‘The Aim of Scouting Ireland is to encourage the physical, intellectual, character, emotional, social and spiritual development of young people so that they may achieve their full potential and, as responsible citizens, to improve society’.
This is the aim of Scouting Ireland. Now if you were to look through the media reports of the recent days you would definitely want to question that. What I intend to do here to tell you about my experience in Scouting and why what Minister Zappone said in the Dáil Chamber in February 2019, was malicious and even though she felt it was her duty to tell parents about Tusla’s findings, it has done more harm to the organisation.
The Minister said to the nearly empty Dáil chamber that she had been given a report from Tusla (The Child and Family Agency). The major takeaway that has been used by the media is the line that states ‘consideration should be given to the viability of continuing with overnight scouting trips.’
This has been the last nail in the coffin to some of us in the organisation. Many feel we are done and they feel there’s no going back. To this I say, we will! I know this because of who we are. We walk the hills in the lashings of rain. We put our tents up in the strongest of winds. We constantly go through hardship and come out of it all the better. That is how I’m choosing to look at this situation.
If we look at the Minister and Tusla as the rain. They are pelting down on us and trying to stop us in our tracks. The media is the wind. They are blowing us down and we’re continuing to try and get that tent up but then a stronger gust comes along and the tent is back on the ground. What we need to remember is what we usually do in these situations. When it rains, we get out the rain gear and soldier on. When it’s windy, we get more pegs and strengthen the tent.
We will put our rain gear on, that rain gear is the change we need. We’re going to change what is needed and then keep going. We will put down more pegs. The pegs are the strength we have always had. We are going to keep going and get better.
It is not easy to be in Scouting in times like these. What I am trying to do is to remember all the good that scouting has done for me in my life. Without scouting I would not be the person I am today. I would not be able to stand up in front of crowds of people to give presentations. I would not be able to stand and sing a campfire song with my peers. I wouldn’t be able to recognise when I need to take a break for my own good. I wouldn’t have the friends I have today. I certainly wouldn’t have the practical skills I have today – rowing, sailing, kayaking, cooking, pioneering, orienteering, map reading, hiking, first aid, bivouacking and so much more. My life would be nothing like it is today without scouting.
Now we all have done something that has made us think twice. None of us are perfect, just like Scouting Ireland isn’t perfect. We cannot ignore the faults and failings of this organisation. To improve, we must realise the mistakes.
The Board of Scouting Ireland has shown how did the right thing to refute the findings in Tusla’s letter. They showed how they were determined to take this seriously. They also showed that they knew the membership were worried. There are many great leaders all around this country. They do hours upon hours of volunteering each and every week to benefit children. I had the pleasure of receiving this beneficial work from leaders for 12 years as a youth member, and now I am giving back by becoming a leader and helping to run a scout section. It is this work that I love the most about being in scouts. I have fond memories from being a youth member and I am gathering more from being a leader.
We all go through the same training. The Garda Vetting, the Safeguarding courses, the refreshers, the years of courses that follow these basic ones to ensure we are the best leaders we can be. This is what we need to remember when we feel as if we’re in the wrong. We’ve done all we can and now it’s time for the top to ensure we continue to do all we can.
I think the best way to end this piece is with my Promise, and I’d encourage any member of Scouting that is reading this to recite it proudly.
ON MY HONOUR I PROMISE TO DO MY BEST! TO DO MY DUTY! TO UPHOLD OUR SCOUT PRINCIPLES! TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE AND TO LIVE BY THE SCOUT LAW!
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