Unsurprisingly this year (2020) has been a challenging year for scouting. Today is the anniversary of Baden-Powell’s experimental camp in 1907 at Brownsea Island near Poole. It was his time in Africa as a soldier that taught him the impact of giving opportunity for young people to develop skills for life (boys at the time but it’s open to all now).
Traditional scouting is associated with adventure, and adventure teaches resilience whether it’s taking a bit of risk climbing a mountain, lighting a fire, or standing up at a campfire and leading a good old sing along.
It therefore seems fitting, on this anniversary to make an appeal to you, because frankly, we are facing a bit of a local crisis in scouting, we simply don’t have enough regular, committed, adult volunteers. There are a number of reasons why this has been exacerbated during Covid, ranging from unfamiliarity with technology solutions that replaced face-to-face scouting, to overwhelming demands on key workers. There is a high proportion of older adults in the leadership, and there is also a high proportion of key workers.
My own experience of being a beaver and now Cub Scout leader has left me gravely concerned about the situation both within my own group (45th Cheltenham) and the Cheltenham district as a whole.
Volunteering as an adult in scouting can take many forms, and as I often say – it’s no fun doing it on your own. Scouting is all about teamwork. Scouting teaches teamwork to the children, and it teaches teamwork to the adults. We ‘engineer’ circumstances for the children that force teamwork so they see the benefit, and the nature of a voluntary organisation forces teamwork to the forefront in the adults too. That’s just one of the many life skills we develop in our members.
There are around 500,000 young people in scouting around the U.K. and countless millions around the world. Being part of scouting is about being part of something bigger than yourself, bigger than your community, and bigger than any single governed jurisdiction. Scouting is recognised by the UN as an important contribution to global cooperation through common purpose. I am proud to be associated with that.
In particular, during lockdown, scouting has provided proven emotional and mental support to youngsters (and their parents) across the country, at a time when they are separated from school friends, and parents are busy and worried about the future. We’ve been posting resources, running online meetings via Zoom, and even staging county and national camps at home. It’s been the highlight of the week for me, and the young people in our group.
If you get involved, by giving what ever time as you are able to, I can guarantee you will find something that chimes with your motivation and values. You will learn things, you will have new experiences, you will make new friends, you will have just as much fun as the young people.
Scouts is not school – there aren’t league tables, there are no exams, it’s all about trying your best at something, and discovering some thing new about yourself and the friends you make. In a school there is just one teacher plus perhaps a TA who look after 30 kids in a sterile, controlled environment of a classroom. The real world is not a sterile controlled environment, there are a whole range of skills for life that can’t be learnt in that setting. We do things where we need adult ratios to be 1:6 or 1:8, by doing this we can push the young people to try new things.
Scouting teaches the value of diversity – we work in mixed age groups, sometimes it’s the youngest person who has the best idea, or the oldest person the longest leap to get everyone to the finishing line.
Wherever you live, you will not be far from a scout group, some meet in obvious places like a traditional scout hut, others meet at schools or churches. A few google searches will soon find your local group.
In Cheltenham, as an example, we have 15 scout groups, with active Beaver, Cub and Scout sections. They all have waiting lists of young people queuing up to join, but we can’t do it without your help. Likewise across the county and nation you will find a local group who will be glad for your help. All training is provided, and you can help occasionally, or every week, you could serve on an executive committee as an enabler for the busy section leaders to spend more time on running their meetings and less time on the administration aspects. There’s loads of ways to help! Incredibly there is still a bit of a wide myth that the leaders are paid, we’re not! We take subscription fees, but that is all spent on insurance, maintaining property and equipment, booking activities and of course buying al those well earned badges for the uniforms and camp blankets!
So please… Get in touch and we’ll be happy to tell you more and help you get involved.