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American and South Korean Girl Scouts gather Saturday in Seoul during a ceremony in which they received the Lady Baden-Powell International Friendship Award.
American and South Korean Girl Scouts gather Saturday in Seoul during a ceremony in which they received the Lady Baden-Powell International Friendship Award. (Courtesy of Gary J. Gnidziejko)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A group of American and South Korean Girl Scouts gathered Saturday to receive a prestigious scouting award.

The girls worked together for seven months to earn the Lady Baden-Powell International Friendship Award. Created in 1959, the award can be earned only overseas and “exemplifies international friendship,” according to the scouts.

The award is based on five areas: communication, community service, camping, crafts and culture.

“Along with girls from both the Korean and American Girl Scouts, we developed a plan,” leader Erica Koonmen stated in an e-mail. “Some of it worked and some of it had to be re-planned! But we learned along the way and did some great things together.”

To achieve each objective, Koonmen said, the girls’ activities included:

Communication: The scouts gathered in December to sing holiday songs, in Korean and English, to the Yongsan Garrison community.Culture: Held a “Thinking Day” to exchange information on both cultures, including games, songs and food.Camping and crafts: Camped together for two days, cooking, hiking and working on crafts.Community service: Cleaned tombstones at South Korea’s National Cemetery.About 20 girls of all ages from USA Girls Scouts Overseas joined 80 South Korean peers from the Seoul Seongnae and Kwang Jin elementary schools for the July community service project. They started by touring the cemetery’s Memorial Tower. Led by a South Korean guide, the girls burned incense in a brief ceremony.

Enshrined in the tower are memorial tablets of 104,000 South Korean soldiers who were declared killed in action but whose bodies were never recovered, along with the remains of 7,000 unknown soldiers whose bodies were found during the Korean War.

After the tour, the girls grabbed buckets and scrub pads and headed for a gigantic section of graves.

Each American girl joined a group of four South Korean girls to scrub the stones. Meanwhile, the girls were able to practice English and Korean with each other.

Girl Scout Krysta Gnidziejko, 7, said she was very excited and happy to earn the award.

Her favorite part of the process was visiting the cemetery. “Everyone worked together and our project was a big success,” she said. “Besides that, it was fun.”

She also said she was able to learn about her South Korean neighbors. They “are just like us … they like to play and camp. I think the South Korean Girl Scouts are much more serious about their troops and projects than we are.”

According to Koonmen, both the girls and adults involved were able to make friends during the project — and “this is what the award is all about.”

“The award exemplifies international friendship and encourages girls to work together in the spirit of Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting,” she said.

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