This article appeared in the PostMag dated 28th May, a Saturday pullout of The Borneo Post. It was an interview by Frank Julian, a journalist of The Borneo Post while the Internaional President was in Sibu on 1st May. Thanks to The Borneo Post for permission to use this in my blog … The Girls’ Brigade Malaysia has just concluded its Annual General Meeting and National Officers’ Retreat at Water City Resort, Malacca today. While at the Meeting, I shared with some over 100 women this statistic –
Three billion people go to bed every night hungry. However, four billion people go to bed every night hungry of a word of encouragement …
Right after the sharing, one woman came forward and thanked me for the sharing sessions, and said specifically that she did not want me to go to bed tonight hungry of a word of encouragement.
I was touched….
SIBU: Little is known about the Girls Brigade. Many people equate it with other uniformed bodies such as the Girls Guide, Scouts or the Malaysian Red Crescent Society.
Girls in uniform doing drills, camping, tying knots, cooking and many other stuffs are what many people associate with the Girls Brigade.
What is so great about the Girls Brigade? What good is it to a member, to the people in general, or to the world?
“The Girls Brigade is a union of three Christian organisations for girls – all sister organisations of the Boys Brigade – The Girls Brigade, The Girls Guildry and The Girls Life Brigade. All three organisations provide training to develop the mind, body and spirit and to inculcate a sense of responsibility through useful Christian service,” said Girls Brigade International Eighth President, Hee Piang Chin.
It all started in 1893 when Margaret Lyttle formed the Girls Brigade at Sandymount, Ireland. Seven years later, The Girls Guildry was formed in Scotland with the aim of helping girls to become mature Christian women. The Girls Life Brigade was later formed in England in 1902 with a motto “to save life” and the aim “to help and encourage girls become responsible, self-reliant Christian women”.
The union of the three organisations was announced worldwide in the following press statement on Thursday, June 25th 1964. It was formally confirmed on June 10th, 1968 and the united body took on the name of The Girls Brigade.
The movement is international and interdenominational. Its worldwide membership embraces many races, languages and dialects. Today, the Girls Brigade can be found in more than fifty countries and nations throughout the world. It also has affiliation with Christian youth in Europe.
In 1927, a young Girls Life Brigade officer from the 1st Gateshead Company, Durham, Elsie Lyne came to Singapore to teach at the Methodist Girls School. She started the 1st Singapore Company and in July 1928, the Company was formally registered with the GLB HQ in London. This marked the beginning of Brigade in Singapore.
Lynne together with Agnes Richards and Miss Joyce Lovell later began the Girls’ Brigade in Malaysia by starting off with Girls Brigade in Penang in 1938. Girls Brigade was formed in Sarawak in 1967 and in Sibu in 1970.
So much of history, but what good does it bring?
“Our aim is to help girls to become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ through reverence, self-control and a sense of responsibility to find true enrichment of life,” said Hee during an interview at The Borneo Post’s office here recently.
This was very much connected to Girls Brigade motto, which is to Seek, Serve and Follow Christ. Every girl is deemed to be important and they all can become leaders.
“We teach them how to handle social ills facing the society nowadays such as temptations, drugs and so on. It is getting more challenging in this Information Technology era where many children are addicted to computer games and exposed to lots of things in the Internet,” said Hee who have been in the Girls Brigade for over 30 years.
In short she said the Girls Brigade, which is very much connected to the church does what is right for the girls by teaching them Christian values.
Asked what have changed since she first joined the Girls Brigade when she was twelve, she said the fundamental was still the same.
“What we do now is to make activities more appealing to the young ones, suitably with the change of time.”
She said the Girls Brigade provides a great learning environment and a venue to make friends. It nurtures the spirit of comradeship among the members.
“In the Girls Brigade, we believe in servant leadership where we lead the girls not from the back or in the front but around them. The officers set themselves as exemplary to the girls and of course we did ‘kick’ them from behind when we train them,” said Hee in jest.
Activities are no longer confined to drills or other girlie things. According to Hee, Girls Brigades in Asia Fellowship which members are Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand, Brunei now send their members to serve in underdeveloped or developing countries in Cambodia, Mongolia, Myanmar and East Timor.
Taking Cambodia for example, Girls Brigade members were sent there in 1998 with the objectives to help the Cambodian girls and women help their family to escape from the clutch of poverty.
“We set up a centre in Songkhem for us to teach the girls and women the many living skills that could improve their household economy. We teach them handicraft, English and other things.”
The products, such as woven bags bearing the trade label “Villagework” are sold throughout the countries in this region.
It is to provide village women with employment, to bring meaning to their lives, to nurture their worth as persons, and to help them realise their potential and purpose in life. It is also hoped that the GB influence will be infused within this context of business as well.
The efforts very much helped to reduce if not prevent the Cambodian girls and women from involving themselves with negative activities such as prostitution, begging and others alike to support their living.
“We are working on East Timor. At the moment we are exploring what can be done in the country. After three to four months, a report will be made on the exploration and after that we will send some girls to run a camp there.”
As an initial move a team comprising Rev Dr Lorna Khoo, Iris Lee, Lucilla Teoh, Moses Yeo Pee Hock and Jasper Sim were sent to East Timor to conduct a three-day training course from September 16 to September 18 last year.
Thirty five teachers from 18 schools, of 10 various villages came for the Basic Officers’ Training Course. Alpha course was introduced as the Girls Brigade Spiritual programme and was well received too.
A GB half-day camp was organised on the third morning of the training (24 students from 13 schools came, age ranging from 10-18 years old). This camp served to allow teachers and students to experience their first Girls Brigade programme.
At the moment there are 12,000 Girls Brigade members in Asia and most of them are volunteers.
Talking about funding, Hee said it was a bit of a problem but it was not an issue to the Girls Brigade in carrying out its activities.
“We believe in God and that He will open some ways for us to do the good works. Some way some how, would meet the needs through good budgeting. The issue that Girls Brigade has is parents. Some parents did not understand what we are doing and percept that our activities consume a lot of their children’s time. They worried that their children would not have time for other important thing such as study.”
She stressed that Girls Brigade plays a good role in educating and building good character of the children.
Girls Brigade would continue to train and nurture its members into becoming good servants of God. Because of its good works, governments of countries where it has members recognize it. In Malaysia, it is recognized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Hee said Girls Brigade would continue its works in character development of the girls and tries to expand its wings to more countries or places especially in Asia.