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Vienna Scout helping children in Liberia

VIENNA — A Vienna Girl Scout has earned a Gold Award while helping to get toys to children in Liberia, who previously had been playing only with empty water bottles and rags.

Jorja Bonar, 17, a junior at Mathews High School who has been in Scouting for the past 10 years, said the Gold Award is the highest a Scout can earn for a project based on sustainability.

Girl Scouts have until they turn 18 and are seniors in high school to earn the award.

Her project, “Nurturing Creativity for the Children in Liberia,” was a result of her father, Jason, who is in the Air Force and who went on a mission trip in 2015 with Farmers to Farmers to Liberia, which is in Africa.

“When he came home, he told me all about the children there and that they do not have any toys. The children play with water bottles and take anything to make it a toy. One little girl did not have a doll but instead had a rag to carry around. It was after hearing this that I really wanted to do something for these kids,” Jorja said.

Aimee Bonar said she wanted to go on the trip to Liberia with her husband, but Jason said it was best she not. The mission trip involved building a well.

Aimee said Jason told her when they were done drinking, the children wanted to play with the water bottles.

“I knew I wanted to do something and waited to begin my Gold Award. When I started, I did research for my project and learned that toys are an important part of creativity. Toys help build developmental skills and fine motor skills. They are really important,” Jorja said.

She spoke with Kathy Ake of Georgia, a former Vienna minister who is affiliated with Farmer to Farmer, a nonprofit farmer and educational program. Farmer to Farmer started by giving used farm equipment, building wells and also building vocational schools in Liberia.Jorja said Ake and her husband were living in Liberia and helped at the schools and asked the children to draw a picture. The kids copied her exact picture — because they really did not know what to draw.

“They had very little creativity because they do not have any toys, and their parents do not have much time to spend with them since Liberia had a civil war and the country is still recovering from that,” Jorja said.

Because the Gold Award must be sustainable, Jorja created a training packet that each Farmer to Farmer volunteer can use when organizing activities for the children to enhance their developmental skills. The packet includes a series of games with instructions for children up to age 12.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there have not been any Farmer mission trips, but they will have the packets when the trips resume. “They know this will make a huge impact for the kids,” she said.

In January, Jorja sent two 50-gallon barrels with toys, but they are not expected to arrive until May so the children can have them for the summer.

She said she had to do a lot of cleaning of the toys and sorting before they could be sent.

Originally, Jorja was going to have a toy drive at Mathews High School, but schools closed due to COVID-19 and her plans changed. Instead, she received monetary donations and toy donations from the community and many from local families.

She received so many toys that she was able to send two instead of the planned one barrel. The barrels contained dolls, coloring books, games and various durable plastic toys that will last and not require batteries.

“I had to check all the toys and make sure they were very clean,” she said.

Jorja is a member of Girl Scout Troop 80139 with her Gold Award ceremony to be held in June for Scouts of northeast Ohio. She plans to study biology at the Ohio State University.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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