Friday, March 14, 2014

Ryan (Current Ambassador)

“The most important thing I think Girl Scouts teaches girls is that whoever you are, it is okay to be yourself.”

13 years ago, Ryan’s mother, a former Girl Scout, learned that the girls at her child’s elementary school were creating a Girl Scout troop. It was then that she decided that her child would become a scout. He missed the meeting that year, so it was only next year that Ryan became a Brownie. Now, all these years later, Ryan is still a scout, now in Arizona.
When he moved to Arizona, Ryan found notable differences between the council there and the one he had previously been under in New York. Here, there were more girls who wanted to be in troops then leaders who wanted to lead troops. Thus, there was a waiting list to get into Girl Scouts.
Ryan’s first troop leaders were the type of people who believed that the most important aspect of Scouting was the craft aspect. They taught him how to sew, to make bracelets, to iron, to hot-glue, to fold things (like sleeping bags) and to cook. Ryan learned how to use a Dutch-oven to create pies, pizzas and more. This was an especially useful skill when he went camping.
His troop didn’t as much go camping as a troop as they went camping as friends. They would stay up late talking, telling stories and making boondoggles. However, Ryan’s favorite memory with his troop was visiting the Discovery Center. The scouts simply ran around, playing together and having fun.
Every year, Ryan’s troop takes part in a program called Troop to Troop, but they don’t do it the same way as the council does. Instead of taking donations with which the council sends cookies overseas to soldiers, they found soldiers from their area and asked their families if they could send them cookies. If the family said yes, they would send a care package with a note, Girl Scout cookies, and a few extra items.
Ryan didn’t earn his Bronze or Silver Award, but he is currently working on his Gold Award. Ryan’s plan for his Gold Award is to create a website for helping people who suffer from mental illness and self-injury. He says that a website such as the one he is creating would have been very beneficial him. He wants to fill the website with words of comfort, help, videos, methods to help resist urges, etc. Ryan says that as now, more people are aware of self-harm, he is not as afraid of confronting the stigma associated with it.
From his experiences with Girl Scouts and the world, Ryan has kept the values of leaving a place cleaner then he found it and helping anyone who seems to be in distress close to his heart. He tries to do everything in his power to make the world a better place. Everyone he meets, he treats as his equal, regardless of if they are two or hundred years old, they are all his equals.

Ryan can be found at his tumblr.

Correction: The original draft had Ryan under a different name and pronouns. As of 2015, Ryan came out as a transgender man and I decided to change the pronouns and name in this post to reflect that.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kathy K. (Girl Scout Leader & Former Girl Guide)

When Kathy's daughter was in kindergarten, Kathy decided to give her a gift she hoped would give her the same joy it had given Kathy when she was a small girl in Toronto. She wanted to give her daughter the skills for leadership, empowerment and respect for the world. So she gave her daughter a Girl Scout troop.
Kathy's original Girl Guiding journey started when she was in first or second grade. Her friend was in the local pack* (Canadian Girl Guide word for troop) and since it seemed like a fun thing to do, Kathy became a Brownie. 
Being a Brownie was a different experience back then. As a Brownie in a time when there were less women in the workforce, they learned many more homemaking skills then empowerment methods. They had to be able to vacuum, iron and sew. They also had to make bread and tea for another person.
As a Brownie she wore a uniform of a brown cotton dress, belt, knee-high socks, black shoes and of course her vest. When she graduated into a higher level she took on an outfit of a blue skirt, shirt, belt and beret. As Ranger she was allowed to wear a white blouse. Among the many badges Kathy displayed on her vest/sash, the one Kathy was most proud of owning was the Canada Cord, which was the highest award a Canadian Girl Scout could get at that point in history.
Kathy's favorite Girl Guiding activity was camping. One of her favorite memories involves camping at Lake Simcoe for a few weeks. Her troop stayed in Kansas style tents (bottomless tents) and tried their best not to disturb the local nature in the process. Along with their sleeping bags they brought a ground tarp to lay down on the grass and they used their lashing skills to make a luggage rack from the wood they foraged.
When Kathy was older, her pack went winter camping. They made a visit to one of the few local camp grounds that was open in winter. They stayed for two nights. During the time they were there, it snowed and was very cold. But, since Kathy's pack had adequate clothes and supplies for the weather, they were able to enjoy everything to the fullest.
On these camping trips the pack took, they cooked using camp stoves, griddles and an open fire. Kathy remembers making banana boats with her pack as they sat around the fire singing songs. One of the many songs that they sang was Barges. Barges was sung in a round and it was a song that Kathy would later share with her daughter's Girl Scout troop in America, twenty or so years later.

*In Canada, troops are called packs. Packs are made of 25-30 girls. They can be broken up into what Kathy calls sixes (smaller patrols). 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Jumi A-S (Girl Scout Leader)

Jumi grew up an only-child in Chiba, Japan. When she was eight, her father decided she should be more of a people-person, so he signed her up to be a Brownie with her local Girl Scout Troop.
When Jumi was a Brownie, she remembers her troop mainly focusing on songs and games. When she progressed to being a Junior however, they began to learn skills like building a tent or creating a DIY oven. The different skills started becoming harder and harder, making Jumi want to quit. But after she talked with her Girl Scout leader she gave it all another try and continued being a Girl Scout. Nowadays, Jumi’s friends often compliment her on her perseverance and determination.
When Jumi was still a Senior Scout, she took her first troop trip out of country to visit Quezon City in the Philippines. This was the first opportunity Jumi got to use her English socially and it made her realize that if she wanted to communicate properly with people around the world she would need to study harder. So when Jumi returned to Japan, she threw herself into her studies.
Later on, Jumi became a Brownie leader of her own Girl Scout troop. She taught her girls the skills, songs and games she learned when she was a Scout and watched them grow into Ranger Scouts.
As a Girl Scout, Jumi wore a navy blue ensemble of a skirt, shirt and cap. The uniform was the same until about two years ago where the uniform changed to reflect level. As a leader, Jumi wears a uniform consisting of a navy-blue suit.
World Thinking Day has remained unchanged from when Jumi was a girl however. In Jumi’s area, they choose eight global action themes a year. Each troop chooses two to focus on and then the council has a group discussion.
Two of the songs that Jumi taught her troop are the Princess Pat (a song Jumi learned in the USA) and Conpact. Conpact is a Japanese game song where the girls dance as they sing about getting ready for a date.
Jumi’s troop celebrates the holidays together with parties at New Year and Christmas. They also have cooking competitions where they quiz the girls who are “on the stage” about different skills and dishes.
Instead of the American cookie selling, they go around collecting donations for UNICEF once a year. Jumi often takes this opportunity to teach her girls about how to handle money and how the money they collect will be spent. As Ranger Scouts, they used these skills to help them help people affected by the Earthquake.
Jumi has traveled to the USA for Girl Scouts and she noticed a few differences between the American and Japanese Girl Scout Way.  One difference is troops are attached to schools in America, while in Japan they are attached as one troop per town. She also noticed a difference in teaching style. She used the idiom “don’t cry over spilled milk” to illustrate her point. She said that when a Japanese Girl Scout spilled milk, the Leader would be sweet and come help her clean it up with a paper towel or a mop, but if an American Girl Scout spilled milk, the leader would give her a hint to clean it up. Jumi noticed benefits in both of the methods, but she said that if she was continually helping a girl clean up her “spilled milk”, the girl would never learn to do it on her own.
At this point in time, Girl Scout’s is Jumi’s life. Her troop is “like a house” and her family is inside.

If you want to know the stages in Japanese Girl Scouting, go to the Index Page and check near the bottom.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Special Post 2: Ariadna P. (Young Pioneer; 70s Romania's Response to Scouting)

When Ariadna was five she had the honor of the joining the ranks of Romania’s Young Pioneers. At the time she was a Young Pioneer, Girl Scouting/Guiding did not exist in Romania and the Young Pioneers were the Romania’s version of scouting.
As a Young Pioneer, Ariadna wore a blue skirt, a white shirt and a red scarf in the shape of a triangle. Through the Young Pioneers she also participated in many things like Young Pioneer Choir, competitions and summer camps.
As a Young Pioneer, Ariadna sang many songs about equality, the beauty of her country and the pride of being a Young Pioneer. Since Ariadna had a good voice, she was allowed to join the Young Pioneer Choir at her school. They had a very good teacher who often translated different songs for them to sing, including the Ode to Joy. As a choir they entered many competitions and even got second place once in a national competition.
As a pioneer, she also partook in competitions dealing with math and science. When she was old enough, Ariadna also learned how to shoot a gun and entered shooting competitions.
During the summer, Ariadna and her fellow pioneers went to summer camps. There, they would play games and sports like volleyball. At camp, they didn’t really have many contests though.
When Ariadna was 14, she graduated from being a Young Pioneer. She feels that being a Young Pioneer gave her a greater sense of pride for being part of her country.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Satoko K-B. (Lifetime Girl Scout)

In 1978, Satoko when eight, the town neighboring hers started a Girl Scout troop. When her mother found the poster she signed Satoko up immediately and Satoko went to her first meeting. She remembers it well.
The first meeting was a sort of informational meeting. Besides one Brownie and her leader, everyone else there was as new as Satoko. Satoko remembers looking at the girl in the Brownie uniform and anticipating when she would get to wear that uniform. But before she was allowed to wear a uniform or say the promise, she and all the other girls had to learn what Girl Scouts was all about. They learned how to do a circle, as well as sing a few songs. One of the songs she learned that day was called Vista and she remembers it went something like “Free, Free Fly, Free Fly Flo, Vista, Kum-latta Kum-latta Kum-latta, Vista.”
Satoko’s new troop was called Troop 75 and she was part of it for almost twenty-years. She had to leave it because of a mishap though and she moved to a troop in Ebina, who accepted her. She has been with that troop over ten years now. All together she has been in Girl Scouts for thirty-five years. She currently lives in the United States, but she still registers as a troop leader in Japan. She is also currently on the board of the program Nobuko co-founded called GS-FOU Friends of US (FB). She joined a few years ago and she helps with Girl Scout camps, document translation and advice about American culture. Satoko is happy because even though she doesn’t currently live in Japan, she can still help the Japanese Girl Scout cause.
Satoko’s first Girl Scout camp out was in 1979. It was a spring camp and her troop stayed in a cottage. What made this experience special to Satoko was that is wasn’t only her first camp experience. All the girls with her were also having their first-time experiences. She also remembers her first primitive (tent) camping experience. It was like Kotoe’s experience in the fact that her campsite was on a hill with her tent at the top and the mess hall at the bottom.
When Satoko was a Ranger Scout (check bottom of index page) she applied for a Girl Scouts overseas program (called Wide Opportunity). She was selected as part of the delegation going to Pennsylvania. The main event of the program was called 1986 Arts Odyssey and it was hosted by the Talus Rock Girl Scout Council (now merged with the Girl Scout council of Western Pennsylvania). 1986 Arts Odyssey was a ten-day workshop. Each girl could take her pick of what type of classes she could attend (Dance, Drama, Visual Art, ect.). Satoko chose the visual arts class. She spent her ten days in painting classes, sculpture classes, design sketching classes and more. At the end of the program, her and the other eighty girls showed off their work at an exposition. After the program, Satoko spent four weeks in San Francisco.
During and after the program, Satoko was staying with a host family. At that time, Satoko couldn’t speak much English and understood less then fifty-percent of what the host family told her. Luckily her host family was generous and patient. They didn’t mind repeating what they said and they sometimes drew pictures for communication. At that time Satoko often carried a Japanese-English dictionary around. She is still in contact with her old host family and sometimes they visit each other or do Girl Scout exchanges together.
When Satoko was an active troop leader in Japan, she tried to share some of she learned in the United States with her troop. She played chain games, she taught them American Girl Scout songs by removing the lyrics and adding clapping, she taught them a game called “Merry-go-round” (description in comment at the bottom) and how to make SWAPS. According to Satoko, Japanese people are traditionally good with working with their hands so things like macramé pencil boxes and dog are really easy for them. However the girls were intrigued by the American s’more SWAP and marshmallow on a stick SWAP.
In 2000, Satoko’s host family invited her to help them run a camp with their council as part of the outdoor staff. At the camp Satoko taught girls origami and Japanese style writing. Another camp Satoko helped at in 2010 was a Japanese Girl Scout camp that was celebrating the 90th anniversary of Girl Scouting in Japan. The camp had girls from over fourteen different countries. In the beginning the Japanese girls were very shy with the new girls, but by the end they were begging them not to leave since they had become such fast friends.
Satoko helps to encourage young Japanese Girl Scouts to branch out and have confidence in themselves. If Satoko had not become a Girl Scout her life would be very different from what it is today. She would not have moved to the United States, she would not have met her husband and she would not have many of the friends she has today.

Japanese Girl Scout Fact: They don’t have a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award. Instead they have something called the B-P (Baden-Powell) Award (it used to be the B-P Trophy). To win this Award, Ranger scouts do a project and they send a report of their project in for a council review. If the council approves it they get the Award

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Diana S. (Past Girl Scout, Age 10 - ?)

Many years after Diana graduated from high school and got married, she took a trip to Georgia. While she was in Georgia she got to see something that reminded her of her time in Girl Scouts, she got to see the Wayne-Gordon House or the birthplace of Juliette Lowe.
When Diana was ten, the group of friends she hung out with decided to become a troop and that was the beginning of her Girl Scout career. Diana’s troop kept themselves together throughout the first few years of high school, and then they disbanded.
From that time, Diana remembers earning badges for sewing and cooking, as well as getting her green vest and selling cookies.
Like most people, her favorite Girl Scout cookie is the Thin Mint, but she still fondly remembers the cookies she sold when she was a scout. She recalls the chocolate cookie with white filling (Oxfords/Chalet Crèmes) that is now retired and the ever-popular Trefoil cookies. Compared to the cookies that existed when Diana was a Girl Scout, today’s cookies seem healthier in comparison, but lack the same amount of butter and sugar that Diana remembers in her cookies.
She also remembers that her troop went camping. They started out in someone’s back yard, cooking s’mores over the fire. Later, they began to travel to the Girl Scout House in Catalina. The Girl Scout house was large dorm with a cooking faculty. The dorm was like a classroom with bare bunks. They would spend a lot of their summer there.
None of her children were Scouts when they were young, but Diana still remembers the qualities of honor and truthfulness that Girl Scouts taught her.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Nobuko A. (Lifetime Girl Scout/Leader)

When Nobuko was ten, she heard about a Girl Scout exchange program between Japan and Korea in the news. She was so impressed with the idea of an international exchange and having sisters abroad that she decided she wanted to join the Girl Scouts. Since her mother knew nothing about how to join, she used the phone directory to find the Girl Scout headquarters in Shizuoka.  When she told them she wanted to be a Girl Scout, they got her in contact with her local troop. That was almost fifty years ago.
In the time Nobuko has been a Girl Scout, the uniform has changed three times, Girl Scouts broke into different levels (Tenderfoots, Brownies, Juniors, Seniors & Rangers), the role of Girl Scouts in Japan changed and the words of the Japanese Girl Scout Promise changed (but they still kept their original foundation).
One of Nobuko’s favorite memories from when she was fourteen her leader planned international exchanges. Nobuko had an Okinawan Girl Scout (in an American Girl Scout uniform) come and stay at her house. They stayed in touch for a few years after that, but lost touch when the girl graduated high school and moved to the mainland. But that wasn’t the end of Nobuko’s international experiences. With the Ranger Scouts she learned of the Girl Scouts of the West Pacific. In the offices of the Girl Scouts of the West Pacific, she made a friend who invited her to a conference. At the conference, she got to meet some very active leaders, some of whom were American.
Comparing the Japanese Girl Scouts and the American Girl Scouts, Nobuko said that the Japanese girls more quiet, preferring to listen rather than talk. The American girls, on the other hand, have a lot to say. Nobuko liked the “American Way” - as she put it, and she kept in contact with the leaders. Together, they created a program where American Girl Scouts on military bases and Japanese Girl Scouts get to meet each other and have get-togethers and exchanges. The program that Nobuko is part of is called Friends of the US.
Recently, Nobuko’s Girl Scout troop had a tea ceremony with an American troop for the New Year’s festivities. They also invited foreign Girl Scout troops to their Girls’ Day (Hinamatsuri) festivities.
Nobuko always starts her meetings with the song When E're You Make a Promise. Nobuko has taught this song to many of her American friends, and she is surprised that this song fell out of favor with younger leaders since it's that promise that is what Girl Scouting is all about. Nobuko also know the internationally famous Friendship SongTaps, Smile Everybody Smile (lyrics in a comment under post) and the song Penguin Attention.
Nobuko plays many games with her troop. Two of the most popular games she plays are Kim’s game and Wide Game. Every year Nobuko’s troop competes in the annual badge design completion. On the topic of earning badges, Nobuko always tries to instill in her girls that even after the badge is earned, they must keep going forward and learning more.
If Nobuko hadn’t been in Girl Scouts, she wouldn’t be able to speak English; she wouldn’t have made as many friends; and she wouldn’t have such a deep feeling of sisterhood and camaraderie with all the girls of the world. In Nobuko’s eyes, Girl Scouts are the seed for world peace.

“In one hundred and forty-five countries, there are many Girl Scouts. So the Girl Scouts make world peace because we are sisters all together, no more war, no more fighting. That’s the value of Girl Scouting.”

Nobuko was especially touched when she watched Malala’s speech and immediately came to the conclusion that she was a Girl Scout (though, she isn’t). Nobuko feels that all girls should be like her and tell their opinions to the world.

Fun fact About Japanese Girl Scouts: They don’t actually sell Girl Scout cookies. Instead, three days of the year are spent gathering donations for the Red Cross and for things like nature conservation.

Nobuko has shared a story on the history of Girl Scouting in Japan elsewhere. The story can be found here.