Happy Founder's Day

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I spent Monday visiting the Scout and Guide Association of the Czech Republic, Junak, with Nigel, our International Commissioner and Andy our Manager, International & Activities team.

As part of my own induction and personal development I wish to learn more about Scouting in different countries.  Junak are particularly interesting because in their 98 year history, Scouting has been banned in their country on 3 occasions.  One of their Vice Presidents that we met had been confined for 11 years of his life because of Scouting, something very difficult for us to comprehend. 

With 45,000 members it was interesting to share many common challenges and to explore ideas on how we are able to help each other address them.  Junak for example have just relaunched their youth programme and also have a range of bi-monthly magazines for youth members as well as adults.  They have also just completed the launch of their new membership system and on-line census data collection.

As a joint Scout and Guide association I was also interested to understand how that works in practice (there are a number of discussions currently within WOSM and WAGGS regarding joint organisations).

Much of the rest of the week was spent catching up with a vast amount of administration and writing various articles. Included within this were the announcements of the Chief Commissioners of England which you will hopefully have seen in Scouting Plus and on the website.

As I have said before I am very pleased that by thinking differently in how we approach appointments such as these, and those at local level, if we can be more flexible we can attract a wider group of potential volunteers. 

We also spent the Saturday before last interviewing 10 short listed candidates, half under the age of 30, as I’ve said before we were particularly impressed by all of them and have identified a number of opportunities for them locally as well as nationally to continue their personal development and hopefully be in even stronger position to apply for similar roles in the near future.

A quick change of travel plans for Saturday when I visited South Wales to avoid the snow in the Midlands.  Torfaen District Scouts had taken over the local shopping centre in Cwmbran for the day to showcase Scouting with a mixture of activities that included crafts, pioneering, raft building, woggle making and knotting and abseiling off the top of a five story office block in the centre of the development.

It was great to see over 200 members happily participating in the middle of a very busy shopping centre, in uniform. A large number of the members of the public were taking advantage of the opportunity to ‘have a go’ at the activities.  The bouldering wall in particular was very popular.

It was also an opportunity at the end of the afternoon to celebrate the achievements of several members with the presentation of several Chief Scout's Awards two Queen's Scout Awards. 

Kieren (18) who has Aspergers Syndrome was very proud to explain that support from his leaders and personal development that Scouting had enabled him to do, played a very large part in helping him overcome the difficulties that he had experienced and Richard (25) seemed to have travelled much of the world in attaining his Queen's Scout Award and perhaps unsurprisingly is now Scouts Wales’ International Commissioner!

In one of those rare moments of weakness I was persuaded by members of the 40 strong and very successful FreeSpirit Explorer Scout Unit to join Jill, Chief Commissioner of Wales, in abseiling down the wall.

Those of you that have found me on Facebook will know that all went well with a fairly textbook descent except that I was so busy listening to the cameraman’s shouts of ‘look here Wayne’ that I forgot that I might actually get to the bottom rather quicker than I had expected.  I was grateful to have a large cushion behind me to soften my fall!

In the evening it was on to Monmouthshire’s DAFDA (District and Area Founders Day Awards) for dinner and celebrations. This was a large social gathering for leaders and supporters from the Area and a very nice way to thank individuals through the presentation of awards by each of the 4 Districts for special achievements outside of the normal awards programme.

For me, it was great to be able to talk to so many volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and level of engagement with the Movement.  A good example of several conversations I had was with Stefan, who explained that he had recently been approached along with some friends by his former Scout Leader, Roger, to ask if they would re-open their old Sea Scout group which had been closed for 5 years. 

Stefan explained that he was very happy to help because he had such great memories of his Scouting and was very proud of how it had helped shape his life for the better. The troop, having reopened, now has 16 boys and girls and they are busy working on regaining their RN recognition. Roger continuesto support them in the background.  There were so many other interesting stories that will keep me going for weeks to come.

And so it is that we once again celebrate Founder's Day safe in the knowledge that our movement is going from strength to strength and certainly if my day in Gwent is anything to go by, will for a very long time to come.

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