Growing the Movement: DIY Scouting

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When her son couldn’t get into Scouts locally, Emma Manly took matters into her own hands and set up her own Cub Pack.

Some little boys dream of being astronauts, or becoming heavyweight champion of the world. But Henry Manley just wanted to become a Scout when he was old enough. ‘I liked adventuring, so I thought if I join Scouts I’ll get to go on lots of adventures,’ Henry, now 10, explains. ‘And my dad used to go Scouts, so I wanted to do the things he used to do.’

Scouting was in the family heritage. ‘Henry’s grandmother helped run the Beavers in Perranporth for 15 years,’ Emma Manley, Henry’s mum and volunteer at 1st Goonhavern Scout Group, explains. One day, Henry found his dad’s old necker and uniform in the cupboard and tried it on. It was the start of a long wait to get into a real Scout Group. 

When Henry was approaching Beaver age, Emma discovered that, for miles in each direction, every Group in their corner of Cornwall was full-to-bursting. There was no chance of getting her son into one of these Groups so Emma took matters into her own hands, and tried to start her own Beaver Colony. ‘I was on a one-woman crusade,’ she says. ‘Lots of people said they would help and that their kids would love it, but no one would commit.’ Without the support, Emma couldn’t do it alone, and was forced to admit defeat. 

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A couple of years later, Emma met Tina, another parent with a child who desperately wanted to join Scouting. Tina was a kindred spirit: motivated, active and responsible. ‘Both of our kids had swimming lessons together,’ Emma recalls. ‘Most of the planning for the new Cub Pack was done at the pool, waiting for them to finish their lessons.’ Both saw the value of Scouting for their children: the opportunity to try new things, gain skills and meet new people.

Initially, it was difficult to find the right person to speak to about opening a Pack, but they soon managed to get in touch with Sally Bartlett, Senior Growth and Development Officer at the Regional Services Team (RST). With the support of the District Commissioner, Brian Martin, the local volunteers and national support staff were able to work together to create a plan for a sustainable new Group. Sally and her team visited 1st Goonhavern and ran a taster night of Scouting activities for the local young people. ‘You couldn’t move for all the people,’ Emma recalls. ‘It was really, really popular. And 70-80% of the people who came that night have now joined and come regularly.’

After the taster session came four structured Cubs evenings. ‘At the first Cubs meeting, everyone was new, so we were just getting to know each other,’ Henry recalls. ‘I was very proud that my mum had started it, and I thought it would all work out well.’ Sally’s team ran the first sessions with Emma and Tina following their lead, but soon full control was handed over to the new leaders, encouraging them to take ownership of their Pack. Slowly, the RST pulled back, but the new Pack continued to be supported by a part-time project supporter for the first four months.

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From the very start, despite not having a background in Scouting, the fledgling team was brave and resourceful. ‘We learned the Grand Howl from YouTube,’ Emma recalls. ‘We were winging it the first few times.’ They utilised ideas from the RST, like creating a parent rota for extra help, and were immediately successful, starting with 25 young people and growing to 36 within a few weeks. ‘We properly got going in February 2015,’ Emma says, ‘and in June we went on our first camp. People couldn’t believe we were taking the Cubs away so soon!’

Now, the Cub Pack has grown into a full and active Group, with a Beaver Colony and a Scout Troop opening a few weeks. Henry will be moving up at Christmas. ‘I think Scouts will be fun because we’re older and we can do more exciting things,’ Henry says, although he admits he'll be sad to be leaving his friends behind in Cubs.

Finding the support to set up the Group up wasn’t easy, but Emma’s determination to offer her son the chance to participate in Scouting was as admirable as it was unwavering. When Henry puts on his Scout shirt for the first time later this year, and tightens the woggle on his dad’s old scarf, which he wears each week, he’s not just doing what he loves: he’s also getting the chance to improve his future. ‘I feel proud that I’ve got a mum who can give me chances like this,’ he says with wisdom that belies his age. ‘I’m really happy I’ve had this chance to be a Scout.’

Inspired to do what Emma did? Find out more about the Regional Services Team, and talk to your DC about the development support available in your area.

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