Creating Awareness for Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer: Vilmarie O. Helps Patients and Families Face Diagnosis Across Puerto Rico
For her Gold Award project, Vilmarie, 18, from Girl Scouts of Caribe, set out to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and cancer. She advocated for the approval of Senate Bill 1180 to create a required registry of people diagnosed with MS in Puerto Rico. The bill obtained unanimous approval of the measure by both Legislative Assemblies of Puerto Rico and was converted into Law 85—the first law of a required registry for MS in the world.
Because of this law, genetic studies are already being carried out with Miami University as part of a study on the incidence of MS in the Hispanic population. Way to go, Vilmarie!
She also promoted the celebration of the first "Orange Jeans Day" in Puerto Rico to support the MS Foundation of Puerto Rico. She developed brochures and presentations on both conditions and distributed them around schools, hospitals, medical offices, and government offices of Puerto Rico, as well as on social media.
Additionally, Vilmarie made collaborative agreements with VOCES Vaccination Coalition of Puerto Rico, Comprehensive Cancer Center of Puerto Rico, and Caribe Girl Scouts, to coordinate the first weekend Girl Scout camp: VOCES Ambassadors, Healthy Young People. There she conducted educational talks on HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) so that the information can continue to spread. These agreements will continue to educate people about cancer in Puerto Rico.
This G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ really knows how to take the reins and make amazing things happen. Here’s what she had to say about her Gold Award project, and what Girl Scouting means to her!
Q: What does your Gold Award mean to you? Why did you pick this topic?
A: I chose Multiple Sclerosis and cancer because my mother was diagnosed with MS, and my great grandmother and grandfather died of cancer. I know about the lack of information that exists in the world, and I wanted to spread awareness about these two conditions, so when a family member is diagnosed with one of these conditions, the family doesn’t suffer and go through the same process that I went through.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you faced in completing your Gold Award project?
A: My biggest challenge was that people underestimated me. At the time [when I started my project] I was 16, and people just stared at me like, “You can’t do that. You’re just a teenager with ambitious ideas.” And I just kept going, because I knew I could do it. I know that my project helped and impacted many people, so I always just kept going for all of those patients that really needed help, and their family members.
Q: Where are you now, and what are your plans for the future?
A: I’m in my first year of college. I’m going to study communications and digital television, so I’m very excited for that, because I want to make a change in the world of communications. I want to help people in any way possible that I can.
Q: What does Girl Scouts mean to you?
A: Girl Scouts, for me, has given me the tools to just stand up straight and keep moving forward, avoiding every negative comment that people give to me, and just keep on going. Because your north, that’s what matters, and just helping people, and seeing those happy faces and that ‘thank you’ that they give you, that’s what makes me keep on going.
I’m not only a Girl Scout for me, I am also a Girl Scout for others, because I give that example to other girls, so they can achieve their dreams and keep on going no matter what. I always say to people that have little baby girls, “Put her in Girl Scouts. She’s going to grow not only as a girl and leader, but also as a professional as well.”
Q: Which part of G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ do you most identify with?
A: For me, leadership is everything. And Girl Scouts gives you all the tools you need to be a leader.