Finding Inspiration in an Unexpected Place
Did you know one local Girl Scout has something in common with both the pop singer P!nk and Harry Potter actor Rupert Grint? Just like these stars, Fiona’s the proud owner of cute and cuddly… pet rats! Some people might cringe at the thought, but those furry creatures popular in Disney movies like Ratatouille and Cinderella make excellent pets. Fiona, the daughter of our Science Program Manager, Heidi, was kind enough to share how she’s helping these uncommon and friendly pets as she works towards earning her Silver Award.
Girl Scouts often work on service projects like cleaning parks or restoring habitats, but Silver Award projects are bigger, long-term goals that focus on making our community better. Cadette Girl Scouts (in grades 6-8) can earn their Silver Award by identifying a problem in their community or an aspect of their community they’re passionate about where they can work on improvements that will make a lasting difference. A Silver Award is often the first big Girl Scout project you work on by yourself, so it’s normal to be a little stumped when trying to come up with an idea for a project that really means something to you.
Fiona was facing the same obstacle– how to find a project that she cared about that would help her community too. Finally, inspiration for her Silver Award project came from a project she did with her troop (#41323 in South King County) as part of their Bronze Award. (The Bronze Award is for Juniors [grades 4-5] who work together as a team on a service project to better their community). For their Bronze Award, they collected and made items such as toys, food and blankets for the Kent Animal Care and Control Center. While working on this project, Fiona realized that she wanted to focus her Silver Award project on helping animals at the Best Friend Rodent Rescue (BFRR).
The Challenge: Turning an Idea into a Project
BFRR is a non-profit rodent rescue in Kenmore, WA. They’ve been rescuing rats and other rodents (like rabbits and guinea pigs) in need and finding them new forever homes since May 2010. The owner, Joanne and her family have done some amazing things out of their love for these animals and concern for their well-being. For example, BFRR often takes in rats that are abandoned in large numbers (sometimes more than 40 at once!) at the Humane Society in Tacoma and other animal shelters/rescues, or are recovered from hoarders when things get out of control.
You might be surprised that Fiona was so drawn to BFRR, but she’s no stranger to rats running around! Most Girl Scouts might have dogs or cats at home but Fiona has three pet rats. Their names are Iki, Ono and Rascal. Fiona’s rats were also rescues, hers came from a rescue shelter in Vancouver, Canada. Fiona was excited to find a rat rescue close to home and decided she wanted to learn more about BFRR and how she could get involved!
When she visited BFRR Fiona asked if there was something she could do to make a difference for the organization. Joanne said she wanted to get BFRR non-profit 501(c)(3)status (a technical term that means an organization receives most of its income from the public or the government) because that makes some donors more willing to donate since donations can be tax-deductible. Once BFRR had their non-profit status that meant more people might donate and those extra donations would mean more and better care for the rescued rodents. It was going to cost BFRR about $800 to hire a lawyer just to get the paperwork and registration process started. Fiona knew her donation could help kickstart BFRR towards the non-profit status they sought.
Bringing the Project to Life
Once she had her goal in mind, Fiona got her fundraising started with 16 two-hour cookie site sales. “I know that rats aren’t the most popular pet, but they do need help and people don’t always treat them very well,” explained Fiona. When she shared what she planned to do with her cookie proceeds, people donated generously – Fiona got an extra $200 to help her cause! Altogether she was able to donate over $550 to BFRR, and while the money she donated was hard-earned, it was well worth donating since she knew it would be put to good use.
Fiona took her love for rats and turned it into a Silver Award project that she’s passionate about. She brought BFRR closer to their goal, but her Silver Award work didn’t stop there! Fiona’s now volunteering at BFRR, helping socialize the rats. For rescue pets, learning to socialize means getting handled, talked to and played with so they learn to trust people and be loving and friendly pets to their new families. It’s not all fun and games though; Fiona’s getting her hands dirty while cleaning cages and making rat beds!
“Rats are small, smart, easy to take care of and play with, and they deserve a good home,” says Fiona. Her commitment to the cause even follows her home: she’s currently hosting three foster rats from the shelter that are waiting for a “forever home.”
Do you have something you’re passionate about that you want to develop and grow through your Silver Award project? You can learn more about the Girl Scout Silver Award on our website.
Update: Our Money-Earning Guidelines—which are set by the IRS, GSUSA and Girl Scouts of Western Washington—were updated in 2015. When you’re taking action with Girl Scouts, please make sure to follow the most up-to-date.