[Y-SPACE] Girl Scouts: Serving with Heart, Soul and Hands
By Rose Jade Eugenie S. Delgado
“Encampments, survival, campfires, green uniform, badges”
These are a few of the things commonly associated with “Girl Scouting” especially by those unfamiliar with the Girl Scouting Movement. People mentally paint a picture of girls heading off to camp in duffle bags, pitching tents and singing campfire songs. They think of girls doing exciting outdoor survival activities and learning different skills, from tying knots to cooking an egg on paper. They visualize girls in green uniforms proudly wearing their badges and making the Girl Scout sign. All of these shape the Girl Scout brand.
I had similar images embedded in my mind when I said “yes” to being a girl-in-green at the young age of 8, and now that I have been in the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) for over 15 years, I can say that all those associations indeed have merit. We do go to various encampments locally and internationally, sport our Girl Scout uniforms with our scarves and badges proudly, and engage in activities that will prepare us for the future and shape us to be well-rounded individuals. And yes, we do learn interesting things like cooking eggs on paper—even cooking one with a barbecue stick! With the validation of these, however, also comes the realization that Girl Scouting goes beyond badges and encampments.
Having been immersed in all things Girl Scouting through the years, my perspective of the movement as a whole has evolved. Now when I think of Girl Scouting, I think more of girls and young women spearheading community projects like feeding programs, livelihood and skills education activities, and even building community sanitation facilities. I visualize girls traveling to far-flung areas, having to pass rivers or take short boat rides to get to their adopted communities. I see motivated girls partnering with different organizations, initiating fundraisers, coordinating with their local governments, and being at the forefront in sensitizing their chosen communities about matters that affect them. I see brave and passionate girls and young women using their platform on the local and world stage to speak out and encourage action on advocacies they care about. These are just glimpses of some of the “SHEroic” experiences of my Girl Scout sisters all over the country. To me now, a Girl Scout epitomizes advocacy, leadership and voluntary service.
The Girl Scouts of the Philippines, for over 81 years now, has stood the test of time and has remained steadfast in continuing its mission of helping girls and young women realize the ideals of womanhood and prepare themselves for their responsibilities in the home, the nation, and the world community. Through its various programs and activities, the organization does not only work towards the holistic development of the girls but strives to inculcate in every girl in green a strong sense of advocacy, leadership and voluntary service. It teaches every Girl Scout to utilize and maximize her knowledge, talents and skills to live a purpose-driven life, in the service of others. It teaches every Girl Scout the value of helping others no matter how small the act may be, further emphasized in its slogan of “do a good turn daily.”
One of the most successful programs of GSP that highlights the role of the girl in the community and nation-building is the Chief of Girl Scout Medal Scheme (CGSMS), which is a national program that encourages Senior and Cadet Girl Scouts to spearhead community development projects on one of these areas: Ecology, Health, Livelihood and Cultural Heritage. The year-long projects implemented by the girls include tree planting, feeding programs, establishing communal vegetable gardens, medical and dental missions, education sessions, livelihood training and establishment of infrastructures like local water pumps, waiting sheds and communal restrooms, to name a few. The girls are hands-on from the initial community survey phase until the turn-over and monitoring and evaluation phase of their projects. They personally talk to the members of the community to identify problems, come up with possible solutions and ensure that they are involved throughout the duration of the project. They coordinate with the local government unit, partner with different organizations and establish their own workgroups to help in the implementation. The girls also come up with fundraising activities and ways to ensure that their projects are sustainable even after they have turned them over to their beneficiary community.
The Scheme aims to contribute to the total development of the girl; Spiritual, Mental, Physical, Social and Emotional. The girls are constantly challenged to go beyond their comfort zone, try new things, and to re-discover themselves. Girls who were shy and timid, for example, were able to stand in front of local government officials to talk about their projects and their beneficiary communities. They are taught how to be innovative in coming up with possible solutions to different problems and to remain resilient when things don’t go their way just like when funding or resources aren’t enough for their feeding program session for the week or when natural occurrences destroy their vegetable gardens. The scheme emphasizes the importance of being sensitive to the needs of the community and how even small actions can make a difference especially when concerted.
Just for 2020 alone, 878 Senior and Cadet Girl Scouts who completed their year-long CGSMS projects were awarded with the Chief Girl Scout Medal, the highest award given to a Girl Scout. Those are 878 community projects on 4 program areas nationwide in just one year. Since the Scheme was established in 1976, imagine how many community projects Girl Scouts were able to implement in the span of 43 years!
The CGSMS provides a training ground and serves as a springboard for the girls to take action on other advocacy areas. It broadens their perspective and allows them to see the world through the lens of others. It further develops their sense of responsibility to the community and it proves that they have the power to do something even at a young age. The girls then do advocacy work on other areas like women empowerment, nutrition, climate action, body confidence and violence against women and children. Even with the pandemic, Girl Scouts have proven their strong sense of service by helping make face shields, delivering food for front liners, initiating donation drives, and spearheading community pantries.
Through its various programs and activities, the Girl Scouts of the Philippines has not only ensured that girls and young women are empowered, but that they are equipped to effect significant change. Girl Scouts do not only believe that they can make a difference, but that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to take action. An excerpt from the Girl Scouts of the Philippines March best encapsulates the commitment of Girl Scouts when it comes to helping others— “to serve with heart, and soul and hands.”
Many think that becoming a Girl Scout seems like something only little girls should be engaged in and that these days girls and young women are not as willing to invest their time and energy, but Girl Scouting is truly for anyone who wants to challenge themselves, be a part of a worldwide sisterhood, grow holistically as an individual, and of course, make a difference to their community.
With all these, when you think about “Girl Scouting” and mentally paint a picture of girls heading off to camp in duffle bags, pitching tents and singing campfire songs, may you also think of girls heading off to far-flung areas to conduct education sessions, feeding programs or to deliver supplies for the community. When you think of girls doing exciting outdoor survival activities and learning different skills, may you think of them using those skills to implement community development projects. When you visualize girls in green uniforms proudly wearing their badges and making the Girl Scout sign, may you think of girls in green serving their communities with heart, and soul, and hands.
Rose Jade Eugenie S. Delgado is a volunteer, youth advocate, peer educator and one of the Global Youth Leaders of the SUN Movement of the United Nations. She has been in the Girl Scouting Movement for over 15 years and is currently the Finance Committe Vice Chairperson, a Central Board Member and the Assistant National Treasurer of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines for Triennium 2021-2024.
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