France has a variety of Scout and Guide Associations with over 180,000 members. British Scouting Overseas are among the international scouting units that have been invited to set up and operate groups for the foreign residents.
The 1st Maisons-Laffitte Group was first registered in the 1970s but they closed between 2008 and 2012, when they reopened in the current format. The Group is based in a western suburb of Paris where there is a large English-speaking community and began because of the race course!
They currently meet in an Anglican church which is very international and diverse. The scout group includes a mix of members who are living in the area for a short period as well as permanent residents. They have a variety of nationalities and the only conditions to join are that potential members speak reasonable English and want to be part of The Scout Association. Since there are also Girl Guides running at the church, the group have mainly boys, but more and more girls are joining, particularly in the Beavers. At 14, youngsters who are keen to continue can join the “Paris Explorer Unit”, which covers the three groups in northern France. The groups doesn’t have many leaders but the parents are keen to help running meetings. However it is quite a lot of work and the Group is searching for more adults looking to become leaders.
The group provides all the usual Scouting activities. They are particularly lucky that their meeting place has a large garden and there is a forest only 20 minutes’ walk away. So they not only do a lot of outdoor activities but also get to have camps and sleepovers at their meeting place on a regular basis. The French Scouts’ equivalent to Gilwell Park, Jambville, is only 40 kilometres away so it is a great location to have joint activities with the other BSO Groups in northern France, 1st Bougival International and 1st Chantilly. Their most memorable activities involved taking part in international camps in the UK where cubs and scouts got to connect with international scout friends.
Some tips from their four decades running a scout group?
The turnover of leaders and children is more than in the UK. Sometimes it can happen very quickly, if someone is posted elsewhere so don’t try to run things exactly as you would in the UK, be adaptable.
Make friends with the local Scout Association. This is particularly important if you want to have the opportunity to use their facilities and you also want to ensure that you are doing things the right way. “[…] There are quite strict rules for running Scouting in France and we have to keep up with these as well as POR. The Scouts et Guides de France help us with this.”
Find more about the group through their social media at http://maisons-laffitte-scouts.fr/.
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