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Going for the Gold
by Julie Cramer
Posted on Friday, September 28, 2012
A recycled laptop, a hemmed skirt, and an artfully designed room can change the world—particularly the world of 60 children at the Little House of Refuge orphanage in Xela, Guatemala. Their benefactors are three North Texas Girl Scouts who traveled with Orphan Outreach and Women for Orphans Worldwide (WOW), July 29–August 3.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve. When a young woman is “Going for the Gold,” she envisions and crafts a project that not only fulfills a need within her community, but also creates lasting change. The award requires
Girl Scouts to complete a minimum of 80 hours of leadership and service. Read on
to discover the surprising ways these Girl Scouts will be transforming the lives of orphans.

A computer room

At Ursuline Academy of Dallas, where Jessica Martinez is a rising junior, the school issues each student a new laptop to use throughout high school. Noticing that the majority of her peers opted to use new laptops—not their high-school computers—after graduation, Jessica came up with an idea to put those four-year-old computers to a new and good use.

“Today society is so dependent on the use of computers and technology.”

“My goal was to provide 12 working laptops, replacement parts, and software for the start of a computer lab at Little House of Refuge,” she said. “Today society is so dependent
on the use of computers and technology, and the access to that is many times taken
for granted. The education our laptops provide us with is preparing us for success in the future. We are so fortunate that our school and families are able to provide us with such an amazing tool to give us that head start into our future.”

Jessica said the kids lit up when they first entered the computer lab. “Everything worked perfectly. It was so cute to see them just stare at the computers and play on PIPO,
a Spanish math game.”

“The joy on the faces of the children as they used the computers for the first time is hard to describe,” Tiffany Taylor Wines, director of marketing at Orphan Outreach, said. “As each child entered the room their eyes opened wide. I am humbled to see that the children will have access to the latest computers and educational software. We praise God that there were no technical issues.”

“I had so much fun on my trip. It was so cute to see the play and celebration that the children preformed, and I was honored to accept a certificate of appreciation for the computer lab creation. I enjoyed all the other activities with the WOW team. I got to help
at the Down syndrome school, hold and play with babies and toddlers, and I got to help my best friend, Inna, paint the mural for her room makeover," Jessica said. "I have decided based on this trip that I would like to continue creating labs for underprivileged children.
I learned that I am capable of developing a plan, seeing that plan all the way through,
and creating an amazing educational asset for the children. I learned that this project would never have been as successful without the help of Mr. Naul, Mr. Lee, the WOW team, and the Orphan Outreach staff.”

Jessica's creativity and compassion for orphans will give the same head start to children who recently learned what it means to “reboot.”

A sewing room

Can you darn a sock? Fix a popped button? If not, Sarah Velten, a rising junior at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, is out to mend that.

“Many kids around the world lack the knowledge of basic sewing skills, even
in the United States,”
she said. “My goal was to create a sewing room in the Little House of Refuge orphanage. The important skill of sewing will allow the girls to mend as well as make their own clothes.”

Sarah, who was unable to go on the trip because of a prior family engagement, received 500 pounds of fabric, 3 sewing machines, 200 spools of thread and sewing supplies, as well as scissors from Fiskars.

“It all started with a very sweet lady named Dee Duhe in Plano, Texas,” Sarah said. “Her donations sparked the fire that fueled many other people to make donations. Knowing that I would be giving these orphan girls a skill that could lead to a steady income brought me the most joy because it would impact their lives forever. As a Christian, seeing the overwhelming generosity in others really made me see the goodness in people. It also showed that we all have it within us to be Christ-like.”

A scout of troop 1053 since first grade, Sarah enjoys history, foreign languages, traveling, and intramural sports. She and her closest friend, Inna Wines, will continue the work they began for the Gold Award through Club WOW (Women for Orphans Worldwide) at their high school.

An extreme room makeover

“I have traveled to Guatemala every summer since I was ten. It has always been very sad to me to see the conditions of the orphanages,” Inna Wines, daughter of Tiffany Taylor Wines, said.

A student at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, Inna imagined a room splashed
with color for the children at Little House of Refuge. She designed the “Extreme Room Makeover” as a jungle theme, painting the room, with monkeys hanging from vines,
a zebra and elephant standing in the greenery, and a pelican perched in a tree. Even the towels and comforters were animal prints.

“I want to help orphans feel at home in an orphanage by giving them a better environment to live in,”  Inna said. “Most children who are sent to live in an orphanage have experienced terrible things in their lives. The directors at Little House of Refuge love and care for the children like they are all part of a family. There are 60 children and only 4 caregivers.”

“The boys loved their new room,” Tiffany said. “Inna and I were so excited that it was Santos’ room as we have seen what a hard worker and amazing young man he is.”

Inna's greater goal is to have other orphanages use her designs “to redo rooms at orphanages all over Guatemala and the world."

Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas serves 35,000 girls and 16,000 adults in 32 northeast Texas counties. In March 2012, Girl Scouts will celebrate its 100th Anniversary and move into its second century of building women leaders with unique programming and leadership opportunities. For information on how to join, reconnect as an alumnae, volunteer, or donate to the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas call 800-442-2260, visit www.gsnetx.org, or and connect with on Facebook or LinkedIn. 

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