1. What was the name and purpose of your Gold Award project?
My name is Puja, and my Girl Scout Gold Award project was titled “EcoCamp: A Workshop to Develop Young Environment Specialists.” It had three parts: the EcoCamp workshop, the EcoCamp showcase and the EcoCamp website. Through my project, I wanted to raise environmental awareness in the younger generation.
2. What sustainable impact did your Gold Award project have on the community?
My three-part EcoCamp project built environmental consciousness and good conservation practices in South Plainfield, New Jersey. I reached out to the Mayor, the Press, environmental workers, and citizens of the township by organizing an EcoCamp showcase on the last day of the workshop. This helped create more awareness in the community. My EcoCampers took earth pledges, displayed their earth themed arts and crafts as well as to see how green fuels work through a Tesla car demo. Through the EcoCamp website (https://pujavstar.wixsite.com/ecocamp), I sustained, widened, and popularized the EcoCamp effect and method globally.
3. What insights/takeaway did you gain from your project?
I took up a complex community issue with several dimensions. I was fighting against five different kinds of pollution and advocating for endangered species. I designed activities and lessons they could practice and understand these large complex concepts. For instance, for endangered species, I took up one sea-mammal, land animal, plant, bird, and insect and elaborated on it. This project helped me learn that however challenging a project is, it can be made simple.
This project helped me realize that I like a challenge. I did not need to involve the Mayor’s office in my project, but I did. Also, I realized that I could speak to public leaders and officials, corporate Presidents, and newspaper editors, directors and parents persuasively. I realized that I could relate to adults as well as kids and tweens.
I also think my leadership skills grew exponentially because of EcoCamp. I was able to run a showcase attended by the Mayor, press, directors, citizens, kids, and parents successfully. I believe the Press gave me good coverage as I was able to communicate effectively with them about my targeted outcomes. I learned how powerful the media can be in the process. Also, my creative skills went up in the course of developing the EcoCamp website that is now there for the world to see.
4. What Is your favorite memory of completing your Gold Award project?
One of my favorite memories of completing my Girl Scout Gold Award project was when I won the New Jersey’s Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and the Jefferson Award for Public Service. While each of these moments are valuable, my fondest memory of EcoCamp was when the parent of my EcoCamp student told me that her daughter refused to allow her to use plastic bags at the grocery store because of what she had learned about plastic pollution during my EcoCamp workshop. I had made an impact on a person’s life and helped them help the earth in the process.
5. Anything else you'd like to share?
I would like to convey to my peers out there that volunteering is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for others. You not only get an opportunity to do immense good, but good things also happen to you.