Guest Post 2 By Courtney (Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama)

I received the following email and an attached article from Courtney.

Hey Don Ray,

I was great to meet you yesterday, and thank you so much for your contribution to the Girl Scouts. I went to the Girl Scout office and paid the membership fee for 2011 yesterday! Yay!

I have attached a couple of pictures and my newest post. I don’t know the next time I will be at a computer, but I will update you when I can. The group photo that I have attached is from the induction ceremony for four new members of the group. Representatives from the Muchachas Guías office in David came to my community to help out for the day. The new girls had to recite the Girl Scout Promise and Prayer and each received her official Muchachas Guías “pañueleta” (scarf). It was a fun and special day for everyone! The other photo that I attached is from the same day. The Muchachas Guías tías from David brought snacks to share with the girls after the ceremony.

Have a great afternoon and we will be in touch!

Thanks again, Courtney

Attached Photos are copyrighted by Courtney:

Courtney’s article follows:

6 de abril de 2011
Hi everyone!
Today I am going to share with you all a little more information about Muchachas Guías – Panamá or, in other words, Girls Scouts Panama, and about the Girl Scout group in my community here in Chiriquí. Based on my experiences as a Girl Scout in the United States, the Girl Scout organization here in Panama is very similar to that of the U.S.A. For example, the Girl Scout motto in Panama is “Siempre listas” (always ready/prepared), girls can earn badges for completing a series of activities focused on a certain topic (cooking badge, environment badge…you get the idea), there is a national “campamento” (camp) every February, and the organization is divided on a national level based on the ages of the girls participating (like the “Daisy”, “Brownie”, “Junior”, etc. designations in the U.S.).

The goal of Girl Scouts is also very similar in both countries. I will put the goal into my own words and say that basically the point of Girl Scouts is to provide a safe environment where girls can develop important life skills, such as self-esteem, self-confidence, and decision-making, with the goal of producing successful women who will serve as examples of intelligent and conscious citizens of the world.

Side note: Oh, but the one HUGE (and sad) difference is no cookie sales…and there are some days when I could really use a Samoa or a Thin Mint. I just had to throw that out there…back to business now…

So, that all sounds great no matter what country you live in. However, based on my time in Panama so far, I feel like a positive program targeted at girls is especially important in this country where teenage pregnancy feeds a cycle of poverty and continues to reinforce the Latin American stereo-type of “machismo” – i.e. the idea that men SHOULD have all the power…power over the family, over the money, over the property,…and on and on. Put simply, anytime when the girls are doing a Muchachas Guías activity is a time when they are not wandering around town or putting themselves at risk of pregnancy or disease. Also, by cultivating trust and friendships among the girls themselves and among the girls and the group leaders, a network of people who care and who can be easily accessed for any type of support exists close by. The meetings also provide an easy platform for health education, decision-making activities, and other topics that are relevant to the lives of these girls and that are not covered in other areas of the their daily lives (i.e. at home).

The truth is that putting all this into practice is difficult. Trust takes time and incredible patience to build. Teenage girls often prefer flirting with boys to hanging out with a bunch of other girls. Poverty makes funding for activities difficult. Asking for a $5 contribution from a family so that their daughter can participate seems extravagant and is more often than not an unrealistic request. Some girls are “too cool” to participate. Order is hard to maintain when crafts are involved, especially considering that many of these girls hardly ever have the luxury of using markers.

Well, I hate to leave you all with such an abrupt ending but I must go…there are errands to be done while I am in David for the day. I will just finish by saying that challenges are what make things rewarding, and at the end of the day the challenges of working with teenage girls (i.e. keeping them interested) are the same whether you are in Panama or Atlanta, Georgia.

Thanks for reading!

Peace Corps Volunteer
Chiriquí, Panama
Note: The contents of this post are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.
In response to reader comments about my previous posts, I am including the web address for the Peace Corps website and a link with information about donating to Peace Corps projects in Panama. Hope that this helps!

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