On a humid day in July, six Cadettes from Girl Scout Troop 1513 braved the heat and walked over two miles around Charlotte in the character of Kimberly, a homeless runaway, and Angela, a homeless mother. They were doing Walk in My Shoes, Urban Ministry Center’s educational program that helps participants understand the day to day life of someone who is homeless. Two hours later, with blistered feet and opened minds, these Cadettes had only started their learning experience. They still had much to do on their quest towards Charlotte’s new Homelessness Awareness Patch.
As Urban Ministry Center’s Community Education and Engagement VISTA, I was excited to collaborate with the Girl Scouts Hornet’s Nest Council to create one of the nation’s few Homelessness Awareness Patches. Together, we created a patch program that encourages girl scouts of any age, from Daisies to Ambassadors, to delve into the realities of homelessness and to take action to make a difference in our homeless neighbors’ lives.
We created a variety of activities to choose from. Troop 1513 decided on discovering the tough choices homeless individuals make in the activity “What would you bring?” and learning the causes of homelessness through doing “Musical Homes.” Then they watched Summer Seven, and learned about why a homeless kid would hide their homelessness.
Susan, one of the troop leaders said about the experience, “Our girls learned Empathy. They learned it is a hard life to be homeless. That it is not just crazy from drugs and drinking people that are homeless. They learned their peers can be homeless, and they should be more understanding.”
But learning was only the first step. The girls made posters to share all they learned about homelessness with the church they meet at and the larger Girl Scout Council. Then they took action—they collected glasses, medicines, and toiletries to donate to Urban Ministry Center. Soon, they will be giving out cookies at our Soup Kitchen.
What is important about the patch is that it is not just about learning or service; it’s about integrating the two. Service without learning can sometimes be a hollow activity for kids, who go through the motions without knowing why they are giving back or who they are helping. Now, as Susan put it, “They finally understand their actions have results.”
The patch is now available from the Girl Scouts Hornet’s Nest Council at: https://www.hngirlscouts.org/programs/patch-programs/