'Getting out in the community'

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COVINGTON -- She hasn't even graduated high school, but at 17, Giselle Osborn is a world traveler.

The home-schooled senior, known as Gigi to her friends, has been to India, England and Iceland and is now preparing to travel to Haiti.

Osborn is a Walton County resident and a member of Girl Scout Troop 27552 in Newton County. She's been a Girl Scout for more than two-thirds of her life and it's through the organization's Destinations program that she's been able to explore other lands and cultures that inspire and intrigue her.

Fascinated by Indian culture, Osborn applied for her first Destinations trip in 2008. Out of 500 girls, only 12 slots were available. Sure she wouldn't be accepted, Osborn considered it a practice run.

But in early 2009, she received word that her essay was a winner, and she set out for a month in India, where she volunteered at an orphanage, boarding and day school.

Osborn was also chosen to represent the United States at the 100th Anniversary of Girl Guiding, the sister organization of Girl Scouts, in England. She recently returned from Iceland, where she studied geothermal energy and traveled to ancient sites she learned about through her study of Nordic mythology.

An adventurous eater, Osborn tried fermented shark and a whale burger while there.

Less than three weeks after returning from Iceland, she is next heading to Haiti to build houses for villagers displaced by the 2010 earthquake. This trip is not through Girl Scouts, but is being organized through JustWorks, a human rights and social justice organization, and the Papaye Peasant Movement, a national grassroots movement that organizes and empowers small farmers in order to improve their living conditions.

The youth delegation Osborn is traveling with will plant crops like beans and corn in a village about three hours outside of Port-au-Prince, so villagers can feed themselves and sell the food to raise money to construct a school.

"I've always wanted to help people," Osborn said. "This is about getting out in the community and actually doing something."

Osborn is not one to sit idle, even when she's at home. For the past three years, she has volunteered to lead a Mansfield Brownie Troop and has undertaken projects that include making blankets for an Alzheimer's unit at a nursing home and making and donating equestrian equipment for a Georgia Girl Scout camp. She is also assistant cookie manager for her sale area and is working on obtaining the Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive.

"So many people think Girl Scouts is about singing songs and arts and crafts and selling cookies," said Osborn's mother, Kathy. "It might be when you're 5 years old, but Girl Scouts is really about making leaders."

Kathy Osborn admits as a mother she can't help but be concerned about her daughter traveling to such global hotspots. She was in India just after the Mumbai bombings and in Iceland when Norway, just one country away, was attacked by terrorists. She will stay in Port-au-Prince her first day in Haiti, in a hotel surrounded by armed guards.

"I don't think there's any place safe. You have to take a leap of faith and be smart," Kathy Osborn said.

After graduation, Osborn wants to attend Brenau University in Gainesville, where she plans to study nursing. One day she wants a career in pediatric nursing and hopes to work in the trauma unit of an emergency room.

Osborn is in the process of raising the rest of the funds she needs to visit Haiti. She holds bake sales and other fundraisers to pay for her trips. Anyone who would like to contribute may do so by making a donation to Giselle Osborn, Haiti Fund, through the Bank of North Georgia.