Georgia teen with Mumbai kidsGiselle Osborn was among a handful of youth chosen to travel to Haiti this past August as part of a delegation to build eco-friendly homes. Working side-by-side with the local villagers, they not only had to contend with oppressive heat, humidity and mosquitoes, but also the torrential rains of Hurricane Irene.

Giselle laughed off the hurricane. “It was pretty scary for the parents back here to think that we were in a remote village with a hurricane bearing down on us, but it was just one day with a lot of rain.”

Despite the miserable conditions, the Georgia teen is headed back again in mid-January to help a group of girls orphaned by the catastrophic earthquake of 2010.

Giselle is no stranger to community service work. A Girl Scout since age 5, she has taken on project after project including making blankets for a nursing home and making equestrian equipment for a Girl Scout camp. She traveled to India in 2009 as part of a leadership program where she met and worked with girls in a Muslim Orphanage and in 2010 she was one of 12 girls chosen to represent the United States at the 100th Anniversary of Girl Guiding in Leeds, England.

During her trip to Haiti, she was touched most by the children.  “They were amazing, just beautiful and happy. They taught us Haitian freedom songs, we taught them Disney songs and we sang them while working together. I took about 40 pounds of school supplies with me, reams of paper, books, pencils, and book bags. This one little girl, Vanessa, was so sweet; I gave her the book bag that was my favorite when I was little.”

“While I was there, I learned about a place called Camp Oasis. It’s a refugee camp for 40 girls who were rescued from the general refugee camps after the quake. These girls had no family left to provide for them and if left in the camps would have been forced into prostitution just to stay alive. This is a group of girls that I know I can help.”

Future Leader Haitian girlAnd help she will. Not one to sit back and wait for others to fix a problem, Gigi is returning to Haiti to take even more supplies than she did the first time around.

“These girls need books in French. 10% of the people in Haiti speak French, but it is the language of the elite, the government, and the media. If these girls hope to become leaders in their community, they have to understand French.”

Gigi has been sending messages through Facebook about her project – and her efforts have finally begun to pay off. She came home one day to find a package on her doorstep – Harry Potter in French – sent to her by an anonymous donor.

“This is exactly what I need,” said Gigi. “I want books that will make these girls want to learn French.”

She laughed, when asked why she would travel a second time when she could easily ship the items and stay safely in the States:

“I went to Mumbai just months after the 2008 bombings; I arrived in Iceland on the same day that Norway was terrorized by a gunman. There are dangerous places in the world for sure, but I won’t live my life in fear.”

“There was nothing that would have replaced being with the children in Papaye, those are memories that I will carry with me always. I know that meeting the girls at Camp Oasis will be the same. I only know a little Creole, but I do know some freedom songs to sing – and maybe I could teach them some Disney songs.”

Gigi will leave for Haiti in mid-January, carrying suitcases full of books in French. Afterward, she plans to start her own non-profit to remove barriers to education for girls in other countries.

“HIPPO (Helping Initiate Powerful & Positive Opportunities) will be my way of keeping the project going. First, I need enough money to buy the books for Haiti, and then I have to cover my plane ticket. After that, I need enough money to file my non-profit corporation. It will be a lot of work, but that doesn’t scare me. I don’t give up easily.”

Hurricane Irene may not have affected Haiti, but Hurricane Gigi?  Well, that might just be an impact felt for years to come.

WATCH the video about Giselle’s travels and humanitarian service below…

To donate a book in French, please send to:

Girl Scout Troop 27552, PO Box 446, Social Circle, GA 30025-0446
Or, donate to the Fundrazr link on the Hippo Facebook page.

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