Ewa Beach Teenager Helps Seniors To Prepare For A Tsunami

Virginia Rhodes (wearing a Girl Scout vest) distributes bags containing tsunami safety packets to senior citizens during a March 1 event at Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center as the culmination of her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Photo from Cynthia Rhodes.

The culmination of at least 60 hours of hard work paid off for 15 Girl Scouts on April 27.

Seventeen-year-old Ewa Beach Scout Virginia Rhodes was among the elite team being honored with a Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest achievement, for conducting a project aimed at helping the community. Her plan, Tsunami Safety for Seniors, provided information to elderly residents on preparing for an emergency.

“After the devastating tsunami following the 2011 earthquake in Japan, I realized how unprepared most people are, especially those not as tech savvy, like the elderly,” said Rhodes, who graduated from Island Pacific Academy last week. “They may not know how to get information about preparing for a tsunami or have the extra money to buy needed preparation materials. I saw this need in the community and worked toward solving the problem.”

Rhodes dove into the task, contacting various organizations, including fellow Girl Scout troops and her church at the Ray and Joan Kroc Center, to request donations for tsunami preparedness kits. Next, she searched for a suitable place to host an informational event where she would distribute the kits.

By March 1, Rhodes was ready to welcome seniors to her preparedness gathering at the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center. Attendees learned how to prepare for an emergency, how to respond to a tsunami warning, and where to go to remain safe. They also were given contacts to resource organizations that could potentially offer transportation during an evacuation, or that may be able to check on the seniors during a state of emergency. The first 50 seniors who arrived were given one of Rhodes’ emergency readiness kits.

“The hardest part was definitely collecting the items for my kits,” she admitted. “Each kit had 10 different items, and I had the goal of 50 kits.”

Rhodes received a welcome surprise at the culminating event, with members of her Japanese National Honor Society lending the seniors a helping hand.

“I thought they only came to get the community service hours,” said Rhodes, “but every time I turned around I would see my members and the seniors laughing and smiling together.”

Looking back, Rhodes, who describes herself as shy, said the project required a lot of email correspondence and phone calls to a number of organizations, giving her new confidence in her ability to communicate.

“I also learned to handle last-minute decisions,” she pointed out. “I had a few complications at the last minute, but I was able to remain calm and fix the situation.”

Completing the project gave Rhodes the distinguished honor of being among only 5 percent of Girl Scouts nationwide who achieve the meritorious Gold Award.