Inspirational volunteers | Award winners, Chris and Ben Owen-Brooks

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Committed volunteers make the Movement possible. Chris and Ben Owen-Brooks, a married couple who lead 1st North Worle, a Beaver Colony in Weston-super-Mare, were recently recognised for their outstanding leadership in Scouting. We chatted to them about their win and asked them to share a few tips on top-notch volunteering.

Chris and Ben, you were recently named Leaders of the Year at this year’s Golden Woggle Awards – congratulations! We hear it’s well deserved.  Can you tell us a bit more about the Golden Woggle Awards?

The Golden Woggle Awards is an annual event to celebrate the achievements of Axe District youth members aged 6 to 25 years and our adult volunteers.  There is a range of awards for which members can be nominated. This year’s event, like previous years, took place at The Playhouse Theatre in Weston-super-Mare on Sunday 5 February 2017.

How did you feel about being nominated, and then winning?

When we found out we had been nominated, we were both very excited but also surprised having only been adult volunteers since 2014. We saw this award as being something given to those that have been longstanding volunteers with a wealth of knowledge! Being on stage with the other nominees was amazing. Just to be part of the atmosphere to celebrate young people and adults for their contribution was fantastic. Winning really was the icing on the cake as we didn’t see it coming. It was such a shock to us both!

How long has the Scouting Movement been a part of your lives?

Chris was a Cub Scout and a Scout at 1st Abbotswood, Cotswold Edge. He re-joined in 2014 along with me – I was new to the Movement as an adult volunteer. We joined Scouting as we were interested in adopting a child and as part of this process are required to increase our experience with children. After starting we ‘got hooked’ and thoroughly enjoyed our Beaver meetings and due to a change in the adult volunteers we became Beaver Scout Leader and Assistant Beaver Scout Leader for our Colony.

As leaders, what do you feel you’re doing a bit differently to have had such a positive effect?

All the training we received through the adoption process has given us a great level of knowledge on therapeutic approaches, which has greatly benefitted our more challenging children. It has also given us skills to help better talk to children and be relatable.

What inspires you about the Movement?

The chance to help mould and shape young people and to help them fulfil their potential through fun and adventure, while also ensuring that the adults enjoy the process too.

What challenges you as leaders?

Time! So much to do and so little time!

What are your favourite things about Scouting?

Being outdoors and passing on the enjoyment of being outdoors and the skills it develops.

How would you like to see the Movement grow?

Adults play an important part in the Movement. There are so many enthusiastic young people who would benefit from more enthusiastic adults becoming part of the Movement.

What do you think we still need to overcome as an association?

Administration. Bureaucracy. Getting the right people into the right jobs.

How has volunteering as a couple affected your relationship?

It has brought us closer together. We share between us what we know, pooling our knowledge to bring out the best in our young people. We both know where our strengths and weaknesses are and we use this knowledge to assign jobs to our respective skills.

Do you have advice or tips for other leaders? Any tips for other couples volunteering together?

Don’t question your own skills, don’t take yourself too seriously, and have fun!

What advice do you have for young people facing challenges or prejudice in their lives?

Talk to someone… anyone. Try not to close people out or isolate yourself. The biggest and bravest thing you could ever do is to discuss your feelings with someone and let out any pain or worry you may be feeling.


Image caption (left to right): Assistant District Commisioner Nigel Ball, Ben and Chris Owen-Brooks.

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