Two Gold Award Girl Scout Sisters Bring Hope for Better Health to Swaziland
Girl Scout sisters Taylor and Samantha Lane went beyond the Gold Award this summer volunteering in Swaziland. Their goal: to use all they had learned through their Gold Award projects to continue to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goal (3) –promoting global health and well-being. Taylor earned her Gold Award in 2014 through a project entitled “Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures.” She taught healthy hygiene habits to over 250 kids in a poor community in Bosencheve, Mexico and provided hygiene kits to the children to practice the skills she taught. Samantha earned her Gold Award in 2015 through her project entitled “Bright Smiles, Brighter Futures.” She taught the importance of dental hygiene to over 1,500 kids in the poor communities surrounding Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. As sisters and fellow Girl Scouts, they supported each other in earning the Gold Awards and even went on to both earn the Congressional Gold Medal for their volunteer service. Neither wanted to stop after having earned Gold.
They teamed up this summer to take their health education projects to a new continent, Africa. Swaziland is a country that faces many challenges with the highest HIV rate in the world. Many children are HIV positive and orphaned. Swaziland also has the highest rate of TB in the world. The combination of being co-infected with TB and HIV, as is common in Swaziland, leaves people at a higher risk of mortality. Providing basic education on the importance of healthy hygiene, hand-washing and teeth-brushing, can help prevent the spread of disease.
Taylor and Samantha traveled to Swaziland to help teach the Swazis the importance of healthy hygiene. Because Swaziland is also grappling with one of the worst droughts in history, farming has been devastated and hunger is a very real problem. Given that good nutrition is essential to good health, they also went out into various communities to provide food. Nearly 69% of the population lives below the poverty line and most depend on international food programs to survive.
According to the sisters, women and girls do not have equal rights under the law in Swaziland, and are often hardest hit in terms of their access to food and medicine. “Our whole experience in Swaziland was eye-opening in terms of the suffering that exists and the basic inequalities that make life even harder for women and girls,” the girls said. They came away more empowered as Girl Scouts proving that girls can help to change the world for the better. For both Taylor and Samantha, being a Girl Scout didn’t end when they earned the Gold Award. They plan to continue their efforts whenever and wherever they can, as they’ll tell you “once a Gold Award Girl Scout, always a Gold Award Girl Scout.”
Taylor graduated from George C. Marshall High school this June and is headed to Dartmouth College this fall. Samantha is a junior at James Madison High school in Vienna VA.