Posted: Jul 13, 2012 at 12:45 PM [Jul 13, 2012]
SALINE – Kathy Van Buren is on a crusade to provide every high school girl who is a member of Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan with the opportunity to visit the international World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scout (WAGGGS) world centers.
On July 18th, Van Buren, a Troop Organizer for Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors in the Saline area, will take four girls on a trip to the United Kingdom. The second half of their trip will be spent in London where they will stay at Pax Lodge, one of four Girl Scout world centers, and attend three Summer Olympic events.
“This is my passion and vision that as adults we can help girls set goals for what they want from scouting and if they want it bad enough they can make it happen,” Van Buren said. “I want to keep these WAGGGS trips going to provide older girls with opportunities to discover what it means to belong to a worldwide organization.“
This will be Van Buren’s fourth trip as a participant and the eighth trip she has helped to plan.
The other world centers are in Pune, India; Cuernavaca, Mexico; and Abelboden, Switzerland. The centers are operated by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
The girls bound for Pax Lodge each raised the $3,700 to cover the cost of the trip by
working concessions in their local community and at University of Michigan athletic events, also by selling GS cookies & lots of them. While the girls worked up a sweat selling popcorn and hot dogs, Van Buren was sweating over a promise she was hoping to keep.
“I visited troops currently in fourth grade the year it was announced that the Olympics
going to be in London,” Van Buren said. “I said, ‘girls if you stay in Girl Scouts when you finish 10th
grade I will make sure you go to the Olympics.
“Then I went home and looked at my husband and said what have I just done.”
What she did was provide the girls with a goal and a way to reach it.
“They discovered that they can set a goal,” Van Buren said. “Much of what they learn is before they even go, that if they stay diligent and focused they can make it happen.”
In addition to seeing the sights and watching Olympic events, the four GSHOM Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors will be on Detroit’s Channel 4 television station every day during their time in London July 27 to August 1st. There may also be an opportunity for them to broadcast from the NBC Studios, in London.
Besides Van Buren the girls and their chaperones are Elizabeth Shillington, Melissa
Zimmerman, Katie Frego, Susan Wisely, Natalie Zimmerman, Danielle Sykes and Casey
Karen Scheuerer, Global Action Manager for Girl Scouts USA, said these world centers offer an incredible opportunity to meet Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from all over the world. However, she said the existence of the centers is somewhat of a well-kept secret that she’d like to
make more public.
“Many of girls don’t know about these travel opportunities,” Scheuerer said. “It’s critical to educate girls at a young age and for older girls who have been on these trips to share those experiences
with other girls.”
She said the trips provide an important learning opportunity which relies heavily on what
girls learn in Girl Scouting.
“It requires a lot of planning, preparation and budgeting,” Scheuerer said. “There’s goal setting and a feeling of empowerment and ownership of the trip.”
It takes about two years to raise the funds needed for a trip such as this one and the commitment must be from the girls, but also from their parents and troop leaders. Van Buren said a Concession Coordinator is critical to the planning and ultimate success of these trips, both in the United States and abroad.
“The first WAGGGS trip was in the summer of 1999, for my daughter’s troop” Van Buren said. “We went to Pax Lodge and our Chalet. We came back from that and we said we need to make this happen for more than just this troop.”
This fall Van Buren and other adult volunteers will be encouraging girls to sign-up to
visit the WAGGGS Centers - Swiss Chalet and Pax Lodge, in the summer of 2014. India and Mexico are not out of the question either.
“We leave it up to the girls to decide. It is their dream, their goal, and their trip,” Van Buren said. “From the day a girl commits to planning the trip to the day she returns home this entire experience helps to develop in each girl the courage, confidence and character that being a Girl Scout is all
“This is not just a slogan or a nice thing to think about for young women, but it is real to
the girls that dare to stay in Girl Scouting throughout high school.”