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Consider this from NPR: NPR

Girls raise their hands enthusiastically during an activity at the weekly Girl Scout Troop 6000 meeting at the Row Hotel Wednesday evening.

Lexi Parra/NPR

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Lexi Parra/NPR

Girls raise their hands enthusiastically during an activity at the weekly Girl Scout Troop 6000 meeting at the Row Hotel Wednesday evening.

Lexi Parra/NPR

Operated in partnership with New York City Health and Hospitals, Girl Scout Troop 6000 serves families living in temporary housing in the city’s shelter system.

One of the chapters is made up entirely of children who have recently arrived in the United States. All come from Latin America, are aged from kindergarten to 12 years old, and their families are seeking asylum.

Many of the scouts mentioned in this chapter have just made the dangerous journey to the United States, some fleeing violence in their home countries.

Juliana Alvarez is one of the volunteers who leads the group. “If it’s hard for adults,” she says, “imagine how hard it is for a child to understand why they are here.”

Alvarez knows exactly how these children feel: She and her two daughters lived in the same shelter for about a year. She left her native Colombia when a local gang threatened her family. “I was scared,” she said. “I heard that on the journey to the United States, you get raped or killed.”

NPR’s Jasmine Garsd visited the shelter, where she met 10-year-old Tahanne, originally from Ecuador. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Tahanne replied: “Do you know what sternocleidomastoid is?” (Tahanne dreams of becoming a doctor.)

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At regular chapter meetings, classic Girl Scout activities are repurposed to provide girls with tools for navigating the United States and New York.

Selling cookies, for example, becomes an exercise in mathematics and learning American currency. They earn badges, go on excursions and learn how to ride the subway.

Shereen Zaid, senior director of logistics for New York City Health and Hospitals, said the meetings provided the consistency needed to positively impact the lives of Scouts.

“If we could get some girls to meet two or three times a week and color together, or sing together, or talk together about community development, that would be a big win,” Zaid said. “They come here with a suitcase or a backpack, and so we try to help them live a truly fulfilling life.”

The group also has two master of social work candidates who attend each meeting to monitor the children for signs of anxiety and depression.

“Outside these doors, it’s trauma,” said Meredith Mascara, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

A moment of normality

Troop 6000 expanded its program as the city experienced an influx of immigrant families. Today, the program is a refuge for asylum seekers.

“It’s probably the only sense of stability they have right now,” said Giselle Burgess, founder and senior director of Troop 6000. Burgess had the idea for the troop more than a decade ago. , while she and her daughters lived in a shelter in Reines.

The city implemented a 60-day rule for shelter stays for migrant families. When NPR visited the group, Tahanne, the hopeful doctor, was running out of time. She had to leave the shelter the next day. According to Documentedat least 40 families have been evicted from the shelter since January.

When Scouts leave the shelter, they have the option to continue participating remotely via Zoom. But at the time, Tahanne frowned at the prospect.

“We share everything here,” she said. “We come here to be friends. They’re my sisters now.”

Visit the shelter and listen to the scouts’ stories by pressing the play button at the top of the page.

This episode was reported by Jasmine Garsd and produced by Kathryn Fink and Mia Venkat. It was edited by Alfredo Carbajal, Jeanette Woods and Courtney Dorning. Our executive producer is Sami Yenigun.


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