Scouting reaches far beyond the campsite.

First published Sunday, February 23, 2014

I have been involved in Scouting for 11 years as a leader, having been a youth member for 3 or 4 years as a teenager (once girls were allowed to join!). For the last 7 years or so, in addition to holding various leadership appointments, I have been part of the county Adult Training Team, responsible for delivering the training scheme to new leaders, and where applicable refresher training to existing leaders.

The Scout Association completely revised the Adult Training Scheme ten years ago, moving to a modular scheme with various options for delivery and access to it. From e-learning to grouping modules together to build a weekend course, the ways in which the training can be accessed has opened it up to a greater number of people from all walks of life, and there is also an option to gain credits from the learning undertaken through the Open College Network, and indeed on completion of a comprehensive number of modules at a particular level, members are also able to apply for membership of the Institute of Leadership and Management.

Today, I donned my trainers hat again, and delivered two modules as part of a weekend long course. Prior to starting the training today, the participants had been asked to prepare a Scouts Own (for those not involved in Scouting, a Scouts Own is essentially an opportunity to reflect, take part in prayer or similar activity, and share experiences – it can take many forms and doesn’t have to be heavily religious). The activity focused around two questions, firstly why the participants had got involved in Scouting, and secondly, what they got from their involvement.

The answers, and the deeply personal contributions these nine people made today, quite literally left me speechless. Some had experienced life changing events that will be forever with them, but through Scouting they have been able to pick up the pieces, and find the strength to get over the challenges and fears that those events left behind. Others had seen what an impact regular involvement for their children was having on the kids, the skills they were developing and the broad range of experiences they were able to enjoy and learn from. All wanted to make a contribution, give something back, help some of today’s young people have a better childhood and young adulthood, access activities and experiences that they otherwise may not be able to.

During the afternoon, we talked about the needs and characteristics of today’s young people, and the things that influence them. In the comparatively short space of time since I was a Scout, the changes that have happened in the world are huge, more so for some of the leaders present today. The influences on young people today, particularly from a social and technological perspective are very different from when I was a child. Again, the comments and contribution from the people in the room were thought provoking, and showed a keen awareness of some of the challenges and difficulties that face our young people, and an obvious wish to play their part in equipping these youngsters with skills and experiences to develop their own individuality, and find ways to cope with and overcome some of the hurdles that life brings.

We rarely hear about these people, and the contribution they make to these kids. We don’t hear about their own personal experiences and how Scouting has given them a greater sense of self and value. The leaders I have met today and been privileged to work with as I’ve delivered part of their training, are unsung heroes. They are amazing individuals, giving up a portion of their time to help others, provide something for them, asking only to know that they’re making a difference in return.

Scouting is not just about camping, tying knots and singing songs around a campfire. It is much more than that. It is a worldwide Movement, and one that delivers a great deal of good. It teaches young people, and adults, how to be responsible citizens, how to treat and respect others, understand and accept our similarities and differences. These days, 107 years on from when the Movement was founded by Lord Robert Baden-Powell, it has stood the test of time, and continues to do so. It is so much more than camping.

Find out more about Scouting in the UK, and how you can get involved by clicking here.

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