Alderney is the most northern of the Channel Islands, just eight miles from the French coast, 80 miles from England and home to 2,000 people. It has a strong Scouting presence but one full of many challenges as Wayne found out when he visited.
I was lucky enough to spend 48 hours last week in Alderney, where I had responsibilities through Scouting and also as the Vice Chair of the Youth Partnership for Guernsey and Alderney. I got to experience a great insight into the challenges of a small community (the Island is just 3.5 miles x 1.5 miles).
Joining the local youth club and Cubs and Scouts, the following evening provided a great opportunity to hear from the young people about their good and not so good parts. I also had meetings with many volunteers in and out of Scouting and a meeting with lead politicians and civil servants, which covered all spectrums.
The economic and other challenges can be summed up for me in the single statistic: the number of 5-16-year-olds attending the local school has fallen from 300 to just 130 over the past few years. The number is likely to fall in coming months as more families are trying to sell their properties and move.
A thriving sense of community
Such challenges didn’t dampen the aspirations of the young people; they didn’t have a long list of ‘wants’ (we asked the question ‘what could we do for you’), other than an indoor swimming pool, and were genuinely appreciative of what the island offered. The Scouts were still fully excited about their weekend in Guernsey. All in all, a very impressive group of young people.
Of course, there are local politics and personality clashes of any small community, but the overwhelming sense is one of a community pulling together, to help each other, and provide opportunities for their young people. Scouting is very much part of this, with most young people under 11 and large number of those under 14 being either Scouts or Guides. Parents have stepped forward to help leaders who have had to take a break.
On the other side
The past week included a wide variety of conference calls and other discussions, including a day in London meeting the CEO and Chief Commander of St John Ambulance and Dan Wood, CC of Avon. Our search group for the Chief Commissioner of Wales met and I was also involved in a couple of problems within a District and a County (well, I can’t only get to do the good stuff, although thankfully it’s by far the lion share of what I get up to).