Why Am I here?

For many of us the first few weeks of September signify the start of the Scouting year, it’s also typically the time to hold our County AGM and the County Commissioners chance to give a report on what has happened in Gloucestershire in the last 12 months.

It was with much trepidation I stood up in front of 40 or so Scouters to tell them what had gone on in Gloucestershire, but before I launched into my report I asked a question. Pause, for a second, and ponder this…

Why are you here?

…So why am I here? Why am I the Acting County Commissioner? Why do I Scout?

I am here because back in May 2016 I said ‘Yes’ to Hamish Stout, our Regional Commissioner, when asked if I would be prepared to become the Acting County Commissioner.

I am here because, as many of my friends will tell you, I have an inability to say ‘No’. In fact I’ve got a message on my phone from one Scouting friend who I asked advice from when deciding whether I should take on the acting role. They said, I shouldn’t take it on, and then finished their message with ‘You are mad, completely bonkers, I’ll support you all the way’.

But why am I really here?

I’m here because 22 years ago, as a quivering 6 year old, my mother held my hand and walked me through the door of Selsley Scout Hut, in Stroud and Tetbury, for my first night of Beavers and what was to become the start of my Scouting adventure. I remember the night vividly, there was a charity sale going on, I begged my mum for some money and bought a toy tractor in blue and grey. I made new friends, we did Beavery stuff, we went outside and jumped off the bank into a big pile of fresh grass cuttings. (Which in hindsight was a bad idea – 1. My mum was not amused over the grass stains in my lovely grey uniform. 2. Someone had spent a long time making the pile of grass cuttings which we destroyed in minutes!)

I’m here because for 22 years volunteers have given their free time, invested their free time in me. I’ve been helped to grab opportunities that I wouldn’t have had; I’ve met and made life long friends I wouldn’t have known; and I’ve learnt things about myself that I wouldn’t have learnt.

For 22 years volunteers with a passion for Scouting have given their time to me, and it’s a passion I’ve now got. A passion and a belief in Scouting and what it offers to young people. A passion that each, and every volunteer in our movement shares. A passion that means we deliver high quality programmes to young people week in week out. A passion that has helped us grow Scouting in Gloucestershire again.

In the 2016 census our we had 71 new young people join the movement, and I strongly suspect we will see a further increase in the number of Cubs due to the fantastic events and activities that have been going on for Cubs 100. We also had a 175 increase in the number of adults – I’ll let you decide if that is connected in anyway to the removal of membership fees for adults.

It’s fair to say there have been a number of challenges in our County (and indeed nationally) in the last 12 months:

  • Compass – it’s been a difficult journey the last 12 months, and some would say we did loose our way (the puns don’t get any better). But things are much better now and we are moving in the right direction. We need to say a particular big thank you to all the managers, district secretaries and compass champions who’ve had to pick up the pieces, thank you for perservering.
  • DofE – as a County we were not operating at an acceptable standard, and through a committed effort from DofE Leaders, DofE Advisors and leaders we are now working to high standards.
  • Pete Richardsons recent departure from Cranham, where he was centre manager for 5 years. The Executive have commissioned a report into Cranham so they can better understand the centre, how it’s run and all the other pieces involved with it. I would like to thank the Cranham Management Committee for their continued hard work, especially in the last few weeks where they have been busy trying to recruit temporary cover to March next year.
  • Paul Trott’s announcement at the AGM last year that he was looking to step down, and the subsequent search for the next County Commissioner.

But…its been a great year too

  • Tom Harding, our County Trainer Manager, has been successful in recruiting Local Training Managers to cover all Districts.
  • 81 Scouts achieved their Chief Scout Award
  • 80 Young People achieved their Platinum and Diamond Awards, Young Leader Buckles, DofE Bronze and Silver Awards.
  • We’ve had every section offered the opportunity to camp in the last 12 months – 172 Beavers at County Camp, 650 Cubs at the Cubs100 Camp at Rhydd Covert (where your’s truly was conned into being Alex the Lion! I must say I feel emmense pride in the roaring success this camp was, and the team behind it should remember that despite all the heartache, blood, sweat and tears the maine thing was the Cubs all had an amazing time!) As well 89 Explorers at Beast last year.
  • The Strategy and Evolution events were successful yet again with 1,250 Scouts and Guides at Strategy; and 360 Explorers, Network members and Rangers at Evolution.

So what does the future hold?

  • I’m looking at the County structure and how best to rebuild the County team so as to offer better support to Districts, Groups and Leaders.
  • Lauren Greening is forging ahead with reminding people across the County that Youth Shaped Scouting should be at the heart of what we do.
  • There’s going to be another year of fantastic County events – Beast, S&E and a refreshed Chief Scout Awards.
  • We have been chosen to be the second County to get the support offered by the Pears Project, which will help us develop Scouting across Gloucestershire.

I’ll leave you with one final thought that was put to me while dealing with a difficult issue earlier this year, something I think all leaders think when the going is hard. Only one person has a right to Scout – that is a young person aged 6 to 25; for everyone else being able to Scout is a privilege. A privilege I’m proud to say I have.