By: Shannon Boyer - Joining Rivers News
Three Cadette Girl Scouts from Marion County, Florida, have taken a bold step in their mission to combat bullying by completing their Silver Award project. Alannah, Kayla, and Olivia, members of Troop 43608, identified social exclusion as a form of bullying and the profound impact it has on their community members.
To address this issue, the young girls decided to introduce a "Buddy Bench" to their local park, Liberty Community Park, as a visual reminder and resource to actively reduce bullying and promote social inclusion and friendship.
A Buddy Bench is a simple yet powerful concept. It acts as a signal to others that the person sitting on it is feeling lonely and in need of a friend. The bench serves as a beacon of hope, encouraging community members to come together and offer support to those who might be feeling isolated.
To further amplify their message, the girls adorned the bench with words and phrases that promote social inclusion and friendship. They also created a unique hashtag, #libertybuddybench, encouraging users of the bench to share their experiences and promote the message throughout the community on social media.
In their quest to bring this project to life, Alannah, Kayla, and Olivia collaborated with Eliane Suding, the owner of a local custom wood shop, Scrub House Design. Ms. Eliane not only taught the girls how to build the bench from start to finish but also provided guidance on operating woodworking equipment. Through hard work and determination, the girls successfully created a Buddy Bench that will serve as a symbol of unity within their community.
The collaboration didn't end there. The girls joined forces with the Marion County Parks and Recreation Department to select the ideal location for the Buddy Bench within Liberty Community Park. They also received assistance with the installation process and the Park will oversee the bench's maintenance to ensure it remains a welcoming space for all.
In their final project paperwork, the girls shared their feelings of empowerment and pride in learning how to construct the bench and the dedication required to complete it. They emphasized that one of their most significant takeaways from this project was the importance of speaking out not only for themselves but also for those who may not feel they have a voice. They stressed the need to stand up against bullying and take action to prevent it from continuing.
The Buddy Bench introduced by Alannah, Kayla, and Olivia serves as a shining example of the positive impact young leaders can have on their community. It reminds us all that kindness, inclusion, and empathy are essential values that should be promoted and practiced by everyone.
As the bench takes its place in Liberty Community Park, it stands as a symbol of hope, unity, and a testament to the power of youth-driven initiatives in creating positive change within our communities.