Giving back and making the world a better place? We know that Girl Scouts are always up to the task! But in navigating a global pandemic, many of our beloved troop activities, including community service and Take Action projects, probably feel more challenging than usual. How can you serve your community if you can’t actually be out in it?
You’re not alone. It has been a tough year for most troops, but we’re here to tell you that with a little preparation, your girls can still find ways to give back locally or to start their Bronze, Silver, or Gold Award projects when they can’t meet—or serve—in person. Our volunteer experts shared what their troops are doing to keep the momentum going and how to foster a gratitude attitude no matter what comes their way.
Explore community needs virtually.
Take Action projects ask girls to take a deeper look at community issues—and in many instances, this is something you can easily do virtually! “My girls spent two weeks writing down all the problems they were seeing,” explains Erin Berry of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois. “We started off with practice interviews with people the girls knew—the local museum curator, the school librarian, and a school principal— and had them talk about issues they faced.”
One big plus to working virtually is that your girls can repeatedly engage with community members in ways they may not have in person. If your girls have identified an issue they’re passionate about, encourage them to research local experts and invite them to your troop meeting.
Research pandemic-specific procedures or guidelines before starting your project.
You’ll, of course, want to follow CDC guidelines as well as any set by your council and your state. But if you’re thinking about partnering with a local charity, nonprofit, or health organization, be sure to check any additional requirements they have in place to keep their workers safe.
“Prior to dropping off any items, I contacted the organizations to learn about their specific protocols around receiving donations,” says Ebonie Taylor of Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida. “Once I was aware of the hours, logistics, and other details, I clearly communicated that information to the troop families.”
As your troop pursues its goal, you’ll also need to outline the measures you’ll take to keep your girls safe. "The girls chose a citizen scientist project [which included] a survey of a local forest preserve to help them understand their bee population,” explains Erin. “The project allowed individuals to go out and hike with their families and collect pictures of bees, upload them, identify their species, and then submit them. When we were allowed to gather, the group would socially distance on bee hikes with masks on. The girls didn’t share equipment and were in charge of their own bee submissions.”
“I developed a care and wellness kit that I take everywhere we go as a troop,” says Becca Briggs of Girl Scouts of Citrus. “That includes a no-contact thermometer, a temperature log, hand sanitizer, extra masks, gloves, bug repellent for being outside in the evenings in Florida, and our normal first-aid kit. We also limit the amount of people who can be in our outside space to ten people.”
Need some help? You can always ask your service unit for advice or to connect you with another local leader whose troop completed a similar activity.
Keep the gratitude attitude strong during troop activities.
Is your community service or Take Action project on hold right now? You can still encourage your girls to think about the role they can play in bettering their world—when it’s safe to do so.
You might start by exploring badges that focus on giving back, as Ebonie did. “In August, our troop participated in a virtual movie night to earn the Philanthropist badge,” she says. “Throughout the course of this activity, the girls were introduced to Dolly Parton and her accomplishments as an artist, highlighting the generosity that she extends through her book charity, Imagination Library. We focused on being grateful and explained the difference between wants and needs. We read the The Coat of Many Colors storybook, completed a sewing project while listening to her songs, and then watched the The Coat of Many Colors movie.”
Or, encourage your girls to reflect on what they do have and start a conversation on what that means to them! “My girls kept a gratitude journal for a week and detailed the things they were grateful for despite the disruptions to their normal lives,” says Ebonie. "Then they shared their gratitude journal entries during a virtual troop meeting. While accentuating the positive, we discussed the health and safety precautions that our community implemented and what that meant for us and other members of our community.”
Check out Girl Scouts’ National Service Projects .
Your troop never has to tackle a project alone! With dedicated troop leader resources and tips, our national service projects make it easier for your troop to step up and get involved. From organizing a socially distanced food drive to making masks, your girls can find projects they’ll be proud to take part in alongside their Girl Scout sisters around the country.
Consider what you and your troop are able to give right now.
Remember, troop leader: Be easy on yourself. There are dozens of reasons you and your troop might need to simplify or scale back your usual efforts this year, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that!
“I encouraged the girls to ‘dream small' this year, a reminder that even the smallest act of kindness can have an impact on another person,” says Jen Quaranta of Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. “In thinking about needs in our community we talked about those who may not feel a connection with others right now. We decided to make Christmas cards for patients at a local rehabilitation hospital. A parent who has done work with the hospital reached out to find out exactly how many would be needed as well as any restrictions we wouldn’t have thought about. Although it isn't as big as projects the girls have done in the past, it was a small way to still make a difference for others.”
“As a troop leader, it is important to emphasize that although we are physically distanced, we are not socially distanced and that we are unified in a troop effort to serve our community and make the world a better place together,” says Ebonie.