Ferryland Guide looking forward to an India summer

Brandi O’Keefe is having a pretty good year. In May, the 23 year old Ferryland native graduated from Dalhousie University with a combined honours degree in marine biology and oceanography. Last week she started a new job with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans lab in St. John’s. And next week she leads a Canadian delegation of Girl Guides to India.
O’Keefe is one of two leaders selected for the month long trip. Her nomination was promoted by the Guiding movement in Nova Scotia. O’Keefe and the other leader, who is from Alberta, will take eight younger Guides, including two from Newfoundland, to Pune, India for an international conference and then some sightseeing around Delhi and other places on the subcontinent.
“I’ve been involved in Girl Guides since I was five, from Kindergarten right through to Grade 11,” said O’Keefe, who is back living in Ferryland.
O’Keefe is used to travel, and achievement. In her final high school year, she was selected as a Pearson scholar, which qualified her for two years of study at Pearson College in Victoria, British Columbia. The school was founded by and named for the late Lester B. Pearson, a former Prime Minister of Canada and Nobel Laureate.
O’Keefe kept up her involvement in the Girl Guides while in B.C., becoming a Leader. “I graduated from Pearson College and moved to Halifax and I got really involved with Girl Guides there, from a district level to a provincial level,” she noted.
In Nova Scotia, O’Keefe became a District Commissioner, essentially running the Girl Guides’ operations in Halifax, which consists of nine clubs.
Every year, Girl Guides of Canada sends a delegation somewhere internationally. When O’Keefe heard one of the trips this year included India, she got excited.
“I always wanted to go to India,” O’Keefe said. “I love to travel… So I said I would give it a shot and apply.”
O’Keefe got through the initial round of applicants and was selected for an interview as a Nova Scotia Guide. A week later she was notified that she was one of two applicants whose resumes from that province were being passed on to the national council for consideration. That was followed by a second interview that got her placed on a short list of 10 candidates nationally. Then came another interview, which occurred while she happened to be home in Ferryland for a visit this past February. It included a 30 minute panel discussion over the telephone with six judges.
“Mom was in the kitchen when I came and out and said ‘How was it?’ I said ‘I have no idea. They fired questions at me.’ It was quick, quick, quick, with no input on how I did, nothing.”
On Saturday night O’Keefe’s e-mail started to light up. The first message informed her she had been selected to co-lead the trip to India. “I actually screamed,” said O’Keefe. “Dad jumped out of the chair and everything.”
Since then she and the co-leader from Alberta have been planning the trip and coordinating things with the other Guides. The delegation will assemble in Toronto, fly to Frankfurt, Germany, change planes for Mumbai, India and take a five hour bus ride to Pune, site of the Girl Guide World Centre. “We’re going to stay there for 10 days and take part in an international leadership conference, volunteer in some schools and an orphanage and help build a new school,” O’Keefe said.
That’s followed by two weeks of touring.
O’Keefe has to get a month’s leave of absence from her new job to make the trip. Guiding is that important to her.
“Being involved in it so long, I’ve seen everything that Girl Guides has to offer,” she explained. “You learn everything from leadership skills to camping. It became part of me and giving back to the community is a big thing. I’ve seen what Girl Guides can do for me, giving me such a good outlook and teaching me so much. Now it’s my time to give back to the people who gave to me.”
Girls Guides also offers a lot of opportunities scholastically and travel wise, O’Keefe noted. “Girl Guides offers scholarships like no other (organization),” she pointed out. “There are national scholarships, provincial scholarships, District scholarships. There are all kinds of conferences (out of the province). There are opportunities galore and that’s a big part of it.”
India won’t be O’Keefe’s first international trip. She spent a summer in Kenya on a Pearson College program, backpacked through Europe and visited South America.
The DFO job will also be interesting. O’Keefe has an eight month contract studying capelin, including the factors that affect their reproduction and abundance. She is looking forward to spending time on the water this fall with the Coast Guard conducting capelin sampling exercises.
Meanwhile, she is preparing for monsoon season in India where daily temperatures hit about 42 degrees.
“It’s definitely a big place to visit and culturally diverse,” said O’Keefe.
That’s something she expects to enjoy. Pearson College had over 200 students from 100 different countries. “It was exciting that they got to live with us and experience Canadian culture,” O’Keefe said. “Now I’m really excited to go and experience what they have to offer and where they came from and everything they practice from yoga to being a Buddhist or Hindu, and taking part in different religious ceremonies, seeing all the temples, everything.”

Posted on July 24, 2015 .