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Girl Scout troop helps young girls connect with East African heritage, Muslim faith

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Jacob Aere / KPBS
Girl Scouts from Troop 4307 hold up the paintings they have been working on, Feb. 21, 2022.

It’s Girl Scout cookie season, but a local troop is providing a different kind of service to their community.

On Monday evenings, the nonprofit group United Women of East Africa, known as UWEAST, opens its doors to the women of the future: the members of Girl Scout Troop 4307.

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“Us Muslims, we don't have a lot of group activities and stuff, so this [means] a lot for my daughter, so she can learn about her religion, her culture and all that stuff,” Girl Scout parent Lula Idris said.

Jacob Aere
Girl Scout Troop 4307 members sit on a prayer rug to praise Allah, Feb. 21, 2022.

Idris is a refugee, like many of her daughter’s troop parents. She said growing up in San Diego can make it difficult to pass on customs and traditions to their children.

That's why she’s happy to have found this specialized Girl Scout program for her daughter.

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“We’re all a melting pot of different cultures. There's people from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, you name it,” said UWEAST youth coordinator Hanan Shiferaw. “So I feel like as much as we bring culture into it, the kids themselves get to learn about the different cultures and they get to embrace that and really just find out who they are.”

UWEAST executive director Sahra Abdi said they even have a few North African families participating in the program.

Girl Scout troop helps young girls connect with East African heritage, Muslim faith

Right now, the troop should be in the midst of Girl Scout cookie season. Unfortunately, the pandemic has halted their selling efforts for the time being.

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Some of the girls were a bit disappointed, but they have other things to be excited about, said troop member Firdaws Abdurezak.

“Right now we just did exercise, then an icebreaker and then we did a painting," she said. "So that's what I really like, because I really love art. So that was the most happiest part about it.”

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Jacob Aere
A young Girl Scout Troop 4307 member paints a picture on a canvas, Feb. 21, 2022.

Beyond having fun, the troop teaches the young girls how to become leaders of tomorrow, while breaking down stereotypes.

“We’ll read about women in Islam. The key roles that they had; that women are looked at equal to men,” Shiferaw said. “Uplifting and empowering them just so that they know their religion is not something they should be ashamed of, but something they should be proud of.”

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United Women of East Africa offers many other programs that cater to immigrant families, including tutoring services, leadership training workshops and girls basketball programs.

Jacob Aere
Girl Scouts their own art pieces at the United Women of East Africa building, Feb. 21, 2022.

As far as cookie sales go, the troop is holding out hope that they may have a chance later this season. If that doesn't happen, they plan to have things up and running for next year.