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Scouting & Poverty

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I've been making home visits all weekend to get registration forms done. The family I visited today, this was my third try at getting in touch with the mom. Mom was home today - she registered 6 of her girls in our troops- the other two are too young. Took a long time to get everything done for 6 girls, with the oldest helping to fill out names and addresses then passing them to mom to finish off - national registration, health form, financial aid form - so had plenty of time to take in the surroundings. 2 windows are broken and winter is coming around the corner. All girls dressed in torn and dirty clothes. Very little furniture (one couch, one tv stand, no chairs or table, I assume at least one bed in the bedroom that was closed off. No phone or car. The girls walk to an aunt's house close by and then are walked to our meeting place.

So, I'm again pondering what our goals are with youth coming from situations like these. Earlier today I was trying to come up with ways to involve them in this year's JOTI - we had a new internet cafe open up just down the road, but now I'm second-guessing myself and maybe feeling just a tad discouraged and entertaining thoughts of does it really make a difference? Can I motivate the girls and myself to tackle a service project when their own home could use a few thousand dollars in repairs?

It's depressing - I want to do my share in doing good stuff and I hit the wall when I see things I can't just go ahead and fix.

Peace out,

Anne in Minneapolis

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Don't lose heart. I don't think you will ever meet a bunch of girls that can benifit more from your program. They may have never been on a vacation in their lives. I aranged for the funds to send a young man to camp one year. On the way home he told the leaders it was the best weeek of his life. Years later, it still brings a strange feeling as I type this. A smile and a tear. It's the reason I keep at it.


It may also be the first time these girls have a chance to give back. I have two brothers in my unit that get a lot of support from our local food bank. It does their pride a lot of good that our troop is the single largest supporter of that same food bank. Their friends will never know why they work so hard on our food drives.


Scouting will also allow them to interact with others members as equals. We can't completly sheild them but if we do it right their lack of $$ doesn't affect their status in the troop.


You can not fix every thing in their lives, but if you provide them with even one adventure to remember they will be better of for the rest of their lives.


Now the bad news... Wow, you have your work cut out for you! Start looking for funding now. I was lucky, I told one person 5 years ago that there was a boy who had no way paying for camp (see above). She found four others to split the cost with her. Since then her team has sent 10 others to camp. They know nothing about the boys other than I said they needed the help and even I don't know who is donating the $$.


Signing these six girls up me be the most important thing you have ever done as a Scout leader. May I be the first to give you a pat on the back.


Yours in Scouting,

John B.

(This message has been edited by wingnut)

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I've been in plenty of homes where I knew I would not be able to change the personal living situation of the family. It is a hard thing to realize.


It sounds like these girls can certainly use the opportunity to be involved in the troops you serve. I say that you should serve them like any other girl you would serve. Keep an eye out for financial support should they need it, but give them the same opportunities for service to others that you would give anyone else.


Their service to others may well be their service to pay back what is being given to them. Just because you serve others doesn't mean you don't need it yourself.


Good luck to you and good luck to those you serve. The bottom line is we all need each other in this world. I think God intended it that way.



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I guess this particular family just left me feeling really overwhelmed. That in itself is surprising - I've brought Girl Scouting to a lot of similar families in the inner city. One family that I used to pick up from an apt. building in South Mpls had their home show up on a local station's undercover story on drug dealing. They even showed their surveillance tape taken from a building across the street, showing me going in and out of that building every week (lol). Another family I saw on the news when their house burned to the ground - they had been using the stove to heat the home because the furnace was not working. One of my Brownies died in that fire many years back.

I didn't mean to leave the impression that I intended to deliver a watered-down program - just that my own personal resources (financial, emotional, time...) do get stretched thin sometimes - today was one of those times, and I am really grateful for this supportive group of good folks here. I guess I needed to be reminded that it is worth doing whether or not these larger problems stay around.

Anne in Mpls


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Bravo Anne! As Service Unit mgr., I wish I could get more of my leaders to reach out to some of the girls who have financial problems. Our area is rural and we have a few financial problems, but some (not all) leaders do not want to embrace these families because the parents are 'not helpful'. I have a couple girls this year who cannot afford to pay for registration, field trips, etc. No way would I exclude them from anything. This is the message I hope to get across at our SU meeting tomorrow.


Part of the problem is that some of the leaders here are already overwhelmed...it is often true that they do not get enough adult help, and they are expected to do quite a bit (training, meetings, etc) for a volunteer job. We get lots of girls who want to join but not too many adults who want to lead. I am working with someone from Council to bring all these girls (without leaders) together with their parents/guardians, and see what we can do. Some troops want to draw the line at a certain number, others want the girls who have the mothers who help a lot, others want only a certain age group. I'd love to know how to change this mindset while at the same time supporting the leaders with their problems. Any suggestions? How about a Service Unit wide 'pantry' with donated sleeping bags, uniforms, books, ponchos, etc, so that all girls can have the gear they need for campouts, and other outings? What do other Service Units (and Boy Scout Districts) handle this?

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My Girl Scout council, and I am sure the rest of the councils in the country have something called Girl Scout groups (for you Boy Scouts reading this post, it's similiar to Scoutreach). The idea of a Girl Scout groups is to have someone (usually college age women, but not exclusively) faciliate the Girl Scout program to girls in high risk or impoverished areas, some meet in schools after school, some meet in community centers and other places where there are after school activities for high risk children. The groups are encompass girls kindergarten through twelveth grade, so faciliating the program for the twelve year old, three ten year olds, the two seven year olds the five year old can be a bit of a challenge, but it offers Girl Scouting and an older girl role model to girls who may have never gotten those oppertunites.


All of the materials that are used come in kits from council and they use a special fund for the outreach program, as well as other Girl Scout troops donating supplies to the groups. My girls in my group got a lot of donations throughout the year and the first thing that we did with their new art supplies was make thank you cards.


My girls have also gotten involved in "community service," as we've made cards for a woman active in Girl Scouting who recently turned 90, and cards and letters of encouragement for a friend who was doing a dance-a-thon to raise money for kids with cancer. The girls that I worked with told me they felt good about being able to help other people.


That's my two cents on Girl Scout Groups and my own Group.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just read this today. Due to some personal problems I have been considering quitting Scouting. Last night I had one of "those" moments.


Young boy in my neighborhood that has lots of family problems and school problems joined cubs this year. His family barely survives. His grandfather paid his registration and got his uniform for him. The parents barely can take care of themselves, much less children.


I got the pack to pay for the family to go on a family campout. Borrowed a tent for them, others put up the tent for them. Let them borrow a couple of sleeping bags for the kids. To be honest by the end of the one night campout this family had worn most of us out -- the parents and the children have NO social skills, we spent a lot of time making sure the children didnt' take other's things and didn't wander off. I had moments of "what have i done?"


Last night I saw the young boy. First he made a big point of coming over to me to see if I needed help carrying stuff to my car (of course I did). I asked how he liked camping -- he was BEAMING! He loved it. I could see him grow a foot taller with pride. He confided that he had stayed dry through the night camping, something very hard for him to do.


I may not be able to change his home situation. But I hope that this one trip can give him some self confidence and show him how other people live. Even if he only remembers one thing about the campout, it will be worth every bit of aggravation from his parents.


I drove away wiping the tears from my eyes and thinking "THIS is why we do this stuff"


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Most of the time in Scouting, we're able to make minor course corrections in the life of a boy or boys and in the homes of families.


Sometimes were able to make major differences in the life of a boy or boys based on a few or a single event.


Even less frequently, we can have no effect at all, but we try none-the-less.


Good job in making a major difference in the life of one boy this one weekend. Hopefully he can be kept in the program -- I applaud your efforts and your unit's efforts -- and a major difference can be made.


Little things make all the difference. Keep up your good work and God Bless you.



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