I know what you’re thinking, scouts that’s the weird one with a funny scarf thing, right? Wrong (okay well a little bit right, but there is more to it than that). The media posts countless images of us hiking up mountains and rowing boats, less of us drinking tea and singing songs! If anyone watched the movie Up, you may have been led to believe that all scouts live for collecting badges. On the contrary I think I have tried to put new badges onto my uniform once and even at that it was with wonderweb, and they fell off in the wash. I love the outdoors, the beach is my favourite place in the world and nothing makes me happier than sleeping in a tent, but I’m no Bear Grylls and that’s okay. I’ve been a sea scout for over 10 years now, and sometimes I struggle tying my shoelaces never mind knots! The best thing about scouting is that there’s a place for everyone regardless.
I remember my mam asking what my favourite thing about camping was when I was 9 years old. “Aw definitely dinner time!” I beamed. She gave me that look, you know the I love you but you’re a weirdo, that one. We’d eaten those tinned meatballs with soggy pasta one too many times, the food was far from spectacular. Not surprisingly, the dinner wasn’t really my favourite thing about dinner time, it was the people who ate it with me. There was something so special about sitting with 20 other 9 year olds, laughing over an old joke book someone had got for Christmas, and eating our soggy pasta. It was family. The people will always be my favourite aspect of scouting, no matter what we’re eating.
The founder of scouting, Sir Baden Powell said “The most worth-while thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others”. I am now in ventures (15 to 18 year olds), and we are very much in charge of our programme and what we do. Every winter we try to do something to help the homeless community in our town, from food appeals to dignity packs. We also help out with the younger sections and fundraise for the RNLI. We are given the freedom and space to do good and make change if we so wish. Scouting has provided me and thousands of others with the opportunity to make and be change. This would not be possible without our scouters, they really are in one in a million! Scouting is an organisation like no other in that it authentically supports young people to do what they want and care about. So, if it’s camping in Galway on your own, fundraising for a charity or just spending a whole meeting drinking cups of tea, it is up to you!
Like toilets are perfect breeding grounds to germs, scouting is this to friendship. I’ve never been sure why, but scouts just seems to make forging friendships so easy. People you may have never spoke to, become close friends. Take me (an outspoken atheist), and my friend (an altar boy). We are as different as we sound and yet we still manage to get on somehow! On one of the hardest days of my life, I saw two girls standing outside my mam’s funeral in full scout uniform. They smiled at me, in a way that made me realise they’d be there. Before this day, we weren’t friends to say the least, now they’re two of my best! Scouting is about loyalty and sticking together. Scouts has taught me how to make lifelong friends in a weekend. From Cork to France we’re all over the world! Scouting friendships are unique to any other. I could wear a full face of makeup, or my hair in a messy bun with no eyebrows drawn on, down to scouts and I would get the same reaction. It is the only community that I’ve ever been a part of where you will be judged on how you treat others and what you do rather than how you look and what you wear. As I’ve said there are so many different characters in scouting and that is because you are given the freedom to be whoever it is that you are. It’s as if as soon as you put on your necko you get a whole new attitude too. So what, if that guy wants to wear a onesie for the whole camp, you like ancient Russian literature? Oh that’s cool. In scouts doing whatever it is that makes you happy is totally acceptable. Scouting is about being yourself and not judging others for doing the same.
My life would be a very different place without scouting, not because I’ve hiked up mountains or sailed in lakes but because of who was there with me. It has taught me countless lessons about first aid and sea safety but the most important life skill I’ve ever learnt is to love and to be loved. In the words of Baden Powell “Try leave this world a little better than you found it.” I hope we all get the opportunity to achieve this.
There’s also a scouting blog, where other young people have submitted some beautiful things. Have a look!