When I started this article, the world was witnessing the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19) but the impact wasn’t being felt here in the UK. How times have changed.
Never in the Scouts’ history have we experienced something quite like this: the national suspension of all face-to-face Scout meetings, activities and events. Life in the movement, as we knew it, stopped with no idea when we will start up again. It’s clear that this isn’t a sprint but a marathon, although we don’t know where the finish line is. How will we carry on?
Despite this challenge, the Scouts haven’t hidden away. Instead, we’re adapting to the new situation whilst getting ready for when we return to normality, whenever that might be. As the proverb goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. There’s been a considerable amount of inventive ideas borne out of the current situation, most of which is using digital technology. The ideas have been amazing with people acting swiftly to fill the void of face-to-face activities.
There’s already been some fantastic ways of Scouting differently focussed on keeping our young people engaged whilst following the Government’s social distancing and self-isolation guidance.
Scout HQ quickly launched its 'The Great Indoors' programme ideas. In Hampshire, we’re supporting the national effort with groups coming up with their own great ideas for their sections and Districts doing likewise.
A great example is Basingstoke East team’s ‘Scouting at Home’ online tool which will help young people continue completing badges at home. Sections and groups around the country have signed up to this page. The County team continues to do what we do best: to support Scouting. Our own Coronavirus information page has gained national plaudits.
I don’t want to lose other good news in the noise of Coronavirus, so here are a few highlights.
The 2019 census shows that Hampshire Scouts is giving more young people than ever in its history the opportunity to Scout. We also have our largest number of adult volunteers. The results of our annual census, taken on 31 January every year, shows, once again, that Hampshire is the largest Scouting county in the UK and that, for the first time ever, our membership broke through 26,000. We have 18,599 young people (5-18) which is up by 493 on last year, and 7,405 adult volunteers which is up by 140. That represents a 3% increase in young people, 2% in adults and an overall increase of 633 members or 2%. To put that in context, regionally (we belong to the South East Region of England) we achieved the largest growth both in numbers and overall percentage.
What does this mean? In short, it means that our adult volunteers and young people are working hard to make Scouting attractive and relevant today, ensuring that everyone gets #skillsforlife.
Despite the current suspension of Scout activities, the steps we’re taking to do things differently will ensure we keep all our young people and adults engaged and active so that we can continue to give even more young people the chance to Scout, even in the face of adversity.
We’ve also seen some amazing adults recognised for their exceptional service to Scouting with Peter Moody, the ex-County Chair, being awarded the Silver Wolf - the Scout Association’s highest good service award - for his service to Hampshire Scouts.
John Le Riche was also awarded with his Silver Wolf for his service to Winchester District. And, Brian Calver, has been awarded a Bar to the Silver Acorn for his Scouting service.
Making history in Hampshire Scouts was Chloe Foster who was the first young person to achieve every Top Award in Scouts when she completed her Scouts of the World Award. Congratulations to her and my thanks to the Hampshire Scouts Top Awards team for the support they give to everyone doing these awards.
So, whilst the organisation adjusts to the new world we currently live in, it’s clear to me that despite the challenges everyone is facing in their own lives, the spirit of the Scouts is alive and well with everyone pulling together to help one another.
Whilst we’re delivering much of what we do differently now, we’re always preparing for what comes next. My thanks to everyone for their fantastic efforts.