When we volunteer at Scouts, we do so in the hope that we might exert a measure of positive influence on the young people. From the youngest Squirrels all the way up to our oldest Explorers, every activity, each routine meeting in a barn, or hut, or village hall, has the potential to spark a new interest. We are change makers.
Those influences may not be immediately apparent, but when we volunteer, we act as a catalyst for personal growth and development. ‘Skills for Life’ is more than just a slogan, or hashtag on social media, it is the very essence of Scouting: imparting new abilities, unearthing fresh talent, and equipping young people with the fundamentals they need for adult life.
Last October, West Pang ESU ran a week-long camp in the Peak District, staying at Linnet Clough campsite. Alongside on-site activities like zip wire and crate stacking, the Unit also explored Manchester where they visited the Projekts MCR skatepark for an introduction to skateboarding. For many, the thought of hopping on a board underneath the Mancunian Way flyover came with some trepidation. Yet, embracing the true Explorer Scout spirit, they all gave it a go.
One of those Explorers was 14-year-old Beanie, who listened intently to every instruction as she embarked tentatively on her first skate experience. It was certainly a more graceful attempt than some of her fellow Explorers, who threw caution to the wind – safety gear deployed – and launched themselves around the unique park layout.
The two-hour session left an indelible mark on Beanie – not through injury, we hasten to add – who then requested a skateboard from her less than excited parents. Mum Katharine, a Squirrel and Beaver Scout volunteer at 1st Purley & Pangbourne smiled through with a ‘thanks for that’ comment to the Explorer leaders, but fully supported the new passion.
Fast forward a few months, into 2023, Beanie continues to dust off her board for the odd skate about the village, but her passion has now extended to the Drey where she is a Young Leader. A recent session involving bikes and scooters also had the added fun of a skateboarding Squirrel!
Five-year-old Ukrainian refugee Yarik, one of the first Squirrels invested into 1st P&P’s inaugural Drey, was given some expert insight from Beanie into how to skateboard safely, using all the skills taught during that Manchester session.
“I never thought I would be good at skateboarding but I really enjoyed the session,” said Beanie. “With the instructors help, I was able to do more than I thought and wanted to carry on once I got home. On our wheelie night, Yarik bought his skateboard with him but hadn’t really used it much, I was able to show him some of the things I had been taught and we were able to skateboard back to the barn together.”
As the pair boarded side by side in unison, it highlighted that it’s not just young people who can be inspired to take up a new sport or hobby, it’s all those transferable skills that they then pass onto those just starting on their Scouting journey.
Yarik’s mum Tetiana said: “My son can’t ride a bike, and I was sorry that he doesn’t have his dad here, who could teach him. So, when I was watching how Beanie taught him to ride a skateboard, I was happy that someone professional is teaching him, someone to whom he may listen, take as an example of and learn a new skill.”
This is the beauty of 360-degree Scouting, from the seed of an activity idea, nurtured by adult volunteers, grows an experience that lasts a lifetime, and in turn creates a shared moment across the generations. Next time you see a skateboarding Squirrel, you know that it is Scouting that has made that possible.