazan to pay a visit to the Scouts of Tatarstan, an organisation with 20 years history and 400 members – children and teenagers in four different cities of the republic. Training sessions in leadership and communication were run for a group of willing Girl Scouts. The girls were taught some easy and fun-to-do crafts and got the chance to learn more about life in the UK and the Girl Guiding movement. At the end of the three days training each girl was presented with a certificate and a badge from Girlguiding UK.
Speaking about the importance of the GOLD programme, team leader Jennifer Foxwell – a 3D design student at the University of Portsmouth – said she believes that popularising the Guiding movement is beneficial to young girls around the world. It helps creating a friendly space with no boys around that provides girls with a lot of opportunities for personal growth. She added that the activities her team had prepared for Girl Scouts in Kazan and Ufa were mostly aimed at developing leadership skills, as she believes this is what young girls in Russia need. The leader of the GOLD Russia team also expressed her hope to see a girls-only Scouting group being set up in Kazan, as the Scouts of Tatarstan is an organisation open to both girls and boys.
You can read in detail about the six young Brits’ adventures in Russia by following the team’s blog:, or find out more about the Scouts of Tatarstan on the organisation’s website (in Russian):

Vlad Kazimirov

With love
Jenni xxx

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Back from Camp!

We arrived back from camp yesterday after an epic 9 nights of camping.  We had a blast! We loved meeting all the participants of the camp from Ufa District.  Trainings were a success and we trained about 70 people in total.  We trained for 4 and a half hours each day and took part in the camp programme including the evening entertainment!  Both the camp food and the camp toilets were an experience and gave us lots of laughs...
Not only did we all earn our international letter writing badge (woo hoo!), but we were also presented with an Ufa District Community certificate and badge to commend our hard work with the children.  Only 138 other people have one!  We also have celebrity status in Ufa and have featured in the newspapers and on television.  We definitely turn heads as we walk down the street! We have made so many friends on camp and it was a teary goodbye on the last night.  
Now we are back in home hospitality and have had one days training in Ufa District with adults who are interested in using the RADS programme in their work with children.  
One more day of training left in Ufa District and then we are off on an uber train journey to Ekaterinburg...we will let you know how it goes...
Love from all of Team Russia (sitting on Irene's sofa gorging ourselves on grapes...LUSH!)

Sunday, 31 July 2011

"Would you like a dirty bath?"

This is Clare saying bye for a week on behalf of the team - we're setting off for camp this evening, huzzah!

Today, we had a lovely relaxing end to our home stay.  All our host families (and assorted friends and relations) went on a 2-hour drive to a natural spring/spa resort somewhere probably south-west of Ufa (judging by the sun!).  We looked around the area and tried two kinds of spring water.  "No. 11" tasted salty and is meant to be good for the stomach; "No. 12" tasted like normal water and is good for bowel movements!  Then we decided it was time for a bit of bathing, so Jenni, Sian, Caz and I waded into a freezing cold stream (in the rain), covered ourselves in mud, and washed it out of all our nooks and crannies, while our hosts watched, no doubt thinking "Those gullible British girls will do anything!"  We then had a quick splash in an even colder and very salty pool.

After we had dried off, we went to visit a pretty church and chapel that are connected with the supposed healing powers of the springs, and made a wish by tying pieces of what looked like an old necker to a tree.  We headed down to a stall selling local products, including mahoosive jars of honey and knitted socks and mittens.  We tried on the dog-hair mittens but found them a bit itchy, but some of us bought sheep (or maybe goat?) wool mittens and socks for less than the equivalent of 5 pounds.  We'll be toasty come winter!

We then shared a late picnic lunch (4pm is late even by Russian standards, I think) with our hosts, who had brought along a mini-barbecue and a samovar (Russian tea urn) that has been passed down from Diana's great-grandmother.  We tried yet another kind of chak-chak, the local sweet puffed-grain-type food.  The watermelon stayed locked in the car today, though!

Now we're briefly at home before setting off on camp with our hosts and 60 other Ufa Girl Scouts and Leaders.  We're very excited - home stay has been brilliant, but we're looking forward to doing some work, trying out the sessions we've worked hard to plan, and meeting more local girls and women.  We're also looking forward to living together again in a biiig tent! See you in a week!


Saturday, 30 July 2011

Girls, come back now, please.

Jenni here again- making the most of internet in our homestay before we head off to camp on monday!

Since the other members of the team don't have access to the blog as often as myself and Clare do I thought I'd briefly fill you in on our Ufa adventures...

So following on since the last couple of posts we have had many a laughs here in Ufa city. 

On thursday we woke bright and early ready for our Press Conference with Rimma. We were taken to a local college with our families, where a tv crew and journalist were waiting for us. Rimma began by introducing the GOLD international camp that she has organised and then passed over to myself where I introduced the team, explained about GOLD, what it is and why we were in Russia. Rimma translated. :D She then spoke about the programme of the camp. Finally I explained about how the aims of the camp and the 2-day workshop with Ufa District differed from eachother. Then it was question and answer time. We had one question which Tracy answered brilliantly. 

This was Ufa's first press conference and it would seem that it was a success! Phew!

Afterwards Rimma took me and Sian to the train station to book our tickets to Yekaterinberg. They cost just 60 pounds each and takes16 hours. Afterwards we met the team for lunch at a cafe. :)

After going home with our families for the evening, at 11pm we headed out to a night club with our Guide friends. Although they are only 14, 16 and 17, they were adiment they would get in as apparently on friday nights there isn't an age restriction! However, when we got there we were turned away by the bouncer. Apparently the reason was the dress code- pretty sure it was because we were British!! BUT never mind we made our way to the next club, a foam party, and got rejcted AGAIN!! how embarassing! The girls were so annoyed! Team Russia thought it was pretty funny and weren't too bothered :-)

Today we had a surreal experience of visiting another park, and hiring some pedalos! 

Tomorrow we are off to a church is the Ufa district where we are going to be swimming in the holy water. Wearing dresses. The water will keep us young for life! Woohoo!

With lots of love

Jenni xxx

We love Russia!!!!!!!!

Hi Everyone!

It's Emily & Caz here from the outskirts of Ufa in Dema!
As you can see from Clare & Jenni's posts we have been busy busy busy!
The last few days we have been exploring the city of Ufa with our homestay family. We are staying with a Girl Scout named Aliya who is so sweet and only 14 years old and her mum Albina. They are so kind to us, they have made us so welcome it's been magical!
Last night we headed out to the clubs in Ufa, unfortunately we were too skreffy to get in! Nevermind! Ha ha!!!
Yesterday before our fancy press conference we went into Albinas work place (in the same building) and we tried on typical Tata dress! The shocking pink dress was definitely the bees knees, closely followed by Emily's bright green dress! We had photos taken in a typical Tata yurt. This was really good fun, and Aliya thoroughly enjoyed dressing us up (sorry there are no photos on here we have no camera cable!)

After the press conference we went to a museum which was all about Bashkortostan, the people, industry, animals and culture. It was really interesting and we all learned a lot more about this region of Russia, and the different identities and cultures that are unique to the Bashkir people. It is nice to spend some time getting to know the area in which we will be training girl scouts at the camp next week, and it gives us a chance to get refreshed before our camp trainings which will be held for several hours each day. During the camp we will be training young leaders and girls already involved with girl scouting in Russia. After the camp we will then move on to training those who have much less or no experience of girl scouts but that have previous experience working with children.

Last night we went to bed at 3am and Emily woke up early whilst Caz enjoyed sleeping in until 11.30am! When we woke up the weather looked really bad, however, now it is sunny and hot as per usual! (too hot for Emily!) Today we have done our washing so we are now less smelly!
Aliya has told us that we are going to the lake this afternoon to go on a pedalo but we have learnt that plans change often in Russia so we never know what to expect- a bit like INTOPS!

We are all looking forward to camp Aliya tells us that we will be leaving for camp tomorrow (maybe?!) and the camp starts on Monday and finishes the following Monday.

Over and out from Camp Caz and Emily!!
Much GOLDen love! xxx 

Friday, 29 July 2011

More watermelon?

So, homestay you say? I think myself and Clare are staying with one of the nicest families ever! Our mum, Tatiana, is a Guide Leader and Doctor, and her daughter, Nastya, 16/17 is in our equivilent of Senior Section. They live in a beautiful appartment on the 9th floor. They also have a 'very fluffy cat'- called Markus! When we arrived we were fed yummy chicken and potatoes, salad and watermelon for dessert. Since we showed our enthusiasm for watermelon- it just hasn't stopped! It's as though watermelon is on tap! Anyway, we love it. We discovered that in Ufa it doesn't get dark until 23:30, so, we are taken for walks after dinner! On our first night we were taken to the statue of their National Hero, (warrior on horse, biggest in Europe). Also it seems people don't go out in the day as it's too hot, so by the evening the city is very busy. Thursday morning was our first proper day in Ufa. First we had a yummy Russian breakfast of quails eggs, bread, meats, and cereal. And of course watermelon. Then we were taken to the Ufa war museum where we watched a DVD in Russian and had a tour. Afterwards we strolled in a park and ate our packed lunch in the shade. In the afternoon we were taken to the shopping centre where we were to meet Rimma Bakirova- who is head of the camp we are going to, and also the lady I have been corresponding with since february. We did some shopping first to buy hot weather clothes! Rimma told us all about the camp's programme and also filled us in with information about the Press Conference we were participating in the following day. Most importantly, we recieved feedback from Kazan trainings! It would seem that Kazan is next on the list of cities to start a RADS group, and that our sessions helped the girls to see another side of Scouting. In the evening we went back to our homes for dinner and bed. Tonight we had stir fry sausage with cauliflower and green beans. YUM! Loving the food in Ufa. Went for  midnight stroll to see the Presidential Hotel and the small forest which surrounds it! Our family live in a very prestigious part of the city.

More to come later, it's 2am and Clare is falling asleep!

Jenni xxxx

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tracy has kankles!!

Hello from Ufa!! Clare and Jenni here writing you this blog from our host family's lush appartment!! We arrived in Ufa yesterday after a flight from Kazan. Let's pick up from where we left off.....

We arrived in Moscow (after a tasty lunch and a game of monopoly on the plane) around 5pm Moscow time.  We grabbed some borsch and pancakes in the airport, then flew to Kazan, arriving at 1:30am.  We were met by a local Scout leader and her friends, who drove us (by a scenic route in some cases) to the flat where we were staying.  The owner had gone to the World Scout Jamboree.  We then had our first slightly surreal GOLD experience, sitting down to a meal (including some delicious potatoes) at 3am.  We also met "our" cat for the first time...over the next few days, we became very familiar with his toilet habits and his intimate relationship with a particular cushion!  By the time we got to bed at 3:45, it was starting to get light, and even at that time of night, it was BOILING hot!!

We were asked by Aigul, the Director of Kazan Scouts, what time we would like to start training the following day. Being eager, keen and enthusiastic GOLDies (and aware of the lack of time we had in Kazan!) we agreed to start at 11am. This gave us just 4 hours sleep. :( BUT nevertheless we woke fresh faced and made the walk to the training centre in the sweltering heat. We were met by 4 young girl Scouts there and a translator called Elmira. We started off by introducing Girlguiding UK and ourselves- the Scouts were very interested and had lots of questions! It was then we realised we were not training Girl Scouts, but rather, Scouts. However all was not lost- as it would appear Kazan is next on the list of Russian cities to set up a RADS group. Unfortunately there is not a volunteer who is willing to take up the role of Director just yet...but our trainings aim to inspire the girls to consider a voluntary career within RADS, as well as Scouts.

In the afternoon it was decided we should skip training and instead see the beautiful sights of Kazan! We stopped at a cafe for traditional Tatar cuisine- Borsch, meat and potato pie, and Yak-Yaks (a honey, crispie cake dessert made from puffed wheat shaped like cones..), and then made our way to the Kazan Kremlin, which is an area full of beautiful buildings, including the local government headquarters.  We looked round a very shiny church (possibly a cathedral?) and visited Kazan's new mosque/museum, where we covered up in sarongs and headscarves.  We also saw Kazan's own leaning tower!  In the evening, we planned the next day's training sessions.

The next morning (Monday), we returned to the Scout hall, where 12 Scouts (including one boy) came to our sessions.  We used most of our Leadership and Teamwork sessions, since they are not specific to Girlguiding/Girl Scouts, and found they particularly enjoyed the competitive activities, like newspaper races!  The song "Ride my pony" also went down very well - we heard Scouts singing it to themselves over the next couple of days.  We had lunch at a nearby cafe, then returned for some more activities.  We were scheduled to do 6 hours' training, but stopped a bit early, as everyone was wilting in the heat.  In the evening, just as we were clearing up our pasta-and-tomato-puree dinner, the door buzzer went, and in came Aigul, her daughter, another local Scout Director, and half a dozen strapping young men who turned out to be Scouts coming to say hello!  Emily had a mild heart attack, as she was wearing a skimpy kaftan and not much else!!  She went to hide, but the Scouts just had a quick look around the flat and at our passports, and left.  Not much later, the buzzer went again...making sure we were all fully-clothed this time, we let in our driver from the airport (Mike/Misha) for a chat and a cup of tea (while Jenni quietly planned the next day's training in the background).

He got the hint that we were tired and left. Up at 8:30am the following day for a full day's training at the Scout hut. But first we took a detour to the post office where Aigul was waiting to register our Visas in Kazan- which seemed to be a long and complicated process! So we were taken away to the centre where we also got the chance to meet Mike's friend, Vlad. He also spoke fluent English and was very interested in our lives and why we were in Russia & Kazan. At the centre there were 7 girls waiting for us and 3 translators! We trained until around 5, in Recruitment activities and Crafts. The crafts went down very well with the girls...We finished with an emotional closing ceremony in which we presented the girls with certificates and badges. We gave Aigul special UK and GGUK gifts which she appreciated a lot. During the day we also got the chance to speak to Aigul frankly about Scouts in Kazan, GOLD and why we were there. Her intentions are very honourable and it appeared as though she is keen for a RADS group to start but unfortunately they don't have the resources at the moment. She told us she really enjoyed having us train her Scouts and showing us her city. She is a very sweet woman, we swapped emails and hope we will have future contact with her. Best of luck to Girl Scouting in Kazan! In the evening we went to the lake, which was like a man-made beach. It was lovely to swim in the cool water and escape the heat. We went with Aigul, her daughter and were met by some of the Scouts. Getting changed on the beach was a bit of a hoo-har, but the Scout and the team made Jenni a makeshift screen from towels so she dressed in private!! :P Got the bus home, ate pasta and packed up our stuff ready for our flight the following day...

Well, some of us did our packing the next morning!  Aigul came to the flat at 10am, transferred some of our photos of Kazan and training onto the computer, and gave us some lovely gifts: a round Tatar hat, an information brochure about Kazan, posters from the Scouts' spring camp, and of course badges!  We were very touched.  Our drivers (Mike and Vlad again, and two other Russian men) arrived a little later, and we said goodbye to Aigul and headed to the airport.  We couldn't believe how quickly the last four days had gone, and that Stage 1 of our GOLD project was already over.

At the airport, we tried to check in at Terminal 1, then walked to Terminal 2 and checked in successfully, saying goodbye to Mike and Vlad.  There was just enough time to eat a bag of crisps, then we boarded a teeny plane (as Tracy put it, "I've seen bigger busses than that!) to Ufa.  The flight lasted 1 hour and crossed a time zone, so we arrived at 5:30pm.  We immediately spotted a group of girls holding the WAGGGS World Flag - proper Girl Scouts! :D  This is where we split into our homestay pairs and have our own story to tell...

Clare and Jenni xxx