Frankly, I wasn’t too aware of what Scouts are about until my boyfriend (let us call him Chris) essentially roped me into it a few months ago. Somehow I’d managed to miss it through my childhood (despite the movement being apparently rather big where I was born) and now I sort of act as an extra pair of hands that would probably be somewhere around Chris’ immediate vicinity. Believe me, they need a lot of extra pairs of hands sometimes.
Once I’m acquainted to it, however, I can’t help but admire the spirit of Scouting. Parents are often enticed in when their young children joined; they are greeted with the greatest Scouting myth: “oh, don’t worry. It’s only an hour a week!”. Others joined as children and never left, moving up the different groups until they become leaders themselves.
What do they actually do? They gather for a few hours a week to do… Whatever they fancy. Whatever the leaders organised. Do various activities, hone a diverse range of skills, work towards badges and awards, explore the area by various means, eat together, just have a laugh with friends in the neighbourhood. Every so often, they would go on camps of various sizes and scales – I recently experienced the insanity of dating someone who was part of the team running an international camp.
What the vast army of volunteers have in common is their unrelenting effort to enrich the lives of the children and teenagers that come through their unit. Whether it be giving their own time to occupy some hours of these young people’s evenings, creating a space for them to be able to make friends and connections, or giving them opportunities to do new things, the volunteers in their own way better the lives of these young people.
The founder of this movement, Robert Baden-Powell, has said one or two extremely widely-quoted phrases. My favourite of these is “leave this world a little better than you found it”. Well, this army of volunteers is the very embodiment of Baden-Powell’s words.