Leading a LaSERIO expedition: friendships for life, new skills and new confidence

Written by Charlotte Rawlinson - Deputy Leader in Charge and first aider, Cambodia LaSERIO 2018 expedition

Being part of the leadership team on a region international expedition has changed my approach to life; it’s as simple as that.

I went into this experience expecting to enjoy another part of the world and to expand my guiding beyond my small unit. I attended the selection weekend nervous that I didn’t have the skills or experience to be selected, then nervous that I wouldn’t get on with my team. I was seriously wrong on both counts. Over 15 months I have formed friendships for life, gained new skills, and discovered confidence in myself as an individual and as a leader that has spurred me to take on greater challenges in my personal and guiding life.

I loved meeting our young members and getting to know these new girls and their personalities, strengths and vulnerabilities. Preparing for an international trip affords a position to nurture and see growth more than weekly guiding. Throughout planning and preparation weekends and the ultimate trip (three amazing weeks in Cambodia) we saw the girls grow from teenagers to confident and capable young women. They took on responsibility and challenge, they supported each other in ways that made me feel exceedingly proud and they reminded me why I’m involved in Girlguiding in the first place.

Leading the region trip to Cambodia has enabled me to grow as a person in so many ways, but mostly in my confidence as a leader and in myself. What I cherish most from the trip is seeing the girls at selection grow into young women with high aspirations at the reunion, taking everything in their stride. That, and going from not knowing the leaders in my team and worrying about whether we'd get on to having built firm friendships with three fabulous ladies.

— Katy Smith, Leader in Charge, Cambodia LaSERIO 2018 expedition

The planning had its stressful moments, of course – it is not without hard work. It might take over your daily life, your thoughts and certainly your WhatsApp! There may be times when you think you must have been mad to take it on, but there will also be moments when you think anyone would be mad to turn it down. With a stunningly supportive team of women who I have formed firm friendships with, you can overcome any challenge that the expedition throws at you. From urgent flight bookings to concreting in a thunderstorm. For anything more serious, there is a support network in place to help you deal with it.

In hindsight, every painful or stressful experience throughout the whole process has made me a better leader and a more confident person. Alongside the character-building moments, I have been inspired and awed by women in Girlguiding Cambodia who have overcome adversity that I cannot imagine. I have been responsible for the health of 17 other people across the world and back. I have sledgehammered a wall in an island school and taught Cambodian teenagers English grammar. I have eaten fried tarantula and fresh coconut. I have seen the sites of one of the most horrific crimes of modern humanity and met some of the people who lived through it. In addition, I have helped to guide 14 teenage girls through all of the same experiences, making sure that they were safe and well whilst providing them with the expedition of a lifetime.

Of course, you can’t do all of this without three things:

  1. 1. Dedicated LaSER international advisors who see the potential in you that you don’t
  2. 2. An incredibly well-selected team of leaders with varying experience who took every step of this journey together
  3. 3. A passion for Girlguiding and the drive to succeed

This month I’ll be taking my international licence in Belgium and in 2021 I intend to take another region trip across the globe. That’s got to be testament enough to how incredible the experience is.

Embrace every opportunity

— Danni Mariner, leader for finance, Cambodia LaSERIO 2018 expedition

As Vannath Cheah, Survivor of the Khmer Rouge, Chief Guide of Girlguiding Cambodia and Nobel Peace Prize nominee said to us: ‘just do it’.

To apply to lead a LaSERIO expedition in 2020, please attend the selection event at Girlguiding HQ on 16 March 2019. Full details are here.

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