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Monday, February 20, 2012

2012 World Thinking Day Is Feb. 22

Girls from across the globe will come together on a single day -- Wednesday, Feb. 22 -- to celebrate World Thinking Day (WTD). The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) will embrace the theme for 2012: "We can save our planet." This theme is based on the United Nation's Millennium Development Goal 7 focused on environmental sustainability. First held in 1926, this global celebration encourages girls to honor international friendships and reminds them that they are part of a larger global community.

I know something about global friendships. I was lucky enough to go to a high school in which many backgrounds were represented. My best friend was from Vietnam and my locker partner was from Japan. I also had high school friends from China, Africa, Egypt and Afghanistan. The real treat was our senior year and the bountiful graduation parties. I got introduced to cuisine from around the world. My first real glimpse into another culture did not come from these face-to-face friendships with my international friends but through a pen pal program. My Sophomore year at Benson my locker partner asked if I wanted to be a pen pal. I agreed. My name was given to the Association of Pen Friend Clubs of Japan. I didn't just get one pen pal but got five Japanese pen pals: Akiko, Megumi, Meiko, Nako and Shoko.

My pen pal letters from Japan.
In 1987, there were 140,000 members of the Pen Friends Clubs in Japan which we participated in. According to Association literature: "Get your friends to join us! They [Pen Friends] are very eager to get their mates in foreign countries in correspondence so that they widen their knowledge in various phases of life build up personal ties between Japan and foreign countries." We were pen friends, made up chiefly of senior and junior high school students, in foreign countries. We exchanged letters all my years of high school. During that time, we learned of each others family pets, siblings, schooling, reading habits, favorite sports, TV shows and movies. Some would even send me post cards from their family vacations. I became the closest with Naoko. I found myself running to the mailbox to see if I had a letter from her often. One instance, she sent a picture of a doll show she attended. On another, she made and sent me an origami doll, which I display in a shadow box to this day.

Today my international friendships continue. Working at a university, I've been a mentor to numerous college students. My most recent mentee is an international student from Dhaka, Bangladesh: Lulu Ferdous. We've shared stories about our cultures and she has met my family. In her country safety is the biggest concern for girls and women. She told me "feeling safe" is the one thing she likes most about living in America. In Bangladesh, they are diligent to get home before it gets dark. Our most lively conversation came when we discussed how we are both very afraid of spiders. My most cherished gift is a homemade bag from Bangladesh she gave me for my birthday. I'm proud to report she recently graduated and earned a bachelor's degree in aviation.

I also have a connection to the Girl Scouts. My mom was a Girl Scout leader, while my sister was a Girl Scout Brownie. I was too young, but was given the designation by the troupe as a, Girl Scout Pixie. Til this day, I still remember some of the songs we sang at Brownie meetings.

In conjunction with this day girls will participate in activities and projects with global themes to honor their sister Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in other countries. WAGGGS offers activity packets with ideas for celebrating WTD, and to learn more about the environment. They also offer template letters to lobby decision-makers on saving the planet. WTD not only gives girls a chance to celebrate international friendships, but is also a reminder that Girl Scouts of the U.S. is part of a global community—one of nearly 150 countries.

On Feb. 11, University of Nebraska at Omaha international students hosted a World Thinking Day event. They offered display tables featuring games, crafts, music, clothing and other traditions from their host countries. Girl Scouts and their families learned how to use chopsticks and to count and spell their names in foreign languages. Participants used passports to log their journey throughout the day. UNO international students from China, Ecuador, India, Japan, Mexico, Mongolia, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, were among the countries that participated.

Friendships come from the most unlikely places. So take this opportunity to use resources to find friends from around the world. With the Internet, today friendships with others are only a click away. If you're a girl or know a girl in your life take Feb. 22 to be kinder to the planet and to get to know about someone else's culture. Like me you'll be glad you did.
(Editor's note: pop-we eco-living endorses this program,WTD.)
-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC 
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1 comment:

  1. I have fond memories of being a Brownie when my mom was one of the leaders. I also had the opportunity to go to camp. Later, I was involved with Discovery Unlimited through the Girl Scouts and learned sewing and broadcasting skills. I like to focus on international friendships in "World Thinking Day"