Do Brownies Still Exist?

Last night I was chatting to the Mums of two new Beavers. As our conversation progressed, one of the Mums whose daughter had just joined the Colony, asked me if Brownies still existed.

Now I have to admit this kind of surprised me. Girl Guiding UK, of which the Brownies are the section for 7 – 10 year old girls, is celebrating its centenary this year and there has been quite a bit in the media about their celebrations.

Quick bit of history. Girl Guides was started in 1910 by the founder of the Scout movement, Baden-Powell and his sister, as girls had started to form their own Scout patrols. The convention of the Edwardian society was that girls were delicate things who couldn’t possibly do the activities that the Scouts did and so the Guides were created to provide suitable activities for the girls. There is some evidence, however, that BP did want girls in Scouts. And it remained this way until girls could join Scouts in the early 1990s (Ventures from 1976). However, only girls can join Guides.

Now does the Mum asking if Brownies are still around, show a failure of Girl Guiding nationally or locally in the North Staffordshire area to promote themselves sufficiently? I know there has been plenty of coverage about their centenary and they do have an interesting campaign about the airbrushing of women in photographs. But do I notice these stories because they are related to Scouting, and would I notice them if I wasn’t in Scouting? The other thing is that the Scout Association does seem, from my point of view, to have a stronger PR department. A huge thing was made about Bear Grylls becoming and being the Chief Scout. Do the Guides have a similar person? The SA are also good at putting good news stories into the press. Again, locally Guides do seem to get less publicity than Scouts and their general organisation (locally) seems weaker. Or is that my perception?

Interestingly, when the Guides publish their membership figures they have more members than the SA, yet the Scouts are seen as the ‘bigger’ organisation.

If any Guides reading this have any views or points they’d like to share about this, I’d love to hear from you.

Safety Culture

Of late various organisations, like Scouts, schools or local councils, have been stopping various activities due to ‘health and safety’. The more ridiculous examples of this has been schools stopping kids playing conkers in the playground to the stopping of the centuries old tradition of cheese rolling.

The reasons for this rise in the ‘health and safety’ culture is twofold – stupidity and money!

A lot of the problems come from people’s stupidity. So for example, they will try to go walking in the wilder upland areas of, say The Lake District, Snowdonia or Ben Nevis, for example, without proper route planning or being properly equipped for the conditions. They then have a problem or the weather suddenly changes for the worse and they are stuck. So they have to call out the Mountain Rescue service, which like the RNLI on the sea, is run by volunteers, to sort them out.

The money part comes from the culture that has grown up that if there is an accident that someone is to ‘blame’ and they must pay a financial penalty. Here it is the problem of the ‘no win no fee’ injury ambulance chasers, sorry, lawyers and their ‘if there is blame, there is a claim’ slogans.

All this has ended up that youth organisations and schools are reluctant to run activities or trips in case something goes wrong and they get sued to bits.

As a Scout on a camp, I cut my hand with a bow saw and needed some stiches. My parents were very understanding and after ensuring I was ok asked if I was going back to camp! I did. However, if it were now and not 1984, they could have turned to my Scout Leader and told him that he and / or the Group were going to be sued for compensation. Of course if that were that case, they wouldn’t have got too far as it was my own fault as I hadn’t secured the wood properly as I was told!

Now of course at this point I need to say I am all in favour in doing things correctly and safely and that with any risky activities all possible precautions are taken. But that is the point, that although risks are taken, the potential problems have been though about (so you have a safety rope when rock climbing then?) and measures are in place to prevent them or people know what to do if something goes wrong.

With all this in mind, it’s interesting to read that the Government have commissioned a report into this and it’s about to be published (it could be an interesting read!). The idea being to cut down on the ‘no win no fee’ litigation and remove some of the unnecessary legislation.

Hopefully, when published, it will be acted upon and the fear of kids being injured while playing conkers in the playground (I never remember getting an injury while playing conkers, other than a sore knuckle from being hit by a conker!) and the school being sued can be removed.

Bill Gates to Receive Silver Buffalo

st-as-it1 The Microsoft founder is going to be presented with the BSA’s highest honour of the Silver Buffalo Award soon according to this article.

No no matter what you may think of Microsoft and its products (and they do have their pros and cons!), Bill Gates has ploughed an awful amount of the money he’s made from MS into his and his wife’s foundation which helps, amongst other things, to improve the health of the less fortunate around the world.

I must admit I hadn’t realised he was a Scout!

The BSA ought to be congratulated in giving this award. Perhaps the Scout Association could give him an Information Technology Staged Activity Badge (see left)!

Beavers Camping

I was chatting to my Group’s Beaver Leader about the forthcoming Beaver camp (of course Beavers don’t actually camp as such, they have to stay indoors) and she was concerned about the costs.

A little background: Beavers can only stay in indoor accommodation and cannot stay away from their parents for more than 24 hours. This means that when going ‘camping’ buildings have to be hired. On most campsites this means that you have to hire the buildings for the whole weekend and not for a 24 hour period. The other thing to bear in mind is that you can’t really charge a Beaver the same as, say a Cub, ‘camping’ in the same building for a whole weekend.

All this means that a Beaver camp is relatively expensive to run and will most likely run at a loss. So with this in mind, do we then think that we cannot run the camp as we will lose money?

Well, no. That is what the Group’s funds are for. If we take the attitude that we cannot run the camp then the Beavers don’t get to enjoy the experience of being at a campsite with all their friends, being away from Mum and Dad and family, in some cases for the first time and experiencing Scouting activities for the first time, for example climbing or cooking on a fire. If we as a Group have the money available then this is what it is there for. it’s kind of nice to know we have £xxx in the bank, but it was raised for the kids in the Group.

I don’t actually think that we will have to put too much Group money to the camp, but we will and it’ll mean that the Beavers have a great time at camp.

Rachael and I will be going out to see them all, although we’ll just be observers as I can’t do a great deal of Scouting activities with a baby with me!

Generosity part 2

In my last post I talked a bit about Escouts and the forums they provide. As well as the forums, until recently, they also provided free hosting for UK Scouting websites. This has been of enormous benefit to many Groups around the country who have been able to set up a sit without any cost.

However their free hosting service has been stopped recently due to a number of reasons, but mainly due to technical problems and the lack of time available to the Escouts owners. This is of course, because they have jobs, families and other Scouting commitments before they even think about the hosting. So they’ve called it a day.

Interestingly, by providing this service, they recon they’ve saved UK Scouting in the region of £100,000 – £150,000! Now if that’s not generous, I don’t know what is!

So a big thank you for all their hard work and generosity in providing that service!