By Louise Henderson
Do you patrol camp & if not, why not.
What is our role in Scouts? Yes, I know, to promote the physical, mental, cultural and spiritual development of the individual. But meanwhile, here in the 21st century, what does that mean to the young people in our care. What do we have to offer them? What is our unique selling point?
Following our high profile Centenary year numbers in the movement have gone up. This is obviously good news, but is it purely a numbers game, putting bums on seats? Should we be measured by the numbers of young people who pass through our doors, or by the opportunities that we have offered them whilst they are here? And by opportunities I don’t mean foreign travel, adventure sports, glamorous events with opaque meaning, because most of our members can travel abroad with their families and if you put adventure holiday into any search engine you will get pages and pages of results. We have no exclusivity in these things any more – the world has caught up with us and in many cases can do these things better than we volunteers can. The real opportunities that we have to offer are ones that are exclusive to us. We offer opportunities to develop self reliance, self motivation, inter dependence, leadership skills, self confidence, to experience the range of personalities who are going to be out there in the big world after school and to take those first steps away from the nest. In fact, we offer the world of opportunity – we take in children and after 4 years turn out young people ready to move on into Explorers and take their meaningful place in the world. And the one place in the year where these opportunities abound is at troop camp within the patrol system.
Now, as with anything that is really worthwhile, it is not always easy to provide this world of opportunity. It requires more from a leader to plan and execute a good patrol based summer camp than it does to book up someone else’s ready made adventure. Admittedly, this is not a good start to a sales pitch, but stick with it and look beyond that first wave of panic at all those unknown skills, fear of striking out alone and the worry that the Scouts wont like it. Look to that time when your Patrol Leaders fearlessly step out to run their patrol unaided through a week’s camp, cooking, cleaning, undertaking challenges and living as a single unit (although not always in total harmony!) A time when each Scout contributes their maximum and demonstrates that they have taken in more than you realised and have much much more to offer than you ever thought possible. A time when it actually becomes a privilege to be present at the transformation of dependant children into capable, competent, confident and independent young people. What’s even more incredible is that this transformation takes place in front of your very eyes in the space of a week at camp, especially in Patrol leaders.
This is what Patrol camping offers Scouts. It is not for this article to show the way to Patrol camp but just to make you think about why you should do it. Trust your Scouts to break out of the bubble wrap of modern life that constantly whispers to them ‘ be careful, let an adult do that for you, it’s too sharp, too hot, too unknown, you’re not old enough, responsible enough, I don’t like the look of that – steer clear’ Young people deserve the opportunities that we can give them. So go on, give it a try. Patrol camp.