HANNA CHUANG has done something no other USA Girl Scout in Singapore has ever done. In fact, she’s done something no other USA Girl Scout living outside of the States has ever done. She’s been named a National Young Woman of Distinction (NYWOD).
What exactly is a NYWOD? It’s an honour awarded to only ten registered USA Girl Scouts every year. That’s ten young women out of nearly two million! The honours are given to USA Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors whose Gold Award projects have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, had a measurable and sustainable impact, and addressed a local challenge related to a national or global issue.
Hanna was searching for an idea for her Gold Award when her friend Gaby Hungate came back from a vacation in Bhutan with an idea: she wanted to help provide educational opportunities for women and children in that small Buddhist kingdom on the eastern edge of the Himalayas. Hanna’s experience in Girl Scouts proved useful as the two of them designed a plan and put it into action. Together, they co-founded a Rural Education and Development (READ) service club at the Singapore American School (SAS) to help fundraise and increase awareness of the READ Global programme in Bhutan.
Thanks to their project, a READ Bhutan centre was opened in the village of Yangthang, reaching 12,000 local people. The centre is more than just a building: it’s a safe place for women and girls to go to use computers, gain business skills, study the road to financial independence, learn English and more. The service club at SAS will continue to help provide resources to READ Bhutan; this means that the project is sustainable – a requirement of the Gold Award.
Hanna says living in Singapore probably made this easier to achieve than if she lived elsewhere. “By being here, my project, the service club, and the organisation (READ) had exposure to a very special type of audience. There’s a huge expat community in Singapore, and the population in general is very globally minded. Thanks to this mind set, the people I reached out to for help with my project were very receptive to the idea of assisting women and children they’d never met, in a different country a couple of thousand miles away.” Hanna’s Girl Scout Leader for a few years was her mother, Amy Chou. Amy always admired her daughter’s passion and drive, but didn’t expect her to become a NYWOD. “When we got the phone call, we were just blown away. Never in a million years do you imagine your own daughter would be recognised like this. We’re incredibly proud.” A Taiwanese- American, Hanna graduated from SAS in June 2016 and attends the University of Southern California, majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; she has her eye on medical school. “My involvement in Girl Scouts is 100 percent why I’m pursuing the path I am. I first joined in third grade and, along the way, I gathered little bits of inspiration and a passion for service. For me, medicine is not about science but about helping people.”