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Spotsylvania Girl Scouts work on Gold Award projects

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At this time of year, many Girl Scouts are focused on selling cookies.

Members of Troop 3711 in Spotsylvania County are doing that too, but they’re also putting together feminine hygiene kits for an area middle school and “comfort kits” for children being taken into foster care.

Alexis Thai-Nguyen, a senior at Courtland High School, and Maya Obenhein, a senior at Massaponax High School, are working toward their Gold Awards, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts.

The award requires girls to learn everything they can about an issue in their community. They must research the issue and interview experts, try to determine the root cause, and then formulate, fund and put into practice a plan to solve that issue.

“It has to be sustainable and live on past you,” said Tiffany Obenhein, Maya’s mother, who has been helping the girls work on their Gold Awards for the past year and a half.

Maya is focusing on children in the foster care system in Spotsylvania. She interviewed social workers in the county department of social services and was shocked to learn that there are many more kids in her own community in foster care than she expected.

She said she learned that sometimes, kids are taken into care from school without having a chance to collect their belongings from home, and that there isn’t a foster family available for them to go to.

Maya’s initial idea was to supply area social workers with “comfort kits” — backpacks filled with stuffed animals, small toys and activities to give to kids being taken into care — but she couldn’t figure out how to sustain funding for the idea.

So instead, the main component of her Gold Award project will be a foster parent recruitment video that she will produce and film for the department of social services to show around the community. She plans to interview a foster family about the rewards of fostering, as well as local social workers about the need.

The troop is still putting together 48 comfort kits for kids in foster care.

Alexis wanted to tackle “period poverty” for her Gold Star project. The term refers to inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products and education about how to use and dispose of them, as well as about menstruation in general.

For low-income and homeless girls, there are barriers to obtaining pads and tampons. For other girls, cultural stigma around menstruation might make it difficult for them to discuss with their families.

“No one really talks about it,” Alexis said. “I wanted to do something to draw attention to it.”

She talked with a school nurse and learned that there is significant need among the student population at Battlefield Middle School.

To meet that need, Alexis is putting together hygiene kits containing pads, instructions on their use and disposal and links to further resources about menstruation. The kits will be stored in the school nurse’s office.

Alexis is making daytime kits as well as weekend kits, which will contain extra pads, including thicker ones for overnight.

Alexis worked with the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office to ensure that supplies for future hygiene kits will be included in lists of items that the community is requested to buy at annual “Stuff the Cruiser” events.

A third troop member, Massaponax senior Lydia Fraser, is also working toward the Gold Award, but is still in the planning phase.

Obenhein said Maya, Alexis and Lydia, who have been Girl Scouts together since they were 5 years old, are the first set of girls in Troop 3711 to go for the Gold Award.

They’re motivated to finish their Girl Scout journey together because they’ve been together for so long, Obenhein said.

“When you start something at age 5 and carry it through to the end, it looks really good,” she said.

Adele Uphaus: 540/735-1973


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