It's official! The key to a happy life is spending time helping others. Finally, after a hundred and ten years of Scouting in Australia, the contribution of the extraordinary adults who volunteer their time as Leaders is being recognised as one of the secrets to living a long, satisfied life.
Research shows a correlation between well-being, happiness, health, and longevity and those people who are emotionally kind and compassionate in their charitable activities. The experience of helping others gives people meaning, a sense of self-worth, a social role and health enhancement.
Our Founder Lord Baden-Powell knew this too, when he said. "The most worthwhile thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others."
It's therefore no surprise to read that volunteers are considered 25% more trustworthy than non-volunteers, and formal volunteering is estimated to contribute $25 billion to the Australian economy. Volunteering is also identified as being important for connecting people to career paths and labour markets that are better paid and more stable.
I want to dedicate this edition of Chief Chat to the remarkable adults I meet each week, who volunteer as Joey, Cub, Scout and Venturer leaders, along with all other adults who contribute their time and energy to support their local scout groups in whatever way they can.
Together, you have helped us turn the corner in NSW Scouts, and I'm proud to let you know that we've started to see growth in our youth membership numbers, after some years of decline.
But we've not seen a similar increase in adult numbers. We desperately need to encourage more volunteers to help us support the hundreds of kids who are sitting on waiting lists (or on their iPads) because we cannot recruit enough leaders to help them gain priceless life skills.
There are a huge number of initiatives underway within our top leadership team, across our Regions, and at our State Office to address this challenge, including changes to our adult training approach, tailored marketing for each Region, as well as upgrades to our technology and more consistency across our program. I have also initiated discussions with TAFE to offer student placements (to hopefully retain students as Leaders) and with The Hon Ray Williams, State Minister responsible for volunteering, for support to address our single biggest challenge to growth.
I meet so many outstanding adults, who often don't realise the enormous contribution they make as role models to the young people they support. They are also inspiring to other adults, who experience their passion, commitment and enthusiasm first hand. I've shared the stories of three of those individuals in this Chief Chat, and I'm keen to hear more. Let me know what inspires you to be a Scouter, and how you help promote our organisation to other adults in your local community! Together we can create a movement that continues to thrive, grow and give adults – as well as young people – a long and happy life.
From 21 to 27 May, there will be thousands of events around the country to say thank you to the 6 million Australians who volunteer.
The 2018 National Volunteer Week celebrates the generous contribution of volunteers and the theme is appropriately: Give a little. Change a lot.
If you'd like to share your pride in volunteering for Scouts or nominate a fellow Scouter to be recognised, please tell us why you volunteer, and we'll showcase a member each day of the week.
Simply complete the form, print out the sign and tailor the sentence to your experience: "I volunteer because…" Then take a selfie holding the sign and send it back to us.
Peter Griffiths is well known to many adults who've benefited from his deep enthusiasm, knowledge and passion as an adult trainer, a mentor to groups in Port Stephens and a new YPR trainer. "Griffo" first joined our organisation as a Cub Scout in Ryde in 1955. He recollects learning a wide range of life skills from the ex-service men who were volunteering as Leaders.
"This held me in good stead, as when I was 20, I entered the Army and my skill levels were so far above the other recruits during exercises and training, that I was selected for Officer Training School. I graduated as a Second Lieutenant and worked my way into a Captains position," Griffo explains.
"I was a parent helper at Scouts for so long that the Group Leader told me that I may as well put on a uniform as I was always at Scouts with my sons. I did not hesitate as I wished to return some of the knowledge, confidence and skills that I had used so well in the Army."
Griffo has so many compelling stories to share about working with young people. In his words: "The one thing that outsiders do not understand about Scout Leaders and why they do what they do is that money cannot buy the smiles on the faces of our youth members as they shake hands at closing parade before running off to Mum or Dad to tell them what they achieved that night at Scouts."
We asked Griffo to share a story about a young person that exemplified the inspiration he gets from Scouts. He told us: "I had a youth member who suffered from oxygen deficiency at birth. He had quite a few problems but one thing he wanted to do was to become a Scout. I watched this young person grow in stature, knowledge and life skills through Cubs and then Scouts. He is now an independent young man, with permanent employment, who can fend for himself and do it with a smile on his face."
Sarah Millard from Bangor Scouts leads the Advanced Scout Leadership Course for the South Met region, and like Griffo, she simply doesn't stop volunteering at events, activities and courses across the State.
Sarah joined as a Brownie when she was eight, and stayed through Guides, Venturers and Rovers. To gain her Baden-Powell Scout Award, she supported the Scout section and, with her infectious enthusiasm and creativity, it wasn't surprising that she trained as a leader.
Sarah explains her dedication as being thanks to "the thrill on the faces of the younger scouts when you just let them have a go and see how great they feel when you put your trust in them. Who cares if there are a few slightly charcoaled pancakes - the fun they had cooking them is way more important than the sugar overdose from using maple syrup to disguise the charcoal."
She finds it easy to get others interested in Scouts: "Talking to people about Dragon Skin, a Jamboree or Scout Hike mostly astounds them. Spending two weeks on a camp in an environment where you feel safe with thousands of Scouts, trying out acrobatic skills, using power tools to help build a dog kennel for the RSPCA, abseiling, canoeing, splashing through a mud obstacle course, or wandering through a capital city with a bunch of mates, while at night listening to live music or having fun on dodgem cars - most people think Scouts is awesome and wish they had had the opportunity to be part of it," she says.
She's an active participant in Scouts, but she also enjoys chilling out: "One of my favourite afternoons at camp is watching the scouts just sitting in a circle in the sun playing cards instead of being on their phones."
Sarah shared a story about a reluctant Scout who eventually earned an Australian Scout Medallion and Queen's Scout. On the day the University first round offers came out, the Scout rang Sarah and told her that she'd been the inspiration to putting in the extra effort to get into the Uni course she wanted.
In Sarah's words: "It's about helping kids do things they could never imagine they are capable of, being the best they can possibly be and achieving their dreams, while having the time of their lives."
Brad Addison joined Cubs at 1st Kooringal as an 8 year old in 1981.
"If I'm really honest, I think my parents signed me up because my brother and sister were both excelling at various sports, and I, well, wasn't!" he explained.
Brad soon discovered a love for the outdoors, for camping and for adventure in particular. He also recollects experiencing and learning resilience and leadership skills.
"During harder times in my life, scouting and the outdoors in general became my haven. And my parents were right, progressing through the award scheme gave me a sense of achievement that I didn't find on the sports field."
Brad describes Scouting as being in his blood. He still gets a real sense of joy from investing his skills and experiences back into the lives of the kids in his group. He also notes the amazing comradeship he shares with other adults in the movement – "It means I have friends wherever I go," he explains.
When asked to share a moment that inspired him, Brad couldn't stop! He described the long bus journey home from Scout Hike to the Riverina each year during which the stories of the way the kids pushed themselves beyond their comfort zones reminded him why he does it.
But he left the best till last.
"At the end of term 2 each year we bring all of our sections together for a group camp fire. We do all the traditional things, singing, skits and cooking damper. Last year a Joey Scout came up to me, put his hand in mine, his smiling face smeared with half cooked damper and said, ‘Maliki, I think this has been the best night of my life'. That moment stands out for me like a beacon. That's why I do it."
Qualifications in Scouts
Did you know that Scouting can lead you to becoming professionally qualified?
The Scouts Australia Institute of Training is a registered training organisation, which is accredited to run qualifications that are recognised outside of Scouts Australia.
SAIT was first established as a Registered Training Organisation in August 1996 and seeks, as its primary purpose, to enable members of Scouts Australia, who have completed the relevant Adult Training & Development program, the ability to seek, through a Recognition of Prior Learning process (RPL) externally accredited qualifications.
Examples of training certificates you can achieve include Certificates in Business, Leadership & Management, and Outdoor Recreation.
If you are interested in completing a Scout Skill Activity or a SAIT National Accreditation training, please head to the website to find out how to apply.
Are you a creative adult with skills in the dramatic arts, stage, media or photography? Then look no further than the State Commissioner for Creative Arts. You'll be responsible for developing a comprehensive program of dramatic arts and related activities to maintain and extend a broad range of skills to support high-quality Gang Shows. If you work with arts and media organisations to help young people pursue careers in the creative arts, or you have teaching experience in drama, art or stage shows, we're keen to hear from you. Visit the Scouts NSW website for more information.
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