Changing the world, one cookie at a time
Girl Scouting is about much more than just selling cookies. Participation in Girl Scouts lays a foundation for girls to grow up and take charge of their futures by developing their courage, character and confidence to be agents of change. Girl Scouts practice and learn, through troop and individual activities, to make their communities and the world a better place.
Considered the preeminent leadership platform for girls, Girl Scouts began as an organization with 18 girls 100 years ago. Now with 3.2 million members in over 90 countries, including Korea, members of the movement continue the tradition today.
Troop leaders are the foot soldiers of this organization – volunteers who dedicate hundreds of hours to deliver a year-round leadership program for the seven to 25 girls assigned to their troops. The volunteers are unpaid and, here in Korea, come from all walks of life in the expatriate community: Active duty U.S. service members, dependents of U.S. service members, U.S. Embassy employees and Americans from other affiliations from around the peninsula all come together to give service to their community and help girls grow strong.
Girls starting puberty (4th to 8th grade) are at a higher risk for low self-esteem, which results in depression, poor academic achievement and negative body image, according to a California State University study. The study states that obesity and media influence are contributing factors, but small group interactions and counseling have been the most effective in changing girls’ attitudes toward personal roles and home and family responsibilities.
Troop leaders and other parent volunteers aim to turn the tide. They teach girls to dream big, set goals and work hard to earn badges and awards. Even the popular cookie sales teach entrepreneurial skills such as setting goals, making decisions, money management, people skills and business ethics. By selling cookies, girls learn inventory control, marketing and how to connect with their community. They also practice service and philanthropy as they decide which community organizations and charitable purposes will get a portion of the proceeds from their cookie sales. Most troops in Korea decide to give to local charities such as homeless shelters, homes for battered women, orphanages and local libraries. This spirit of service and the idea that it’s necessary to be a change agent in order to make the world a better place are both integral to the Girl Scout program.
The Girl Scout leadership encourages open attitudes, respect for differences and sensitivity to the needs of others. “If each person is accepted and valued for who she is, all of us are enriched,” says the West Pacific Girl Scout Guide, which governs Korea’s Girl Scouts.
Ana Maria Chávez, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, has said that Girl Scouts encourage the “just-go-for-it attitude.” The organization has declared that 2012 is the Year of the Girl, in which the Girl Scout organization will endeavor to close the gap between men and women in leadership positions within one generation.
Is Korea ready for it? With the help of community volunteers and partnerships with Korean Friends and Girl Guides, Girl Scouts throughout Korea are closing the leadership gap by helping over 400 Girl Scouts nationwide, mostly U.S. citizens or daughters of U.S. nationals, become responsible citizens and women of character, courage and confidence who will make the world a better place.