Girl Scout Power
Local Troops Eye Countries Around The World
When this group of girls get together, anything is possible — even a trip around the world in one afternoon.
The members of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts will gather March 16 from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. for the annual International Fair.
Even though her own two daughters are no longer Girl Scouts, Crystal Ortiz has been directing the event for six years and has attended for the past 10.
“I took [the festival] over to make sure it didn’t fall to the wayside.”
Formerly located at the James Madison University Convocation Center and the Valley Mall in Harrisonburg, the event is now held at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds, which provides free housing as a service to the community.
Each troop chooses a country to represent, creating a booth based on what they’ve learned: “One troop picked Costa Rica to represent because they have traveled there as a group over the summer. They wanted to share what they had learned,” says Ortiz.
Vicki Bellamy, leader of Troop No. 365, said “It’s been many years since we have been able to participate in the International Fair, but this year, we made it priority.
“Because of our experience and our status as some of the oldest girls in Girl Scouting, it was important to be there and the girls agreed.”
Each booth will focus on Girl Scout practices of a chosen country, such as the “games they may play, food they eat, how they say the Girl Scout Promise in their own language … a lot [of the girls] get carried away and expand further into cultural displays of the country,” says Ortiz.
This year, there will be 23 troop-sponsored countries, including Venezuela as a newcomer.
“Ireland is always popular because the event is always held in March, and it’s easy to get decorations because of St. Patrick’s Day.
Other countries, such as Greece, France, Japan, and Egypt usually get picked quickly because the girls have a mental picture [of the country],” says Ortiz.
Souvenir Savvy Sisters
Upon arriving at the fair, each Girl Scout receives a passport from Ortiz, which is stamped with each “country” visited. And, with $2 worth of nickels in their hands, the girls are ready to buy some “authentic” souvenirs.
“Each year, we raise $800 to $1,200. That’s a lot of nickels!” said Ortiz.
Proceeds generated from the fair are donated to the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund. Also, says Ortiz, the funds are used in “other countries where girl scouting is just getting started. There may be a troop in Africa that can’t afford supplies and we want to help give other girls things and access things we may take for granted.”
Proceeds also fund local scholarships so that troops can participate in international travel. “The older troops set up a concession stand as a fundraiser to raise money for trips [to] Costa Rica and stuff like that,” says Ortiz.
“The whole point [of the event] is to make sure that the girls know that there is a whole big world out there … and that there are many things that they can go and do and see, and be apart of,” says Ortiz.
According to Ortiz, troops in the area do not only attend, but “come from all over Virginia: Lynchburg, Roanoke, Covington, Greene County, Augusta County, they come over the mountain and everything.”
The event is open only to Girl Scouts and their family, but Ortiz and Bellamy encourage all to participate in WAGGGS as a learning, growing and educational experience.
Contact Aimee George at (540) 574-6269 or email@example.com