The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. It recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable Take Action projects that have sustainable impact in their communities-and beyond. One such Gold Award Scout was Hanna Chuang. Hanna was able to participate in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, while living in Singapore, due to her involvement with USA Girl Scouts Overseas (USAGSO).
Hanna’s Story: Being a Girl Scout, I have always known that every voice counts and that when more of us get involved in decision making and in shaping our world, we come up with better solutions and more opportunities for everyone. And being a girl who was born in the United States but brought up and educated in Singapore, I’ve also always known the importance of being a global citizen—someone who cares not just about the people and things right in front of you, but about the people and the issues they face all around the world.
That’s why I was so interested when a friend of mine started telling me about what’s been happening in Bhutan—a country just north and east of India. For a very long time, a king has ruled the country, but recently, he stepped down and wanted to hand power over to the people so they could vote and have a say in how their country is run. The problem is that because Bhutan is a very rural country where most people work on farms, a huge number of women and young people can’t read or write—making it hard if not impossible for them to really play a part in this new democracy.
Giving girls and women the tools to lead is what Girl Scouting is all about, and I wanted to share that passion with the people of Bhutan by helping to fight illiteracy in that country—especially among its female citizens. So, for my Gold Award project, I started a club at my high school in Singapore to help build a community center in rural Bhutan. Not only were we successful in raising the funds to build that community center where people can get English lessons, learn to use computers, and even get the skills to start their own businesses—we’ve also been able to donate more than 3,000 books and have sent students from my high school each spring to volunteer. Tens of thousands of people in Bhutan have been affected by our work.
But the benefits weren’t all in Bhutan. Just from being involved in this project, students in Singapore have learned about the importance of looking outside yourself and how easy it is to make a difference in someone else’s life. So many people think that you have to sacrifice and give up your whole life if you want to make a change in the world, but that’s not true—especially with the rise in technology. A student in Singapore can hop on Skype and give an English lesson to a woman in Bhutan in less time than it would take them to catch up on their favorite TV show.
My first exposure to community service was through Girl Scouts, and I’m so proud to have passed my passion for giving back to so many other young people through this project. Seeing them realize that even big problems like illiteracy in another country can be helped by seemingly small everyday actions is so amazing, and I love knowing that the club I started will continue for years to come.