Take a Risk with GSNENY
Author. YouTuber. World traveler. Risk-taker. Minimalist. There are many words you could use to describe Annabel O’Neill, but our favorite has to be Girl Scout.
Annabel comes from a long line of Girl Scouts. She’s earned her Gold Award, like her mother and sister before her. At just 19 years old, she’s also quite accomplished. She’s a published author with two e-books under her belt; a how-to on building tiny houses and a series of essays about living a simple life. With no prior building experience, she designed and built her own tiny house, a 150 sq. ft. living space attached to a trailer, where she lives.
She’s seen and done a lot in a short amount of time. And she’s taken a lot of risks -- choices that may not have been the obvious ones, but ones that paid off in the end.
Globe Trotting for Good
When people of think of Girl Scouts, they likely think about the badges, the patches, and yes, the cookies. But Annabel thinks about her experiences traveling the world.
She's been to Haiti with her troop offering basic first aid classes to local people in the communities. She's traveled to Mexico, and Costa Rica with the help of Girl Scout money-earning projects. Her favorite trip was to Madagascar, a World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Kusafiri program called Art for Change. There, along with 70 other Girl Scouts, Girl Guides, and local scouts, she took singing, dancing, embroider, and metal-working classes.
“A lot of people think international travel is really expensive, but that’s totally dependent on how badly the girls want to go and what types of money-earning projects they want to do. My troop wanted to travel, so we did,” she says.
Going for the Gold
Nature holds a special place in Annabel’s heart. She finds a peacefulness there that she can’t in other spaces. “We all have a connection to nature. It needs us, we need it,” she explains. It’s her connection to the earth that inspired her Gold Award project: a sustainable, community garden in her hometown of Philmont, NY. Annabel secured donated compost from a local organization and built raised garden beds on land for a local co-op. She hosted a series of workshops teaching visitors to plant and grow their own food and the co-op plans to use the vegetables for their own recipes.
Her passion for nature carved out a career path too. She’s currently working on her Forest Therapy Guide Certification. She began training after participating in a forest therapy walk and knew it was for her. “A walk gives people an opportunity to slow down and whatever their experience is in that, it means something to them.”
Building a Dream
For her high school senior project, Annabel set out to build a tiny house. Her goal was to make building a space of your own more accessible to people. She taught herself using YouTube tutorials and raised funds via crowdfunding websites. Combined with support from a local lumber yard, friends, and family members, she completed the tiny house where she now spends most of her time.
“There are still a lot of issues with the house,” she says with a laugh. “But all the mistakes I made along the way are just lessons learned.”
Not a lot of people can say they’ve built a house. But Annabel is not like a lot of people. When she looks back at her time with Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, she’s grateful for the opportunity to get out of her comfort zone and build a network. She'll continue to expand her comfort zone this winter as she represents GSUSA at the 2018 Helen Storrow Seminar at Our Chalet, Switzerland, in February.
“People don’t realize how amazing Girl Scouts is. People don’t realize who you meet and the network you build. I had a lot of options after I graduated high school and that was because of Girl Scouts.”