Santa Monica, CA, USA and Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, November 14, 2018 – Miraclestar Doby and Fiona Taylor of Girl Scout Troop #28935 heard about the community of Florido Cuarta Seccion, a small neighborhood outside of Tijuana’s industrial eastside. A brand new Centro Comunitario (community center) had just been built there by the non-profit organization Build a Miracle, known to their parents. The organization has constructed 330 homes in the beleaguered suburban zone. “The Centro Comunitario (Community Center) needs so many things – I want to help, and that will be an amazing Gold Award project” said Fiona Taylor, a 10th grade Girl Scout in Santa Monica. “There is no library close to this neighborhood at all – and there is a room in the Florido Community Center that is reserved to be a reading room, but they have no books or shelves or anything else to start with. I will call my project ‘Biblioteca Comunitaria – Community Library’.” Fiona, enlisted her Language Arts teacher to be her project advisor, and her Spanish teacher to be a project assistant, and immediately got started collecting books in Spanish for the community. The teachers set up boxes in their classrooms at Notre Dame Academy, where Fiona attends high school, and the donations came flooding in.
And how to get the books to Tijuana? “My mom got us both registered in the Trusted Traveler Program and so we got SENTRI passes – that’s like a fast pass at an amusement park but it’s for the border crossing, so we don’t have to wait in the huge line-up, which can take several hours. We took load after load of books and even though the trips are long, it is SO worth it.” Smiles and tears of thanksgiving greet the Girl Scout as she and her mom drive up the dusty road to the Centro. “All the children come to see us and ask ‘Can we see the new books?’”
Fiona has labored with enthusiasm and tenacity, painting new bookshelves, creating labels and entering each title into a master data base, book by book.
The people of Florido expressed a heartfelt hope to obtain a set of books at graded reading levels for their children, a series called “Torre de Papel –‘The Paper Tower’.” They are top quality literary readers, hard to come by and on the expensive side.
When a Build a Miracle donor heard about the library project, she made a donation – which would cover about half the cost of the series. Fiona really wanted to get the whole series for the people of Florido, and so she looked up the phone number of a sales rep at Santillana books, a publishing company for Spanish titles with offices in the US. She got on the phone with her parent and they asked if the company could support her Gold Award project with a discount on the Torre de Papel series. “Of course, we would love to help a Girl Scout and do something great for the Florido community!” The rep pledged a 50% discount — and with the donation for the first 50%, Fiona was able to obtain the entire series for free!
One inspiring story generates another. A second Scout in Troop #28935, Miraclestar Doby, an accomplished pianist, viola-player and voice student, heard about Fiona’s library project and came to Tijuana to help out her friend and see the Florido neighborhood. Star’s family heritage is native to Baja California, and Star immediately fell in love with the community and its people – and noticed that although they had a “music closet,” there were no music resources and few instruments. Thus was born her project “Building a Community through Music,” in which Star got right to work raising funds and collecting gently used instruments, sheet music and teaching materials.
Star is known at Santa Monica High School as an advanced performer in Orchestra and Concert Choir, and she studies music privately at Cornerstone Music Conservatory in West Los Angeles. She and her mother organized a benefit concert for Star’s Gold Award project, in which 26 musicians from Samohi and the Westside all gathered to perform and celebrate the commitment Star has made to the community of Florido. Her Concert, titled “Bringing Music across the Border,” raised an unbelievable $1,200.00, and she is using this to acquire instruments for a permanent orchestra for the community.
She also purchased and is assembling shelving to hold the instruments and music education materials, and is hanging teaching posters that demonstrate music concepts, with instructions in Spanish.
Both girls travel to Tijuana with their parents on joyful trips that bring them to the heart of a struggling but valiant community. Besides building the library and the music resource room, Fiona and Star have participated in cement mixing and foundation-laying during the house constructions that Build a Miracle undertakes.
The girls most loved “hiding” inside a newly constructed house that was about to be presented to a needy family with 12-year old triplet girls. The Build a Miracle workers and staff quieted everyone inside, and then another staffperson brought the family (unsuspecting) to the door. As the door opened, the Girl Scouts and all assembled yelled “SORPRESA!!! – (“Surprise!”), and the family walked inside with vivid emotion. For the first time they had a home, safe and well-constructed, to call their own.
The Girl Scout Gold award is the highest award in Girl Scouting. It requires a true motivation to improve a situation or build a better solution to problems both social and environmental. Girls learn project design, budgeting, communication and leadership, and must demonstrate commitment to see their project through to completion. They must devise ways to keep their projects sustainable and enduring, keeping the needs of the community always in mind.
For information on where to bring donations of Spanish books, eyeglasses, musical instruments and sheet music, contact Fiona’s family at BonPon1912 @gmail.com and Star’s family at Pebblesmilly7@gmail.com .
About Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles serves more than 40,000 girls in partnership with more than 20,000 volunteers throughout the diverse communities of Los Angeles County and parts of Kern, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties. The council engages girls through programs in Leadership, Business and Financial Literacy, Outdoor Adventure, STE[A]M (science, technology, engineering, art, math), and Healthy Living. To join, volunteer, reconnect, or support, visit www.girlscoutsla.org or call 213-213-0123.