1,000 Scouts + lots of wind, rain and mud = "a fab weekend"
On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting the recently appointed Governor General of the Solomon Islands (in London I hasten to add and not the South Pacific!).
As Governor General, Sir Frank is also Chief Scout of the Solomon Islands Branch and it was a pleasure to meet with him to introduce Scouting during his visit. It is a little known fact that we have 14 such branches, predominantly in the Caribbean, South Pacific as well as Gibraltar. In addition we have another 20 British Groups Abroad dotted around the Globe.
On Thursday I was the guest speaker at Girl Guiding Guernsey’s Centenary Dinner and took the opportunity to share with them some of our Centenary experiences, recognise their achievements over the past 100 years and toast their success for the next 100.
As in so many local areas across the UK, Scouting and Guiding has strong links locally and it was very nice to be again amongst friends. I had been a little concerned when I learned beforehand that since I was their guest speaker at their AGM in 2003, they had not had another guest!
Back to Gilwell on Friday to spend the afternoon and evening in the office catching up with more paperwork and reviewing visit requests etc. On Saturday I had the real pleasure of joining 1,000 Hertfordshire Scouts who were at Gilwell for the weekend for their annual Green Beret Challenge.
In its 26th year, they had 121 teams of between 6 and 8 Scouts despite the atrocious weather. The teams are divided to ensure an even split of ages and experience within each team. They earned points from activities as varied as orienteering, an assault course based on Gilwell’s ‘Challenge Valley’ and participating in up to 40 different activity bases as well as a night challenge.
Interestingly most of the bases had been developed and were manned by Explorer Scouts from within the County, many of whom had enjoyed participating in Green Beret in earlier years. I certainly thoroughly enjoyed my 2 hours on Saturday morning, despite the high winds and heavy rain showers which were a feature of the whole weekend!
Mid morning and it was off to join the East of England District Commissioners Conference, where more than 80 DCs from across the region had joined for their weekend conference and a variety of workshops aimed at enabling them to develop and support Scouting within their Districts. Their commitment to flexibility was certainly demonstrated by their impressive response to periodic power “outages” throughout the day and evening and which were thankfully addressed in time for dinner!
A further drive across to Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, to join the team delivering the Development, Advice and Support (“DAS”) days for dinner before joining the West Midlands Region on Sunday for their DAS day. These days are aimed at Assistant County Commissioners and Assistant District Commissioners who are directly responsible for providing practical support to leaders within their Counties and Districts.
During the day they receive an update on national initiatives and forthcoming activities before breaking into their various groups where they discuss specific topics or support areas relating to their area and have an opportunity to feed into the national teams, topics discussed at their District Leader meetings for example.
I sat in on a number of the sessions to get a better feel for what is happening but one tip in particular that I came across from the Cub section (they were discussing development plans and in particular how best to provide skills training to leaders without encroaching too much on their time) was from a District where they had split their District Leaders meetings in two, with the first half dealing with business and the second half of the meeting being devoted to a skills session
.As a result of balancing the meetings they had increased participation with all groups now regularly represented, and more skills training. Any other suggestions?
We also saw on Friday and over the weekend the unfortunate repercussions of the actions of a single individual, in this case an Explorer Scout in Romford, and the damage it can do to all young people and Scouting. Like all of you I am sure, I was shocked and appalled at the comments this young man had made, however I took a lot of comfort from the speed at which the issue was acted upon locally and by the County Commissioner and the fact that Scouting’s educational approach was being used to address the issue with the boy concerned and his Explorer Scout Unit.
Once again, however, significant miss-reporting of the event maligned our half a million members and just goes to underline why we should be extremely careful with our behaviour and comments at all times.