Lily Petyt, Emily Chabalier, Vicky Fety-Pam and Simone Garvey are all USA Girls Scouts from Paris Cadette Troop 35 and were awarded the Girls Scout Silver Award.
They decided to teach children the Heimlich manoeuvre as Simone had learned it when at school in the US and had used it to save her younger brother when she was the only one in the room to recognise he was choking.
The technique is not well-known in France and Vicky said “Kids don’t know what to do if they see someone choking. All they would do is panic or maybe call an ambulance. We wanted to help.”
Choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in the US and it takes just four minutes without air for brain damage to occur while choking.
The girls first held Heimlich workshops in Paris and suburbs then created a video, interviewed medical experts, designed a website, produced pamphlets in both French and English, were interviewed on a children’s expat radio programme and raised money to finance the training materials which they have donated to USA Girl Scouts in Paris.
Troop leader Kimberley Petyt is proud of them: “It is really a cool thing they won this award. It is quite hard to find ways of working in the community here and this was a really great project.”
She said the USA Girls Scouts were not just outdoor camping and hiking, though that had its place: “We focus on giving leadership skills and the tools to succeed in any project they take up. Teachers have said when pupils look for work experience in 3ème they stand out as they know how to work in a team, delegate, write a CV and are organised.”
The USA Girl Scouts was created in 1912 based on the UK Girl Guides and there are groups all over the world. Paris branch has been running since 1949 with 300 girl scouts in troops throughout the capital. There are more than 100 adult volunteers.
Mrs Petyt says it lets American girls, who are often in French schools, keep in touch with home culture: “I started the troop because my daughter was in a French school with no American friends. We like to show the fun aspect, learning songs and celebrating Thanksgiving as well as promoting community service and giving back to society.”